Dr. Sree Reddy is making urgent care more available and affordable in his community.
Sree Reddy, DVM, used to face a heartbreaking and frustrating situation at his practice, Seven Oaks Pet Hospital in Wesley Chapel, Fla.—pets he could have easily treated couldn’t make it to the clinic in time for him to save them. “We had all these calls where pets had urgent conditions and people couldn’t bring them in, or by the time they brought them in they were dead,” he says.
Reddy decided to do something about it. He bought a Ford van, outfitted it with medical supplies including an oxygen tank and cage, and insured 10 of his team members to drive it. In January 2020, he launched PetVetExress to provide emergency pet transport for minimal fees.
This “pet ambulance” service is just one way that Reddy is making urgent pet care more accessible in his community. He also launched a separate practice to treat urgent cases after regular business hours.
The idea was sparked when the emergency/specialty hospital Reddy usually referred his own clients to was sold to a large corporation. His clients reported that fees there had soared, sometimes even doubled. Reddy was troubled to hear that many local pet owners, unable to afford the high prices, were having their pets euthanized.
Wanting to offer an alternative, Reddy hired a team of experienced urgent-care doctors and technicians and opened Pet Urgent Care of Wesley Chapel in April 2019. Located in his existing practice space, it opens when Seven Oaks closes, providing care until 11 p.m. for pets with illnesses and injuries that require immediate care but don’t warrant a trip to the emergency hospital. Both practices are open 7 days a week. Although they share space and equipment, the businesses are set up as separate LLCs, each with its own doctors and staff.
Making It Affordable
To keep fees affordable at both practices, Reddy’s strategy is to simply charge his standard 20% markup, no matter what. That means his prices sometimes wind up drastically different than those at the nearby 24/7 corporate facility. “On a weekly basis, 2 or 3 clients will call with $6,000 to $7,000 estimates for surgeries that we do for 25%, 30%, 40% less,” he says.
For example, Reddy once performed a gastrotomy on a dog that had ingested a sock. He charged $2,700. The owner, who had been quoted $6,000 by the corporate emergency hospital, asked whether it was the same procedure. Assured that it was, he offered to pay more. “The client said, ‘I feel you’re undercharging—it’s okay if you want to charge me $1,000 more!’” Reddy remembers. He refused the offer. “I know what my costs are,” he says. “I add my profit margin, then figure my price.”
Bridging the Gap
Reddy sees his overarching mission as providing a bridge between regular and specialty/emergency veterinary care, and making that care more accessible. “I’m trying to fight against these big corporations I’m surrounded by, and to place myself somewhere between a general practice and a specialist,” he says. “For example, a lot of GPs can’t do ultrasounds and laparoscopic procedures, so I’m trying to fulfill that niche and make it affordable, so clients don’t end up euthanizing their dogs.”
To help make that possible, Reddy has tried to add a new hospital offering every year since he opened Seven Oaks in 2007—including acupuncture, single-port laparoscopy, digital X-rays and a CT scanner.
Over the years, the practice has grown into a 5-DVM hospital with 18% profitability, 15% annual revenue growth (which jumped to 35% in 2019-2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic), and 20% monthly new-client growth. In 2015 Reddy moved the practice from its original 2,000-sq.-ft. location to an 8,000-sq.-ft. building and added a Pet Depot franchise.
Serving the City
PetVetExpress serves both businesses. Besides providing pet transport, it also delivers medications and pet food within a 7-mile radius of the clinic, which Reddy says helps convert clients to buy directly from his practice rather than online. The van’s services generate $3,000 to $4,000 of revenue per month, which Reddy hopes to grow to $5,000 to $10,000 per month. The cost to purchase and outfit the van was $25,000, with an ongoing $1,500 monthly cost for insurance and gas.
Urgent-Care Success Tips
Considering adding an urgent-care business? Here’s some advice from Dr. Sree Reddy.
- Find the right team. “You need to empower them to think and work independently,” he adds.
- Reassure colleagues you won’t poach their business. Promote the urgent-care business at your regular hospital, but not vice-versa. “We want those clients to go back to their own veterinarians, so we’ll keep building that relationship and they’ll keep referring clients to us,” Reddy explains.