Veterinarian treats dogs, cats, some pocket pets
in their homes
By LOIS KINDLE
While most doctors of veterinary medicine follow the business model of opening their own brick and mortar practices as soon as they can, Dr. Christa McKinley had another idea.
She preferred to go where the pets are — in their homes.
After graduating from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012, she gained experience working for general vet and shelter practices in the Brandon/Tampa area. Then last April she decided to go it alone, but not in a traditional way.
McKinley founded Fur-Ever Wellness Pet Care, a primary care practice making house calls and offering most of the services other vets do in their places of business.
“We do pretty much everything a general practice veterinarian does, except surgery and emergency care,” she said. “We do low-cost cat and dog vaccinations, physical exams, full-service lab testing, deworming, microchipping; we treat nonemergent illnesses like diabetes, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. We also offer wellness visits, carry heartworm and flea preventatives and offer radiology services by taking the pet to a sister clinic, and then immediately returning it to its owner with the results.”
McKinley plans to add non-anesthetic dentals to the list.
She said she chose in-home service because she wanted to provide top quality, highly personalized care to pets in the environment they felt most comfortable.
“So much corporate medicine is being practiced today, and I felt that each pet deserved my utmost attention and care, instead of focusing on how many patients I could see each day,” she said. “I guarantee (each owner and animal) 90 minutes with the doctor. I’m very thorough.”
Making house calls is all about the animal for McKinley.
“We’re not just grabbing, touching, poking and diagnosing,” she said. “We’re spending time with your pet and getting acquainted in their normal environment. It makes them feel less anxious, more at ease.”
The 36-year-old veterinarian also retrofitted a trailer into a treatment room and lab, which she takes to various events around the Brandon/South Shore area. Current stops include the Summerfield Market in Riverview from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second Saturday of the month; the Ruskin Family Drive-In from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. the third Saturday of the month; and soon weekly appearances at Winthrop Plaza.
McKinley said she always wanted to be a veterinarian.
“When I was in first or second grade, I told my dad I wanted to be a ‘vegetarian,’” she said. “I always loved animals. My mom used to say I talked to them better than to humans.”
Dr. Anna Bannon, owner of Family Animal Hospital in Riverview, has known McKinley since 2006.
“We went to the University of South Florida together before parting ways to go off to vet school,” Bannon said. “We never worked together professionally, but I know she has a huge heart and a true passion for what she does.
“There is definitely value in her business model,” she continued. “Some pets become very nervous in an animal hospital (setting). I have referred some of those to her.”
Brandon resident Tina Spruill recently asked McKinley to come to her home to provide puppy vaccinations for Jake, a 12-month-old reverse brindle boxer she rescued.
The doctor got down on the floor and played with the highly energetic pup, giving him plenty of time to adjust to her and vet tech Renee Long. All the supplies they needed to care for him sat nearby in a cooler and plastic tubs.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had a veterinarian come to the house,” Spruill said. “I have two neighbors who told me to call her, because she’s so personable and professional, so good at assessing a dog’s needs. I couldn’t be happier that I did.”
McKinley will travel 50 miles round trip from her home in the Bloomingdale area of Brandon to make house calls, but she’s willing to work with people in special situations. The charge is $25 to $45, depending on the total miles, plus the cost of the services she provides during the visit.
“We’re very family-oriented,” McKinley said. “When you and your pet become clients, you become a member of our family.”
In-home appointments between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and weekends are best made on Fur-Ever Wellness Pet Care’s Facebook page at tinyurl.com/Fur-EverWellnessPetCare or, if you don’t have Facebook, by calling 813-933-2800. Just leave a message and someone will respond as quickly as possible.
The practice can also be found on Instagram or online at www.fureverwellnesspc.com, where a complete list of pricing and packages can be found.