Dental and Medical Counsel Blog

How to Start a Mobile Vet Clinic and What to Consider

September 23, 2021
Veterinary Attorney

For years, veterinarians have operated mobile vet clinics and traveled to farms to take care of large animals. Now veterinarians are traveling to homes to care for animals of all sizes like dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and horses. Veterinarians like this type of practice due to the freedom it offers them and it is also more affordable to operate than a brick-and-mortar stationary clinic. Busy pet owners like the convenience of having their veterinarian come to them.

No longer do pet owners have to struggle with their skittish pet who balks at riding in the car or for their cat who fights to avoid getting in a cat carrier.

There are pros and cons to starting a mobile vet clinic. Before you venture into this way of practicing veterinary medicine, there are questions you need to ask yourself. If you decide this is for you, we have some advice.

Ask Yourself Some Questions

There are some basic lifestyle questions to ask yourself before you take the leap into starting your own mobile vet clinic. For example:

  • Are you motivated to do the work necessary to take the leap into owning a mobile vet clinic? You will work long days and possibly six days a week to start in order to generate your desired income and to get your clinic known to your target market. 
  • Are you ready for the physical and emotional demands? The in-office visit is usually a 20 to 30-minute appointment. The mobile practice appointment can be much longer. During this time, you need to be personable and able to engage in small talk and friendly conversation with the pet owner.

    Your duties may be physically demanding if you do not have an assistant to help you. You will be getting in and out of your vehicle many times a day and carrying heavy equipment.

    Be prepared to get frustrated and stressed when you get stuck in traffic and are late for your appointment. Driving a large vehicle around town can in itself be exhausting.

    One veterinarian has expressed that the downsides of owning the mobile vet clinic are tempered by being able to play fetch with your patients after you have just examined them or gotten them up to speed on their vaccinations.

If you still want to pursue owning a mobile vet clinic, there are some steps you need to take.

Develop a Business Plan

The success of any new business depends on having a solid business plan in place before seeking out a business start-up loan or opening the doors to the public. Some main considerations to follow include:

Defining your business model.

You need to make some decisions about this:

  • Do you want your veterinary practice to be exclusively limited to your mobile operation, or do you want to combine it with a stationary practice?
  • Do you want to embark on this venture alone, or join with another veterinarian who has a stationary practice? You can each do what you like the best and consider taking turns with one using the mobile vet clinic while the other works in the stationary facility.
  • Do you want to travel to the homes of your clients, or set up your clinic in a parking lot of a high traffic area such as a shopping center or apartment building? If you want to set up in parking lots, what licenses and permits will you need?
  • What type of care will you provide? Do you want a full-service mobile vet clinic or one where you just do basic vaccinations and preventive care and refer other pet health problems to a stationary clinic for more extensive procedures?
  • You will want to arrange with pharmacists to fill your prescriptions.

Determining your business structure.

The rules for what type of business structure you can form vary from state to state. For example, in California, veterinarians are not allowed to form limited liability corporations (LLCs) or limited liability partnerships (LLPs) but may form other types of corporations.

Some states require mobile veterinarians to coordinate with a local veterinary hospital for animals that may require hospitalization or emergency services that cannot be provided by the mobile vet clinic.

Dental & Medical Counsel can assist you in determining the right business structure for your mobile vet clinic. This will provide you with the best structure that will provide you with tax advantages and the protection you need from liabilities and corporate debts.

Name your business and design a logo.

Choose a name for your mobile vet clinic that will be easy for clients to remember. Check to be sure the name is available and unique so it will not be confused with other mobile clinics. Then design a logo. It is important to work with legal counsel to federally trademark your practice name and logo.

You will place the name of your business, your phone number, and your logo on the side of your vehicle. You want the name and logo to be eye-catching and memorable. You will get business from pet owners who see your truck/van parked while you are caring for your patients. This mobile billboard may be the best way of all to advertise your services.

Identify your target market and service area.

This involves several considerations:

  • Do you want to treat small animals who are household pets, exotic animals in nature preserves, farm animals?
  • What is the scope of your service area? Do you want to concentrate on one specific area of your community or cut a wide swath throughout your county and perhaps neighboring counties? Keep in mind mileage, fuel expenses, traffic problems, and the time it will take you to get from one appointment to another one.
  • Perhaps you can arrange your schedule to be in one part of your community or county on one or two days of the week. Then rotate and spend two days in another location. For example, you could visit the northern part of your county on Mondays and Wednesdays and other parts of the county on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Perhaps reserve Fridays for where you seem to be needed the most.
  • You may discover that working weekends works well for you and your pet owners. This may be necessary in the first few months while you are establishing your business and in order to meet your financial goals.

The beauty of the mobile vet clinic is that you can schedule your workweek for your own convenience and for how you find it generates the best income. You have the freedom to analyze where you need to be to generate the patient base and income that you need.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that between 2020 and 2030, the need for veterinarians will increase by 17 percent, which is much faster than other occupations. This is a good time for you to capitalize on this projection and start your own mobile vet clinic.

Learn About Start-Up Costs for Your Mobile Vet Clinic

Purchase of a vehicle. You will need to purchase a van, enclosed truck, or trailer. The vehicle may be from 18 to 30 feet long and one that can be specially equipped according to your specifications.

