We’ve all heard of doctors making house calls, and your pet can get the same treatment. A Fort Myers veterinarian spends her days on the road with Vet on Wheels, traveling across Lee County to take care of dogs and cats in the comfort of their own homes.
Dr. Leena Plavumkal is always on the move, ensuring her pool of pet patients is in good health. When she took her practice on the road 13 years ago, there were very few mobile vets. WINK News followed along with her on a house call for a high-strung cat, Kiki, who requires a shot but would rather be left alone.
“I’ve already corraled her… she’s in the bathroom; you’ll hear her the minute we walk in the door,” Plavumkal said. “She needs a cat distemper vaccine that they get as kittens and, again, cats once a year, so she’s due for that.”
With owner Nancy Collura holding Kiki still, Plavumkal stealthily slips in the needle. Getting poked in her home seems to take the sting out for the kitten.
“They are very relaxed, and they’re not going in a car and stressed out,” Plavumkal said. “When you put the dog or cat in a car, and especially cats, they’re so stressed out because it’s a moving vehicle, they don’t know where they’re going.”
Anxiety is abundant these days. Many pets, like their owners, were displaced after Hurricane Ian, and they feel the stress just as potently as we do.
“Dogs are more panting, restless, walking around, pacing. And cats mostly hide—they cannot find the cat for five days or two weeks; they know the cat exists because the food is gone,” Plavumkal said. “I can call in or prescribe medications that can take that edge off.”
Plavumkal can care for most pet needs ith Vet on Wheels, doing everything except X-rays, surgery and dental work. Clients like Collura find it less traumatic for themselves, too.
“We’ve been through six pets together,” Collura said. “Two very large, very elderly dogs were where we started, and it was so much easier not to have to take them anywhere and have her come in with them. And we’ve been together, what, 10 or so years now.”
Her patients may never voice their appreciation, but Plavumkal feels the love. The long-standing relationships are her greatest reward.
“That is the biggest upside of doing the house call: I personally know all my clients, their families, their kids, how many pets they have. When they move, I move with them.”
Plavumkal’s rates are competitive with other local vets. She says one of her greatest services is doing in-home euthanasia, which is much less stressful for the animal and family.