Bradenton-based service part of a growing trend of specialized pet-focused businesses.
By Maggie Clark
Pets are valued members of families, and their owners are increasingly seeking specialized medical care to make sure they live better and longer lives.
In this trend, Cheryl Brady saw a business opportunity.
Brady, who had a long career in corporate work, turned a passion for helping animals into a business in 2010 when she opened Vet Care Express Animal Ambulance, a pet ambulance service based in Bradenton.
Six years and 6,500 patients later, she and her team of trained caregivers are expanding their services into Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
Animals’ lives on the line
Brady’s business is part of a growing industry catering to pet owners who expect the same level of advanced care for their pets as they do from their own doctors and the health care system.
“We’re seeing that people expect on the veterinary side what they’re getting for themselves on the human side, such as MRIs, cancer treatment, surgeries, specialist appointments, acupuncture and treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Michael San Filippo, a spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“There is an expectation that this level of care is available and there’s more of a willingness among pet owners to seek these treatments out,” San Filippo said. “Fifty years ago, the idea of a pet ambulance service might have seemed ridiculous, but now, with the increased bonds forged between people and their pets, we’re seeing that this increases an owner’s willingness to seek out advanced treatment.”
Pet first aid
Brady’s business started small, with just a van and a mission to help pet owners in an emergency. Within two years, she’d purchased a former Sarasota County ambulance and fitted it with large cages, dog gurneys and special oxygen masks.
The ambulance helped people understand her business, Brady said.
“It’s visible, it’s bright red and people immediately understand that we’re helping an animal in an emergency,” Brady said.
Unlike an ambulance for humans, however, pet ambulances are not allowed to use sirens, manipulate traffic signals or speed to reach a hospital.
Brady and her team of four are certified in pet first aid and CPR through the American Red Cross (which stopped issuing certifications last year) and, just like an ambulance for humans, they give whatever help they’re called for.
Often, the issues aren’t life or death, but just pet owners needing help and not knowing who else to call.
“We handle a lot of calls about cats and help elderly people who can’t capture their cat or can’t carry a cat,” Brady said. “If it’s something where the owner needs help getting the cat, we can help raise their comfort level.”
The ambulance service also serves as a transportation option from animal hospitals and emergency centers to traditional veterinary offices. Nearly every morning starts with transporting animals from a hospital back to their vet’s office, Brady said. That has filled a critical need.
“Before us, the owners had to transport the animals, so you had to have an owner arrive at the emergency vet at 7:30 a.m. but the regular vet doesn’t open until 8 a.m. and the owner had to handle their very sick pet. Now, pet owners know they can call us anytime so they don’t have to handle their seizing pet or post-operative pet. We’re providing peace of mind for pet owners.”
That peace of mind comes at a surprisingly low cost, considering the high-priced world of specialized veterinary care. For non-emergency transportation, Vet Care Express Animal Ambulance changes $65 for up to an hour; critical emergency pickups start at $125.
“We’ve probably lost business because people think this is in the several-hundred-dollar price range, but we keep it affordable because our mission is to get pets help and to help the owners through a difficult time,” Brady said.
The ambulance service also accepts pet insurance, an increasingly popular option for pet owners who want to keep a handle on their pet medical spending. Unlike human insurance, pet insurance requires owners to pay their pet’s medical expenses up front, then submit the bill for reimbursement later. This means the ambulance company still collects the full payment from the owner, which is different from human health insurance where an insurance company pays the provider a negotiated rate that is often much lower than the rate for a cash-paying patient.
Only about 1 percent of pet owners have pet insurance but the industry is expected to grow quickly in the next few years as more people become pet owners, according to a February 2016 report on pet insurance from market research firm IBISWorld.
Emergency services growing
Veterinary colleges are also predicting a surge of growth in the emergency veterinary care industry in the coming years, with more students specializing in emergency veterinary medicine.
“Students are interested in the emergency side and I see it as a big growth area,” said Dr. Gareth Buckley, chief of emergency and critical care and medical director of the small animal hospital at the University of Florida.
“Part of this is driven by the fact that people don’t want to wait until the next day if their pet is sick, and that’s created a market for emergency practices to be open 24 hours.” Buckley said.
“It also means that the daytime vets can direct some of their nighttime calls to the emergency practice, rather than having someone who has worked all day get up in the middle of the night to care for a sick animal.”
Brady says she and her team receive about eight calls per day and expect demand for their services to increase from owners of every age group.
“The assumption is that elderly pet owners would call us more often, but that’s simply not the case,” Brady said.
