Meet the Madison Vet Who Makes House Calls for Senior Pets |  Business

If you’ve ever owned a pet, you know what it’s like trying to get them to the vet’s office.

While some excitedly headed to the clinic to see their friends, many more cringe in their carriers, tremble as they are lifted onto the exam table, or squirm frantically as they are restrained. The effort can be even more daunting for older or sicker pets, for whom simply getting into the car can be painful.

But what if those sick dogs and old cats didn’t have to make the trip?

That’s the goal of vet Miranda Braithwaite, owner of SagePet Home Veterinary Care. Since she opened the home visiting team a year and a half ago, the Middleton vet has traveled to Madison-area apartments, houses and retirement communities to visit pets where they are most comfortable.

Veterinarian Miranda Braithwaite, owner of SagePet Home Veterinary Care, checks the heartbeat of Saki, a dog who underwent a second glaucoma surgery in late 2022, during a house visit in Middleton in February.

SagePet is open to patients of all kinds, but Braithwaite designed the service for older pets and pets with chronic illnesses, who tend to need more frequent care.

Those pets don’t always get the kind of care they need at a clinic, said Braithwaite, who still works two days a week at True Veterinary Care in Verona. Owners often think that changes in their older pets are just a normal part of aging, thus missing an opportunity to treat a problem.

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Dr. Miranda Braithwaite, owner of SagePet Home Veterinary Care, examines Saki, a dog who underwent a second glaucoma surgery in late 2022, during a home visit in February

Meanwhile, vets who were already overworked have become even busier in recent years, in the face of the influx of pets that Americans acquired during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a typical clinic setting, veterinarians have about 20 minutes to spend with each pet scheduled for the day, plus any pets left to settle in between. That, Braithwaite said, is not enough time for the most complicated patients.

“I saw a small gap in care where I could really provide quality healthcare that would help improve both the quality and quantity of life for aging pets,” Braithwaite said.

“Part of what I was hoping to do with SagePet is get some of the more labor intensive patients … off the clinic doctors plate, let me spend more time with them to really dig into their issues and then release those (veterinarians) to deal with the most urgent things they are seeing on a day-to-day basis.”

In 2021, Braithwaite used his savings account and Tuesdays off to put the idea into practice. He began to fill his SUV with the most essential equipment: a portable scale big enough for a 100-pound dog, a labeler, and a centrifuge that plugs into his car so he can label and spin blood samples before send them to the lab. “All those things that you take for granted in a physical facility,” Braithwaite said.

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Veterinarian Miranda Braithwaite, owner of SagePet Home Veterinary Care, speaks with the pet’s owner, Sarah Hartman, during a house visit in Middleton in February.

Home visits are back

SagePet is one of the few local vet companies reviving the old house call, which is still the norm for farm animals. A handful of other local companies offer general practice veterinary care at home, including Comforts of Home and Paws & Claws, though some see patients in a clinic van rather than inside the home.

Other companies, like Journeys Home Pet Euthanasia, for which Braithwaite works one weekend each month, only provide that specialized service. SagePet seems to be the only one specifically focused on treating aging and chronically ill pets.

These days, Braithwaite makes house calls three days a week, typically seeing around five pets a day. Most are cats and dogs, but he has also seen rabbits and the occasional bird.

“I always say if it fits in your house, I’ll watch it,” Braithwaite said.

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Dr. Miranda Braithwaite, owner of SagePet Home Veterinary Care, gives a piece of cheese to Saki, a dog who lost both eyes to glaucoma.

Charges $175 per visit and $95 for each additional pet, with a fee schedule for specific procedures posted online. Braithwaite keeps his car stocked with the medications he prescribes the most, including for pain, anxiety and ear infections, so owners don’t have to wait for a prescription to be filled.

Although he specializes in the older and more fragile pets, he will see just about any pet whose owner has a reason to want a home visit. “I’ve never really turned anyone away,” Braithwaite said, though he recommends that puppies and kittens, who typically need socialization, frequent vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery, visit a clinic.

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Dr. Miranda Braithwaite, owner of SagePet Home Veterinary Care, draws blood from Saki, a dog who underwent a second glaucoma surgery in late 2022.

When Braithwaite arrives, he usually sits on the floor with the pet while he discusses any concerns with the owner. In their own homes, pets are more like themselves, making it easier to judge their health and quality of life, Braithwaite said. She also facilitates the practice of the “no fear” approach that she fervently believes in, a national certification that teaches vets to use less force and more treats.

While some pets only need an annual checkup and vaccinations, others need regular monitoring for chronic conditions. With all of his patients, Braithwaite prides himself on helping owners figure out what’s best for his pet.

“I don’t dictate treatments,” Braithwaite said. “I don’t judge people if they want or don’t want to do something. I see my role as providing the expert medical opinion, providing the options, and then we talk about the best way forward.”

For a cat with kidney disease, for example, a vet would normally prescribe intravenous fluids. But in some cases, Braithwaite said, such treatment would be so stressful that the cat would hide from its owner, straining their bond and reducing the cat’s quality of life. In a situation like that, he said, it would be better to forego such treatment, even if it means a shorter life.

“I like to practice in a way that really… (asks), ‘How will this fit into your life? Is this reasonable? Is this financially sustainable?’” Braithwaite said. “If I recommend a bunch of things that they can’t do or don’t want to do or can’t afford, then we’re wasting everyone’s time.”

SagePet is a one-man business, but Braithwaite said he’s always collaborating with other vets. She sends pets to clinics for surgeries and other procedures she doesn’t perform at home, and other vets refer clients to her. “I get referrals from the euthanasia company, where people call and say, ‘I don’t think we’re ready for (euthanasia), but we’re not sure what else to do,’” Braithwaite said.

Still accepting new clients, Braithwaite is also looking to expand its services. He is currently taking online courses to become certified in hospice and palliative care. He would also like to buy an ultrasound machine so he can look for things like bladder stones at home.

Eventually, he would like to make the business his full-time job. “I think it definitely fills a need,” Braithwaite said.

the four questions

What are the most important values ​​that drive your work?

Kindness and compassion for both pets and their people. I try really hard to be non-judgmental, meet people and pets where they are, and say, “This is where we are today. What are your goals? How can we get there?” and then give people all the options and help guide them there.

How are you creating the kind of community you want to live in?

I want to live in a community that values ​​animals. I truly value animals and believe they deserve the level of care and respect that humans receive, and so I give them that. I lead by example. They always say that you can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats its animals. And I think that’s a really fundamental and important thing to think about.

What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

I always say we take a step. When I look back on where I am now, I never would have imagined that I would be doing this three days a week and thinking that this would be my only source of income. But then I look back and (see) I only took one step. I made a website. I saw a date. I told my friends and family. It has just been built, step by step. It was really following my passion, taking steps forward, and trying not to get overwhelmed with the big picture.

Are you hiring?

Not right now. I’m still working on building it to fully support myself. But man, I could use some help eventually: an assistant, a technician, a co-driver. It is notorious in our field that veterinarians are a bit scattered because we have too many things on our minds, and it is the technicians and nurses who keep us together. Could definitely use one of those.