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A Breed Apart


Calm canine: Acupuncturist Bridget Halligan, with Angus, West Chelsea Veterinary Hospital.  

Amy Kantor
Orthopedic soft-tissue surgeon
West Chelsea Veterinary Hospital

In West Chelsea's immaculate surgery room, Amy Kantor talks about how familiar she is with the horrible things people do to their animals. On the wall are X-rays of a six-month-old pit bull who had been brought in earlier in the week. Its owner claimed the puppy had fallen off a table. The X-rays showed that it had a fractured hip and two violently broken hind femurs.

Kantor repaired her hip and fixed the femurs with pins. "Now she needs a home," says Kantor. She believes the dog could not have sustained such injuries from a simple fall.

Because West Chelsea is not a hospital with many specialists, Kantor performs general (as well as orthopedic) surgery -- from spaying and neutering to removing tumors to reconstructing the nostrils of pugs and bulldogs. Joint problems dominate the orthopedic sector of her practice, including at least one anterior-cruciate-ligament-tear (ACL) surgery a week (the widespread knee operation that also puts humans under the knife).

Kantor, who has been practicing in the city for three years, says that she'll treat "anything with fur but nothing with feathers." She's up for cold-blooded challenges, however. "It's tough to monitor a reptile under anesthesia," she says. "You think it's dead."

Jane Kosovsky
Traveling surgeon
(Unpublished phone number; ask your GP to call her. Most vets in the city know how to reach Kosovsky.)

"All I do is surgery, and many of them every day," says the brisk Jane Kosovsky, whose unconventionally structured practice -- she's essentially a freelancer -- means that she performs surgery in a dozen different clinics in Manhattan. "Some call me in once a week, some when they need me. But I only work at the ones I feel best about. If I were sick, I'd want to be at one of these hospitals."

Most of Kosovsky's work comes from general practitioners who call her in for surgeries that they don't perform. "As veterinary medicine becomes more specialized," Kosovsky says, "GPs are not doing as much surgery. We do know that the skill of the surgeon is important in the outcome, so people have gotten a lot smarter in choosing someone who operates five days a week."

Arnold Lesser
Board-certified orthopedic surgeon
Ultravet Diagnostics
Mineola, New York (516-294-6680)

Animal Emergency Service
280 Middle Country Road
Selden, New York (631-698-2225)

"Large-breed dogs tend to have problems with hips and joints and also growth deformities," says Long Island veterinary surgeon Arnold Lesser, one of a dozen vets in the country specializing in such deformities. He works mainly on dogs and cats, and credits human tinkering with keeping him in business. "Cat size hasn't changed," he explains. "Domestic cats are all about the same size as a wild cat. But we've made dogs into Pomeranians and Yorkies and 150-pound Newfoundlands. Genetically changing them causes a lot of deformities."

Lesser performs a complicated reconstructive surgery, used mainly on people, to help dogs with growth-plate problems, which cause one leg to be shorter than the others. The arduous process, developed by a doctor in Siberia during World War II, involves cutting the bone and then slowly lengthening it, a millimeter per day.

Total hip replacement and arthroscopic surgery -- another procedure developed for humans and newly available for dogs and cats -- are also specialties of Lesser's. "These areas are blossoming within orthopedics," Lesser says. And his next new interest is in physical therapy, which may include putting animals on treadmills immersed in water.

Thomas Scavelli
Board-certified surgeon
Garden State Veterinary Specialists
1 Pine Street, Tinton Falls, New Jersey

Thomas Scavelli supervises a staff of 65 at Garden State Veterinary Specialists, a referral service he started eight years ago. His stable of pros includes three full-time surgeons, an ophthalmologist, a critical-care doctor, a dermatologist, and a neurologist.

"Every patient we see comes in from another vet, so they're all high-risk, intense cases," says Scavelli, who used to run a surgical unit at the Animal Medical Center. The most common procedure he performs is knee reconstruction for ACL tears in dogs. "One thing that's specific to the city is the syndrome of high-rise cats," Scavelli says -- cats that have fallen from windows or balconies, fracturing legs or hips. Scavelli also does a lot of hip replacements for dogs. "We've had dogs in here that were dead lame or chronically in pain. We did an artificial joint, added a titaniumimplant, and they were using that leg a week or two after surgery."

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