“We recently helped a woman in her early 20s who was walking her Shih Tzu when it screamed out in pain. It had tweaked its neck, and if you went anywhere near the dog, it would scream in pain.
“There was no way the owner could have gotten the dog to the vet. She’s 20 years old, she doesn’t have a clue what’s going on and the dog wouldn’t let her handle it. We were able to calm the dog and get it to the vet as quickly as possible. It’s not an elderly service at all; it’s for pet owners all across the age spectrum.”
While there’s no national count of pet ambulance services, veterinary industry groups say they’re growing in popularity, especially in and around larger U.S. cities. In Florida, there’s a pet ambulance company serving Miami-Dade County and another one based in Fort Myers that serves the area between Sarasota and Fort Myers.
With Brady’s expansion, she’ll begin serving St. Petersburg and Tampa, along with continuing service in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.
“People just want the best care for their pet and our business helps them get it.”
9 Types of Food You Should Never Feed Your Dog
Macadamia nuts, onions and grapes make the list.
By Joan Salge Blake | Contributor Aug. 15, 2016, at 6:00 a.m.
Molly always enjoys her annual birthday celebration with her favorite treats, and Henry dons his designer raincoat and boots when he walks outside in the rain. Both Molly and Henry have one thing in common: They have four legs and a tail. While we often treat our dogs not merely as pets, but rather as an important family member, there are times when we have to remember – for their safety’s sake – that these family members aren’t human.
The Food and Drug Administration recently released consumer health information reminding dog owners that there are numerous human foods that your pooch cannot tolerate, and if consumed, may cause serious medical issues for your pet.
While many dog owners know that giving Fido chocolate can causing poisoning, there other less known but equally important edibles that need to be kept away from your dog. Here are some foods that you should avoid giving to your four-legged friends:
Grapes, Raisins and Currents
While these naturally sweet gems from Mother Nature can be a tasty way to add good nutrition to your diet, they can cause kidney failure in certain breeds of dogs, according to the FDA. While the mechanism for the kidney failure is not known, it can occur if the grapes, raisins and currents are consumed raw or even in cooked products, such as cookies, fruit cake and snack bars.
Forget sharing your white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies with your canine buddy. While these nuts are healthy for humans to enjoy, they can be toxic if consumed by your dog. Similar to grapes, the mechanism for the toxicity is unknown.
Onions, Garlic and Chives
While these foods add flavor to any dish, they shouldn’t be in your dog’s dinner dish. Onions, garlic and chives, even the dried powdered forms, contain compounds called organosulfides, which are converted to toxic sulfur compounds in dogs. Cooking or processing these foods will not eliminate the toxins – so forget about spooning salsa, chili or dips containing these foods into your dog’s dinner.
This lower calorie sugar substitute, which can be found in sugarless gum, candies, some peanut butters and diet cookies, can also be deadly to your dog. While xylitol is safe for human consumption, it can stimulate the release of insulin, which causes a rapid drop in blood glucose levels in your dog. Xylitol has also been associated with liver failure in dogs – so keep the sugarless candies out of your dog’s reach.
To avoid foodborne illness, better known as food poisoning, you should not eat uncooked or undercooked poultry and meat, and the same goes for your dog. Bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella in raw meat and poultry, can sicken both of you. Also make sure you don’t accidentally cross-contaminate your dog’s foods with these raw foods. For example, if you create hamburgers from raw ground beef or bread raw chicken, don’t dip into the treat jar without first washing your hands, warns the FDA. The pathogens on your dirty hands can contaminate the treat being gobbled by your dog. It’s a good habit to always wash your hands after touching raw meat and poultry.
Joan Salge Blake CONTRIBUTOR
Joan Salge Blake is a Clinical Associate Professor at Boston University and the author of “Nutrition & You,” 3rd Edition, Pearson/Benjamin Cummings (2014), “Nutrition & You: Core Concepts to Good Health,” Pearson/Benjamin Cummings (2010), and “Eat Right The E.A.S.Y. Way,” Prentice Hall Press (1991). She is the co-author of “Nutrition: From Science to You,” Pearson/Benjamin Cummings (2016). Joan has conducted more than 1,000 media interviews and has been quoted in or written for various media outlets, such as the New York Times, Food Network, Newsweek, Washington Post, Forbes, Prevention, WebMD, Consumer Reports, Boston Globe, Newsday, Time, The Atlanta Journal Constitution Readers Digest, and Cosmopolitan, People, Parade, Cooking Light, Parents, Shape, Self, More, Sports Illustrated, Woman’s Day, More, All You and O magazines. She has appeared on CBS, The Early Show, CNN, CBS News Boston, NBC News, Boston, NPR and Fox TV, Boston. In 2012, Joan was named by Good Housekeeping Magazine as the expert to follow on Twitter for healthy eating. She is currently working towards her doctorate. Follow her on Twitter at: @JoanSalgeBlake.
