Veterinarian on Wheels

Sue Macinnes’ longtime Coastside business, All Animal Mobile Veterinary Clinic, is reminiscent of an era when doctors made house calls.

It doesn’t appear to be too much trouble, really, for Sue Macinnes to take care of her four dogs, six horses, eight cats, turtle, rabbit, chickens, couple of birds, and a goat on her farm off Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay.

With some help from friends, a degree in Veterinarian Medicine from Purdue University, and more than 20 years of experience treating animals — from cats and dogs to potbelly pigs and alpacas — caring for her many pets is something that comes naturally to the 52-year-old veterinarian who runs All Animal Mobile Veterinary Clinic, a practice on wheels that makes house calls up and down the Coast.

“I admit I’m kind of maxed out at the moment and am looking for homes for some of them, like the cats, and I’m getting ready to sell a horse, but taking care of animals is something I really like to do,” said Macinnes, who describes her work style as “calm, dedicated and friendly.”

Growing up in Southern California and spending summers on a farm in her mother’s native New Hampshire, Macinnes’ love for animals started young. She only had cats growing up because “my mom wouldn’t allow dogs,” she said, but she just knew at a young age that “working with all kinds of animals would be something I would do,” said the veterinarian one recent afternoon over lunch at the .

Macinnes graduated from vet school when she was in her mid-20s and soon thereafter moved to Half Moon Bay and took a job with Dr. Rutherford at Main Street Veterinary Hospital.

“I had done a lot of work on livestock like pigs and cows at vet school,” said Macinnes, who soon realized how well that experience would serve her upon taking her first job in Half Moon Bay.

“At that time, potbelly pigs were fairly popular here as pets. We had a breeder on the coast. Many of the people with these potbelly pigs had no idea what they were dealing with. They are livestock, wallow in the mud and root. We had to treat them for everything from vaccines and illnesses to trimming their tusks and nails. They would also get sick a lot because they weren’t on the right diet or environment. I’m happy to see that trend go,” she said.

Cows, horses and alpacas are some other large animals Macinnes soon became accustomed to treating here on the Coast.

It was also during this time at Main Street Vet that Macinnes had the good fortune of landing a part-time position for four years at Stanford University in its Comparative Medicine Department, where she maintained animals — from owls to ground squirrels — used for research, giving her even more experience caring for a wide spectrum of animals.

But while at Main Street Vet, she saw mostly dogs and cats in the office and only did house calls mostly for large animals, but “we did see small animals for clients that had multiple pets, and I recognized the need and convenience of a mobile vet service,” she said. “I wanted to do house calls, but I still wanted to do surgeries, so that was what made the decision for a mobile unit.”

So after six years, she left Main Street Vet and went out on her own as a mobile vet and started her own practice, All Animal Mobile Veterinarian Clinic.

Today, Macinnes manages more than 1,000 clients a year from Montara to Pescadero, as well as parts of La Honda and Woodside.

“Some I see only once a year for routine check ups or if their pet is sick, while others I see a few times a year because they have multiple pets or an animal with a certain condition that needs consistent care,” she said.

Most of her patients are small animals like cats and dogs but will occasionally treat livestock and other large animals, and did reptile and bird work for awhile but found it “too hard and too specialized because of the type of equipment and drugs needed so I don’t do that anymore, although I will do nail or wing trim,” she said.

Her mobile van is equipped for house calls, and Macinnes does spays, neuters, abdominal surgeries and tumor removal all inside the vehicle.

“Major bone surgeries are usually farmed out, but the rest I can do,” she said.

She said her least favorite thing to do is euthanizing an animal by “sedating them with an overdose injection of an anesthetic,” but has gotten many house calls for this service because pet owners seem to prefer doing this in the comfort of their own home.

The routine procedure she likes the most, though, is surgery and tumor removal. “I also like dentals because they are satisfying when done, and the teeth are sparkling clean.”

She makes house calls on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays with some appointments at her home. On Saturday and Sunday nights she works at the South Peninsula Veterinary Emergency Medical Clinic in Palo Alto.

She says Golden Retrievers are typically the easiest to work on, but her favorite dogs are pit bulls “because they have a bad rap since they are selectively breed for fighting, and it’s the way they are raised that make them go for children.”

Macinnes once took in an “abandoned little pit bull” named Buddha, who later unfortunately got hit by a car. “She was the sweetest pit bull you ever did see, and she got me hooked on pit bulls. She loved everybody and everything.”

Here’s what else Macinnes has to say about her life on the Coast and practice as a veterinarian:

The oddest animal you ever treated:

I worked on a kudamundi and also worked on a 14-foot reticulated python.


Biggest problem or issue you experience with pet owners:

Money is always an issue. We can do a lot medically and surgically these days, but the costs sometimes may be prohibitive. Also being a house-call vet, it’s a challenge sometimes catching my patients.


How often should people take their pets to the vet:

Yearly exams to make sure their pets stay healthy and biannual for geriatric patients and obviously when they are sick or not doing their normal things.


What makes you truly happy:

Ice cream is always good, but painting and riding in the wilderness are my favorite things.


You feel at home when:

Touching an animal. Curled up on my couch with a cat in my lap and a dog sleeping next to me, like right now.


Book or movie or life experience that changed your life:

Of course James Herriot’s books; I read them all.


If you could change something professionally, what would it be:

Get a second vet and be open six days a week.


The cause you are most passionate about:

Spaying and neutering pets.


The household chore you secretly hate doing:

Cleaning. Entropy is a physics property and everything is moving toward chaos, and it takes too much energy to fight it.


What do you love to do when not working:

Painting and quilting and riding.


What TV shows do you like to watch:

All the medical shows, like CSI and Gray’s Anatomy.


Favorite place to eat on the Coast:

Hard to pick, there are so many, but and are a couple favorites.


How can people contact you:

The office at 650-726-3445.

William Laven March 07, 2011 at 12:07 AM
This Tuesday, Susan is coming to our house to give annual physicals and vaccinations to our four cats, dog and three alpaca as she has been doing for ~2 1/2 years. It's not just a great convenience for us, but she treats our pets very well and explains complex medical issues well. And Amy in her office is a pleasure to work with, too and her assistants are always very helpful. Many thumbs and paws and hooves up for Susan from us and our menagerie.
Laura Dudnick March 07, 2011 at 03:25 AM
This article is awesome! I'd never heard of a mobile veterinarian before; really glad I read this!


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