Dr. Mathis and Angel during home visit.

Traveling vet makes life easier for pet owners

By Christina Leach Phillips

Correspondent

Clay Today

Dec. 3, 2009 

FLEMING ISLAND ­– ­­Jessica Mathis is a local doctor who makes house calls, but her patients are of the four-legged variety, and the sign on her maroon-colored van reads “At Home Veterinary Care.” 

“Every appointment is an adventure,” Dr. Mathis said.  “Most of the animals are pretty happy to see me, but they figure out that I’m up to no good pretty quickly – especially cats – but they get over it before I leave.” 

Dr. Mathis does routine vet care, vaccinations, and lab work for small animals.  She brings her medical supplies with her including a doctor’s bag, a laptop computer, a large scale, and a cat bag that keeps cats still.  “You put the cat in the bag and just their head sticks out.  I had five cats in one house a few weeks ago, and we needed that thing definitely,” she said. 

Dr. Mathis said people call her for varied reasons. “A lot of them have animals that don’t like to travel.  I’ve got moms who have kids and have several animals, and they don’t want to take them all into the vet’s office because that’s a big hassle.  I have older people who don’t drive at all, and I have people with one dog who just like the convenience of somebody coming to their house and the personal attention that I give,” she said. 

Dr. Mathis charges $25 for a house call, which lasts about one hour.  “You only pay that once for however many animals that you have,” she said. 

She also does euthanasia. “Unfortunately, that’s a big part of At Home Veterinary Care because a lot of people want that done at home.  It’s not my favorite part of the job, but I have to look at it as I’m able to make it much easier on the owners who love their pets,” she said. 

But most of her house calls are not so sad.  She recently visited a house with four dogs and two rabbits to vaccinate the dogs for rabies and to check the rabbits.  When one of the rabbits escaped its pen, Dr. Mathis and the pet owner chased after it until Dr. Mathis cornered it under a table and caught it.  “I’m a bunny wrangler too,” she said.  

Monica McKinney of Green Cove Springs said she has two “mutts” and three-year-old twins.  “I like Dr. Mathis because she comes to the house, which is very convenient for me with my little kids.  And she’s just so down to earth and really attentive to the dogs and attentive to my questions.  She’s great.  I trust her completely,” she said. 

“There are lots of things I can’t do in a home,” Dr. Mathis said.  “You still need a standing vet clinic.”  She works with other veterinarians when her patients need surgery or special medical care.  “It’s a partnership and not a competition,” she said. 

Dr. Sheri Cone from Plantation Animal Hospital in Fleming Island said, “If there’s someone who would prefer a veterinarian to come to their house or someone who can’t drive, I recommend her.  Customers say she is very nice and very accommodating.” 

Dr. Mathis, who has been a traveling vet for three years, has an agreement with Plantation Animal Hospital.  “They provide care for my patients for things that I can’t do in the home like surgery, x-rays, IV fluids, and hospitalization.  Some things need to be monitored more closely than I can do on a house call visit,” she said. 

“When an animal is really sick and I can’t get to the pet that day, I recommend people take them in to their vet or an emergency clinic.”  

Dr. Mathis said she wanted to be a vet for as long as she can remember.  “We had a dog, a couple of cats, hamsters, parakeets – anything I could get in the house.”  When she was a teenager, she said she took her sick cat to the veterinarian to treat an abscess.  “I remember the vet drawing me a picture and explaining to me exactly what was going on,” she said. 

Dr. Mathis received a bachelor’s degree in animal science and her D.V.M. from Virginia Tech, hence the maroon “Hokie” color of her van.  After graduating in 2000, she and her husband moved to North Carolina where she worked for two vet clinics before moving to Florida.  “I had three girls along the way. We’re Jessica, Jenna, Julianna, Jordan, and Jeff – all J’s,” she said.  Their pets include two cats and two guinea pigs. 

Dr. Mathis said she has always loved animals.  “They just fascinate me.  I wish I could know what they are thinking.  If I could have a super power, it would be to be able to talk to animals.  I could ask them what is wrong, and then I’d know.  I would be the best vet ever!” she said. 

For more information about Dr. Mathis, go to http://www.ahvetcare.com or call 904-303-7663.