If you’ve ever had to travel by air with a cat, you know how stressful it can be for both cat and guardian. Now imagine that you have to travel with a sick cat. You’ll be in the air for several hours – what if something happens to your cat? Flight attendants receive basic medical training in first aid and CPR for humans, but they’re not trained to help in case of a pet emergency. But now there’s a new option for some pet guadians to receive in flight veterinary care for their sick pets.
Dr. Cindy Bressler, a New York City based veterinarian whose clientele includes high profile actors and other celebrities, makes house calls to her clients both in the city and in the Hamptons. Several of these clients occasionally hired her to accompany them and their pets when they had to travel on private planes. Clients have also taken advantage of this service during a move, or when a pet’s care had to be transitioned to a hospital somewhere else in the country, or the world, for that matter.
Seeing a need for this service among her clientele, Dr. Bressler started Jetset Vets, the first ever private jet veterinary pet service. Jetset Vets will provide in-flight medical care, assistance with preparation of pets’ travel documents, and work with veterinary hospitals globally to ensure seamless transport and transition of care. Bressler teamed up with Blue Star Jets, a company that has long served an elite air travel clientele, but hopes that eventually, the service can be offered on commercial flights as well.
Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a celebrity vet in Los Angeles, will be the West Coast Director of JetSetVets. As Dr. Mahaney is a holistic veterinarian practicing both western and traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM), he has a unique approach catering to his patients’ needs both on the ground and in the air.
The concept of concierge medicine is not a new one in human medicine. As a huge fan of the USA TV series Royal Pains, a show about a concierge practice set in the Hamptons, I became intrigued when I read about Dr. Bressler’s practice, and the creation of Jetset Vets. Dr. Bressler successfully adapted this business model to veterinary medicine, and I wanted to learn more. (I also see the potential for a spin-off: “Royal Pains – Veterinary Edition” – Mark Feuerstein, are you reading this?).
I had a chance to speak with both Dr. Bressler and Dr. Mahaney about their new venture last week.
I asked Dr. Bressler what types of services would be offered in flight. “Services range from monitoring to dealing with emergency situations,” said Dr. Bressler. “The only thing we can’t do in flight is surgery.” If there were a surgical emergency, the plane would make an emergency landing and the pet’s care would be referred to a hospital on the ground. “We can also have a pet chef on board for pets who have special dietary needs.” The chef can prepare fresh meals in flight if needed.
“One of my clients had to fly his cat from New York to Colorado for radiation treatment,” said Dr. Bressler. “At the time, the right type of radiation machine was not available in the city. “He hired me to accompany him and the cat to Colorado, and I transitioned the cat’s care to the oncologist at the specialty hospital there. The client wanted the cat to be as comfortable as possible during treatment,” adds Bressler, ” so he rented the presidential suite at a nearby hotel and had it completely remodeled to look just like the cat’s apartment back in New York!”
Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Jetset Vet’s West Coast Director, is looking forward to his first opportunity to be on a Jetset Vet flight. I asked him how dealing with celebrity clients differs from dealing with “regular” clients. “Honestly, I treat all of my clients the same regardless of if they are a high-profile actress or regular working Joe. My role is to strive to provide the utmost of communication to my clients to help them through challenging times by being available either in-person or through communication via email, phone, text, or even social media.”
Dr. Mahaney’s practice is housecall based, so he is already familiar with working without the support of a brick and mortar hospital. I asked him what he thought might be some special challenges of practicing on a plane. “I have an extensive background in emergency practice,” said Mahaney, “so I can rely on my experiences treating a variety of urgent medical scenarios, including trauma, toxicity, metabolic disease, cancer treatment side effects, and others.” He says that on a flight, the majority of his responsibility will be to monitor vital signs (temperature, heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure) and provide stabilizing treatments, such as intravenous fluids and medications.
Dr. Mahaney’s house call practice offers holistic modalities such as acupuncture and Tradtional Chinese Medicine, and I wanted to know how these modalities could benefit a patient while in the air. “These modalities can keep the body’s energy circulating in a fashion comparable to that which it experiences in less stressful circumstances (i.e., on the ground),” said Mahaney. “Hands on (acupressure massage), needle, and laser treatments can all benefit a pet stressed out by travel due to their calming and normalizing nature.”
According to Dr. Bressler, not all flights will require the presence of a veterinarian. Some sick pets may only require a trained veterinary technician to accompany them. Either way, having a trained veterinary professional on board will provide peace of mind to worried pet guardians.
JetsetVets will be donating a percentage of the proceeds from flights booked with Blue Star Jets to animal charities.
While this service is probably only something a very elite clientele will be able to take advantage of, I absolutely love the concept. One of the many reasons why I love it so much is that it reinforces that pets are members of the family. If money was no object, would you take advantage of this service?
Photos of Dr. Bressler and Dr. Mahaney used with permission.