What to do about ShotVet?


Many in the veterinary community are asking what can be done to stop the low-cost mobile veterinary vaccine service associated with Walgreens drug stores. The answer may be nothing.

ShotVet's website advertises no exam fees and low-cost vaccinations "for the ones closest to your heart.""Voila … ShotVet." It's just that easy, according to the low-cost mobile veterinary service's website. The company advertises "quality pet care, right around the corner." Or, to be precise, outside of certain Walgreens locations in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

The service provides vaccinations, flea control and heartworm preventive-even microchipping in some locations-and employs licensed veterinarians. It has also raised the eyebrows of many in the veterinary community as they encounter yet another veterinary business model that claims to do it better than the traditional clinic.

VETgirl-also known as Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT-has posted her take on ShotVet on her Facebook page:

ShotVet teaming up with Walgreens. Which of the three scenarios will happen?

A) Cat runs out of parking lot, HBC on street and killed. O sues everyone.

B) Veterinarian misses the pruritic, alopecic puppy because there's no microscope to diagnose demodex but here's your vaccines anyway.

C) 10 year old dog? Skip blood work! We can't do it. Have some vaccines instead.

Go ahead. Weigh in.

And boy, did they: "And the profession sinks to a new low ... Makes it hard on the rest of us trying to do a good job," wrote one commenter. Many veterinarians have voiced their distaste for ShotVet as word of the service spread.

"Is it a problem? Sure. It's just another low-cost entity that scrapes away," says Susan Curtis, executive director of the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA).

Can you establish a VCPR in a parking lot?

MVMA members started rumbling about ShotVet when it launched in Massachusetts. Curtis says the association started looking into the company last September, bringing it to the attention of the commonwealth's Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine. At that time, she says, there was no reason for the board to pursue it. "Pretty much unless a consumer files a complaint there's not a lot that happens," Curtis says.

However, the MVMA did follow up with ShotVet to better address its members' concerns. "Are they actually establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship while in a parking lot in December? It appears as though they are," Curtis says. "It's a Massachusetts-licensed veterinarian that's working at these locations. Each vet that we have observed or talked to does give the dog an examination."

She says the veterinarians hired by ShotVet are often veterinarians in transition or relief doctors. But she doesn't distinguish among private practitioners, relief veterinarians and shelter vets-they're all members of her association and they all have a standard of care to uphold, she says.

"Is it the same exam that a private practitioner gives in an office? I would think not, but I can't jump to that conclusion," Curtis says. "We rely on the individual veterinarians to uphold the standard of veterinary care-to the best of our knowledge, that's being done."

Vaccines vs. routine veterinary care

ShotVet not only advertises low-cost, low-hassle vaccinations but says it won't charge pet owners an exam fee (even though they're doing the exam, in accordance with state law). Curtis and others believe this feeds into pet owners' notion that exams are unnecessary and vaccines are a substitute for routine veterinary care. Curtis recalls a post she read on ShotVet's Facebook page: "My dog doesn't need a physical exam, it just needs a vaccination."

"It's not the way I would handle my dog's care, but I am perhaps more informed than others," Curtis says. "There are different levels of knowledge with every owner, just as there are with people." She notes that some people get regular checkups; others don't. "It applies to pet owners too," she says.

Continued concern

Beyond keeping an eye on the service, she believes the MVMA has done what it can in terms of looking into its members' concerns. She says it's the same concerns the profession has with shelter medicine and other low-cost veterinary services all over the country.

"We had a lot of people complaining. We really looked into it," she says. "That line we walk is so fine between being ethical, humane and being misjudged that our intentions are other than they are." Curtis says the MVMA just wants to make sure animals are being cared for well. "I worry about good care and I worry about humane care," she says.

Click here to check out ShotVet's website and social media pages. dvm360 made several attempts to reach a ShotVet spokesperson for this article, but calls and emails were not returned. ShotVet is run by its president, Wesley Borgman, DVM. Borgman became licensed in the commonwealth of Massachusetts in July of last year. He was licensed in Georgia in December of 2013 and in Florida in June of 1999.

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