Roosevelt Island InstaVet doctor Mariya Gugel and vet assistant Sundra.
Roosevelt Island InstaVet doctor Mariya Gugel and vet assistant Sundra.

InstaVet doctor Mariya Gugel helps her neighbors on Roosevelt Island with their pets, when they're sick but also to keep them healthy. She makes it easier with home visits. To bring us all up to speed on this much needed service, we asked Dr. Gugel a few questions about what she does and what you might expect from a visit.

Do you actually live here on Roosevelt Island?

Yes - I actually live on the island. My husband and I moved here in Summer of 2016 after I graduated from vet school.

What can I expect with a routine first visit? How long will it take?

It really depends! Most of the time, a comprehensive exam takes about 5-7 minutes, but the rest of the visit is spent on chatting with the owner. For routine puppy and kitten visits, there is quite a bit of chatting - we go over vaccine requirements, spay/neuter, overall care and diet, potty training, flea/tick/heart worm prevention. I usually recommend a fecal sample be submitted to the lab to rule out intestinal parasites. All of this usually takes about 30 minutes.

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For adult pets, we* go over any issues that are going on, diet, preventative care that is needed, etc. Then, I administer any vaccines, or take blood, etc as needed. These can also take about 30 minutes.

*Dr. Gugel brings along a veterinary assistant like you'd experience in an office visit.

Things to expect: We usually agree upon a 30-minute window, and I send a text when we are about 15-20 minutes away, just in case of traffic or a late previous appointment. We come in and the first thing we ask is where we can set up - we like a flat clear surface. Something like a counter top or coffee table without any candles or vases on it. We have a little black mat (maybe a little bigger than a piece of printer paper) that we set up on.

We even come with a little bright light as most apartments don't have ceiling lights. We've been doing this long enough that we are used to setting up in small spaces, working on the floor, on couches, in bathtubs, and really, nothing is "weird" to us at this point. We may ask that you move certain things like glasses of water, vases, candles that could be an issue if knocked over.

Most clients can expect any test results within 3-5 days. You will also get your pet's vaccine record and a summary of the visit on the spot most of the time (This is a paper record and the client gets the original and I get the carbon copy on the back).

I do not collect payment - this is handled directly by InstaVet. (They usually get credit card info beforehand). The client gets an estimate which they approve via email. Once approved, InstaVet care team calls to get credit card info on the day of the appointment. I am the only person who can approve the invoice for the visit, so if something was on the estimate but was not performed, then I obviously take that off. They are only charged after the invoice is approved by me.

What services can you provide in my home?

Pretty much anything other than bulky imaging such as an x-ray or ultrasound. We also do health certificates for traveling pets. We can do blood work and fecal tests with results coming back within two days or so, heart worm tests with results next day.

If your pet requires a nail trim, ear cleaning, or clipping of any matted fur, we can do that as well.

Dehydrated pets can require supplemental fluid, which we can provide, but anything more serious requires hospitalization and should not be managed in the home. InstaVet also can schedule a technician to come to your home for nail trims, anal gland expressions, giving medication, helping get a fractious pet into a carrier, administering subcutaneous fluids and certain vaccines.

At what times are you available?

I am typically available on the island after 6:00 p.m. most evenings and throughout the weekends. There are other veterinarians working with InstaVet who may be able to help outside of these times.

What if I need vet help in the middle of the night or on a weekend?

Our care staff is available from 8:00 a.m. until midnight everyday to schedule appointments and can reach me on my personal cell phone in case there is an urgent need for at-home care. Unfortunately, there are limitations to what can be done at home, so emergencies such as animals that have a broken limb, have been hit by a car, are having trouble breathing, etc. require hospitalization.

The InstaVet care team can help refer you to a nearby hospital and send over any records that may be needed.

My friend has a pet frog? Can you help them and other unusual animal companions?

Yes! I have experience with small mammals such as guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, mice and rats and am happy to help out with those. The only animal I will not touch is a tarantula.

My cat frightens easily and tries to hide? How do you manage nervous pets?

This is actually a great question and one we get ALL the time.

Cats can definitely be more nervous than dogs and we recognize that they are not necessarily exposed to as many new people. I usually discuss the degree of nervousness with the client prior to the visit. If a pet is known to hide, it is ideal to have them waiting in a carrier for us (hence, the 15-20 minute pre-appointment text). I ask that you "seal the exits" or keep the pet in a room with minimal furniture that they can hide under.

Sometimes, the best place to do an exam is the bathroom. Sundra and I sometimes joke that we are also there to redecorate, and try to move small trinkets off of surface where they may be knocked off.

Nothing is "weird" to us and every suggestion we make is for the safety and comfort of the pet first, then the owner, and then ourselves.

What we always ask for, even for small dogs, is a bath towel to wrap the pet in, we call this the "kitty burrito." This keeps cats comfortable and gives a feeling of safety, while keeping their claws safely tucked away. I usually ask the owner to keep the towel out on the couch or a counter for a day or two before the appointment so that the cat can get their scent on it and feel comfortable around it. 

I do not do sedation at home for exams, its simply impossible to carry all the necessary supplies and the risks are too high.

We do ask that people are honest with us - if your pet is aggressive, there is nothing to be embarrassed about, but we do need to know for our safety and yours.

How much does your service cost?

The fee for an appointment is $149. During clinic nights, this fee is $99. The vet tech fee is $15, and most vaccines are between 30-40$ each. Blood work runs between $150-300, depending on the tests selected (we discuss this beforehand, of course). A fecal or heart worm test is under $100. At home euthanasia fees depend on the type of cremation selected (i.e. group or private).

Can I talk with someone before scheduling a visit?

Of course! For clinic nights, a licensed veterinary technician care specialist will go over your pet's needs with you. They are trained on vaccine schedules and blood work requirements. For cases requiring a more complicated work up, I usually call.

We are also all very flexible in terms of how we communicate - text, call, email are all fine.

What if my pet needs medication? Is there a pharmacy you work with?

We work with a great compounding pharmacy that is open 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. They usually deliver medications next day.

If your pet need a special diet, flea/tick/heart worm control I can send you an email through an online pharmacy and you can order from there or order the same item from the online pharmacy of your choice and I will approve.

To learn more about InstaVet of schedule a visit, click here.