Equipping the vehicle. According to Dispomed, a manufacturer of veterinary equipment, what you will need to start up depends on what niche you are going to focus on. Some mobile vets limit their practice to preventive care, vaccinations, and wellness exams. Others focus on providing pet hospice and euthanasia services. Still, others provide the same full services as those provided by vets who have brick-and-motor stationary practices.

Basic equipment for all niches should include:

  • Commonly used oral medicines.
  • Scale to weigh pets
  • Supplies for collecting laboratory samples and administering treatments: syringes, blood collection tubes, fecal sample collection containers, etc.
  • Test supplies like heartworm tests, feline combo tests, and others.
  • Tools for physical examination: thermometer, stethoscope, otoscope, ophthalmoscope
  • Vaccinations and commonly-used injectable medications.

If you plan to offer a full-service mobile vet clinic, you may also need:

  • A laboratory and equipment to conduct blood and other diagnostic tests.
  • A surgery area and all associated surgical supplies.
  • X-ray machine.

The cost of the vehicle plus equipping it may be close to $300,000. According to an article published a few years ago in Veterinary Practice News, the start-up cost for a mobile vet clinic is about one-fourth of the cost of opening your own veterinary practice in a traditional stationary brick-and-mortar location.

You will also need basic supplies, including disposable goods. You will need to arrange with pharmacies to fill your prescriptions. There will be costs for required licenses and permits.

Expected Ongoing Costs  

As with any practice, whether a stationary or mobile one, there will be ongoing costs. Some costs to expect when operating a mobile vet clinic include:

  • Payments for the vehicle.
  • Service and gasoline for the vehicle.
  • Insurance for the vehicle. Be sure to get commercial auto insurance. A standard auto insurance policy will not cover your mobile vet clinic. Be sure you will be covered if an employee drives the vehicle.
  • You need a business owner insurance policy (BOP) to cover the equipment and supplies you will have on board with you.
  • All veterinarians need malpractice insurance.
  • Cost of replacing supplies.
  • Cost and monthly payment for one or more cell phone lines.
  • Cost of advertising you need, in addition to the billboard you will be driving around town. This includes business cards and flyers you leave with other businesses that may cater to your clientele.
  • Salary and benefits for your assistant.
  • Payroll and income taxes.
  • Accountant fees. You need to consult with an accountant who specializes in professional practices like your vet clinic and other types of healthcare practices.

The accountant will know which expenses you can deduct which may save you a lot of money. For example, if you only use your vehicle for your business, you will not deduct your mileage on your tax form but will claim depreciation of the vehicle. If you use the vehicle at times that are not for business, then you will deduct your business mileage.

Financing Options

You will likely need a business loan to finance the start-up of your mobile vet clinic. The first step in obtaining financing is to have a well-prepared business plan.

Loans are available from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Also, there are veterinary lenders, like Bank of America and Wells Fargo. It is expected that it will take about six months for your mobile vet clinic to generate a positive cash flow.  

Establishing a Fee Schedule

In addition to the traditional fee schedule, you will establish to be competitive with the stationary vet clinics, you will charge a fee solely for the house-call visit. This may be anywhere from $50 to $100 based on the number of miles you must drive, the size of the animal, and the difficulty in providing the necessary care at home.

Develop a Marketing Plan

Although driving around with your mobile clinic name, logo, and phone number on the side of your vehicle is a necessary part of your marketing plan, you need to do more. Some recommendations include:

  • Customize the vehicle so you have the greatest billboard type advertising impact with the vital information clearly and attractively featured.
  • Develop a website where you include the types of animals you care for, your pricing, service area, clinic schedule, and an opportunity for clients to make their appointments. Make sure you have a contact page.
  • Establish social media accounts that will raise awareness of your clinic and generate more client appointments. Social media exposure is in addition to your website, not a replacement for it.
  • Leave your business card with pet service providers like pet sitters and dog walkers.
  • Connect with mobile groomers and work out a reciprocal recommendation agreement. This is a great resource since the groomer’s clients are already using at-home pet services.
  • Find veterinarians in whom you have confidence who have stationary practices so you can send them referrals. They, in return, will likely send you referrals.

Evaluate Your Need for an Assistant

If you think you can do this by yourself, think again. Most all veterinarians with mobile clinics do so with a vet tech with them. You need this person to help in many ways. For example, the assistant or vet tech will:

  • Provide administrative help by answering the phone, returning phone calls, scheduling, invoicing, and collecting and applying for payments.
  • Assist you when needed with restraining animals and performing procedures.
  • Help you with driving and navigating, which will reduce your own stress and fatigue.

Check on State and Local Rules

Generally, mobile vet clinics are subject to the same legal requirements as for a brick-and-motor stationary practice. You still need to make sure you are complying with all the laws of your state concerning licensure and practice requirements. You can find this information by checking with your state veterinary medical board.

You can also learn specific state rules and regulations by researching the American Association of Mobile Veterinary Practitioners website. You must be a member of this organization in order to use its database.

Each state has different requirements. For your mobile vet clinic, you will most likely be required to have:

  • State veterinary license.
  • Business license.
  • DEA license.
  • A controlled substance license is required in some states.

Learn How Dental & Medical Counsel Helps Veterinarians

At Dental & Medical Counsel, we assist healthcare professionals, including veterinarians, in establishing their medical practices. We offer a complimentary consultation with attorney Ali OromchianContact us to schedule a complimentary call to see how we can help you in your new venture.

Contact Us to Learn How We Can Help You with Your Veterinary Transition


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