This is by far the best scooper I’ve purchased
By The Dog Diva on August 17, 2016
Size: 25″-35″|Verified Purchase
This is by far the best scooper I’ve purchased. I’m a professional trainer with fairly severe arthritis. I still need to be able to pick up poop despite not being able to bend, though. After all, how would it look for a pro to disregard the poop scoop law? The GoGo Stik is lightweight and does not get dirty while in use. I love that it’s collapsible and more convenient to carry. But the best part is being able to really use it for multiple scoops (for dogs that walk and go, and go…even BIG dogs), and to be able to literally use any bag. If I accidentally run out of Dootie Bags, I can buy a different brand or use whatever my clients have handy, or duck into a nearby store and grab whatever bags they sell (or use a plastic shopping bag from another purchase). This has made my life so much easier!
Here is article from KSAT in San Antonio By Ashly Custer – Reporter
Posted: 8:41 AM, August 03, 2016
Updated: 8:44 AM, August 03, 2016
SAN ANTONIO – While flea problems tend to spike during the warmer summer months, the infestation this year seems to be worse than previous years.
A local veterinarian told us that she’s seeing more pets being brought in with flea-related issues.
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“They are going crazy. What we’re seeing is that people will call that have never had fleas before and they are seeing fleas on their pets. Some of these pets are indoor only — they go outside to go to the bathroom and they come back in and they are getting fleas,” said veterinarian Dr. Lori Stephens.
As a result, Stephens is also noticing more of her furry clients with allergies.
“(They have) a rash, hair loss, and (are) real itchy. The pattern of it is usually around the back end and tail area,” Stephens said. “Another good place to look into is when they are on their back.”
The tiny, jumping bloodsuckers may seem small, but they can cause big problems.
“Some dogs are very allergic, and they will chew themselves up until we get the fleas under control,” Stephens said.
Not only can constant itching lead to open sores vulnerable to infection, but fleas also carry tapeworms and can cause anemia.
“Under 12 weeks of age, (dogs) can actually get anemic from the flea bites and pass away from that,” Stephens said.
The pests are increasingly tougher to eradicate,” she said.
“The last few years, what we’ve been seeing in San Antonio especially, is that the fleas are not dying off with the topical medication. So we’re seeing I don’t know if you’d call it a resistance, but we are seeing live fleas on these dogs that have been treated with these medications that we’ve used for so long,” she said.
Stephens recommends oral flea treatments and suggests that pet owners see a vet so your beloved pettheir pets can be placed on a customized flea treatment plan.
Copyright 2016 by KSAT – All rights reserved.
AMAZING! CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT!
By Emily on August 4, 2016 Verified Purchase
This is the BEST thing ever! I just got it yesterday, picked up ALL the poop in my backyard in 1 bag from the grocery store. I have even used it under my dog twice and she pooped right into it! No nerves, no worries, just clean and easy poop disposal. I don’t have any idea why anyone would give this thing less than 5 stars. I am obsessed! It’s amazing. My 9 yr old put it together and by that i mean sticking one part into the other part and twisting. Couldn’t be simpler. I am telling everyone I know. LOVE IT! Thank you!
By odaine williamson July 29, 2016
Simply the best, picking up poop by hand sucks now i pick up in style
By Tad A Adrian on July 30, 2016
Catch it while the dog goes, clean yard, clean stick, clean hands.
Honk if you love geese!
O.K., honk if you hate goose poop! The GoGo Stik isn’t just for cleaning up after your doggy! You can also use it to pick up any little piles that critters leave behind. If your property is a popular hangout for geese, you know they can create quite a mess. Try using the GoGo Stik to make quick work of cleaning up after the flock flies, and before the flies flock.
Yuk – When is a poo not a poo? Sometimes you need to deal with this! My Gina wasn’t feeling well today. Fortunately, my GoGo Stik does a very nice job and is clean and quick on these days. A few swipes on the grass with the round shovel side and plastic store bag and no more Yuk! Life is very good!
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what I was looking for.
By Angie H.on July 8, 2016
Size: 25″-35″|Verified Purchase
Got a new puppy and now I need to clean the yard regularly. This is a nice design. I really didn’t want to have a dirty scooper and the way the bag covers the scooper, it always stays clean. I also like that I can use regular plastic bags with handles, which means I can clean the whole yard with one bag.