In-home veterinarian puts service on wheels

Port resident taps into growing market of people with pets that fear office visits
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press staff

After working in a clinic for 15 years, Port Washington veterinarian Elisa Horsch is taking her animal expertise to the homes of her patients.

“I love what I do, and I’m learning that a lot of clients love the convenience of in-home visits,” she said.

Horsch previously worked at Best Friends Veterinary Center in Grafton and started her own practice called Ozaukee Home Vet at the beginning of October.

Since opening, she has acquired 60 patients and has about four calls per day. Horsch said she eventually wants to have as many as 500 patients.

Initially, Horsch thought she would serve owners with limited mobility or who couldn’t drive but quickly discovered a growing market for pets that are fearful of going to veterinary offices.

“Animals are great at hiding pain when they’re afraid,” she said. “If they’re terrified at the vet clinic, their adrenaline is going to take over and you’re not going to get an accurate exam.”

Some of the services Horsch provides include wellness checks, vaccinations, parasite screening, grooming, nail trims, laceration repairs, monitoring of chronic diseases and nutrition and behavioral counseling. She eventually wants to buy a portable ultrasound for diagnosis.   

Horsch does not perform surgeries but has a number of clinics to which she refers customers.

“I find surgery to be repetitive and boring,” she said. “My strength as a veterinarian is communicating with owners and helping them find solutions to their pet’s medical issue.”

Her in-home visits span all of Ozaukee County, with most of her current clientele in Port Washington and Grafton.

Horsch primarily treats cats and dogs but has a niche market with chickens.

“Chickens are great patients because they’re docile,” she said. “They’re so afraid of you that they freeze. They’re easy to work with and they’re excellent healers.”

She once treated a chicken that was attacked by a hawk, causing injuries that separated all of chicken’s skin off its back from the underlying body tissue.

“It was a nasty wound. I cleaned it up using topical antibiotics, replaced the skin and didn’t even have to suture it,” Horsch said. “Within one week it was totally healed. A person could have never recovered like that.”   

Horsch said working out of a home is safer than going to a clinic because there is less risk of infection.

“Nosocomial infections are a huge problem at human and veterinarian hospitals because all the sick pets go to the hospital so there are a lot of germs,” she said. “All I have to do is decontaminate myself, and I’m really the only risk of spreading germs from one home to another.”

Working at a home can also be a tranquil setting during the last moments of a pet’s life. Horsch has noticed in-home euthanasia to be growing in demand.

“People really want to have in-home euthanasia because pets are already afraid of going to the vet clinic and owners don’t want that to be their pet’s last memory,” she said. “It can be a really peaceful passage at home, where they are surrounded by the smells, people and environment they’re comfortable in.”

Horsch often works with her assistant Jill Moran, who lives a few blocks away from Horsch’s home on South Webster Street. Moran recently moved to Port from North Carolina where she was a veterinarian hospital manager.

Moran’s primary responsibility is to be an extra set of eyes and ears for Horsch and restrain animals during examinations and procedures.   

“It’s easy to miss subtle things, and she’s a trained professional so she can catch something that I had missed,” Horsch said, adding she wants to eventually hire a receptionist when she has more clients.

Horsch graduated from veterinary school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004, where she met her husband Dana Pionek. She is never out of earshot about work because Pionek is a large-animal vet in Cedar Grove.

“I swore I would never date a classmate, but he was too good to pass up,” Horsch said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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