Rescued from wretched conditions, the 183 cats and kittens were safe at a shelter. They had clean cages, fresh food, water and dedicated people tending to them. What they didn’t have was on-the-spot medical care for any but the most basic procedures.

Photo of an HSUS staff member administering medicine to a rescued cat.
This tabby was one of 183 cats rescued from neglect.
Kevin Wolf
/
AP Images for The HSUS

The shelter didn’t have an in-house clinic or advanced medical equipment, explains veterinarian Katelin McConkey, who helped care for the animals in the wake of the October 2019 seizure. “I had my stethoscope and a thermometer. That was it.”

Our Animal Rescue and Response team had saved the cats from a horrific neglect situation in western Pennsylvania, and they had a panoply of medical challenges, including heart disease, infected teeth, upper respiratory illnesses and more. “There were diseases I hadn’t seen since vet school,” McConkey says. “It was one thing after another after another—a very complex case.”

Day after day, team members drove the cats two hours round trip from the shelter to the private practice clinic where McConkey works in Cambridge, Maryland. There the animals got the surgeries, diagnostic tests and comprehensive exams they needed.

The team made it work, but it wasn’t ideal. Car rides added to the cats’ anxiety and the constant travel put an extra burden on rescuers. “It was stressful on everybody,” McConkey says.

Now we can provide that care on scene and do it a heck of a lot quicker.

Allison Bundock, the HSUS

Illustration showing various technology in the mobile vet unit, including a microscope, mobile ultrasound unit, centrifuge and blood test analyzer.
Illustration showing the interior of the mobile unit, including the sink, refrigerator and retractable digital scale.

McConkey has since assisted with other rescues, but this is the case she thinks of when describing the value of the HSUS’s new mobile vet unit, which she calls “a real godsend.” Thanks to a generous donation from the Fund for Second Nature, the custom-built unit features a surgery suite and medical devices including a mobile ultrasound unit, EKG machine, blood test analyzer and anesthesia machine. (As of press time, the HSUS is raising money for an X-ray machine.)

Along with enabling full-service care at temporary holding locations, the mobile vet unit will be an enormous asset during animal seizures, says HSUS veterinary technician Allison Bundock. In the past, the rescue and response team had to rely on local vet resources to care for animals with emergency medical needs.

“A lot of the properties we go to are way out, not close to a vet, much less an emergency vet,” Bundock says. “Now we can provide that care on the scene and do it a heck of a lot quicker.”

Illustration showing sick dogs in the mobile vet unit's kennels and veterinarians performing surgery on a dog.

State-of-the-art tech

With an anesthesia machine, veterinarians will be able to perform emergency surgeries and safely examine animals who are unsocialized or in pain. An ultrasound unit will provide 3D images of organs and interior tissues in real time, while a bloodwork machine and test analyzer will enable veterinary staff to detect underlying health issues, such as heartworm, parvovirus, kidney disease or systemic infections.

Immediate care for serious cases

During rescue deployments, animals in stable condition will be loaded on the regular transport trailer while those with immediate medical needs will go to the mobile vet unit. Nine kennels and nine pet carriers will provide holding space for urgent care animals, who can be treated and closely monitored in a calmer, quieter environment. Kennel dividers can be inserted to increase the number of separate holding spaces or removed to accommodate large dogs or moms with litters.

From our magazine

This story originally appeared in our award-winning magazine for members, All Animals. Get informative and inspiring content like this delivered right to your door.

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