Veterinary Internal Medicine and Allergy Specialists 207 East 84th Street (212-988-4650) New kid on the block Heather Peikes is
giving her veterinary neighbors plenty to talk about. She began practicing
as Manhattan's only board-certified dermatologist four months ago,
at a new 24-hour hospital that's the animal-care equivalent of Weill
Cornell's pricey Greenberg Pavilion. vima Specialists may cost a little
more than other veterinary clinics, but clients benefit from three
internal-medicine specialists, state-of-the-art equipment, and hour-and-a-half
Though general practitioners often treat dermatology and allergy
problems (which make up 20 percent of all vet cases), Peikes is
adamant about the value of her tiny specialty field.
"The problems I see can be very severe, to the point where the
animal is just one big scabby mess."
Some owners don't realize their pets even have a dermatological
problem. "I had an owner tell me their dog was very nervous -- he
bit his nails all day long," says Peikes. " 'He's not nervous!'
I said. 'He has a yeast infection on the skin around his nails!'
Skin problems also tend to develop as symptoms of internal ailments,
which she can not only diagnose but team up with the hospital's
internists to treat.
Animal Emergency and Referral Center 647 Bloomfield Avenue
West Caldwell, New Jersey
(973-226-3282) Manhattanites will drive 45 minutes into
deepest, darkest Jersey to see Karen Helton-Rhodes, who was the
head of dermatology at the AMC for thirteen years.
Helton-Rhodes, 45, also runs a horse farm and is dermatologist
to the show-circuit stars. Allergy sufferers constitute more than
half of her practice. Chronic, itching dermatitis is a common hereditary
problem in dogs, "kind of like hay fever in people," she says. "Once
an allergy gets into a breeding line, it's there to stay. Allergies
are in goldens and Labs, so they've kind of taken over where West
Highland White terriers used to be the big itchy breed. Boxers are
their own little problem child. I saw three yesterday. All I can
say is, thank goodness the shar-pei is in decline. The worst skin
-- and that's all they were."
Animal Medical Center 510 East 62nd Street (212-838-8100, ext. 8620; www.amcny.org) "The majority of patients that we test
come up positive to people," says Mark Macina, the spiky-haired
staff dermatologist at the AMC. Yes, he means they're allergic to
the people who brought them in. "I look at the pet and say, 'You
have to get rid of your owner.' "
The difference between allergies in humans and in animals is that
people respond with respiratory problems (stuffy nose, watery eyes)
while dogs and cats respond with skin problems (itching, redness).
But the science of immunotherapy is the same for both, as are the
most common environmental offenders: dust, mold, grass, trees, weeds.
Macina, 40, who grew up in the city -- "My family was troubled
when I went to this hoity-toity liberal-arts college and then ended
up cleaning pee and poop from cages" -- also takes urban challenges
into consideration when treating allergic pets. "Like the constant
construction going on outside your window," he says. "The cats have
to hear that all day. Noise and pollution can exacerbate allergies.
Plus, I see a lot of obsessive-compulsive behavior in New York --
licking, chewing, grooming." Whether that last comment referred
to pets or humans, we weren't eager to ask.
County Animal Clinic Yonkers, New York (914-779-5000) Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center 123 West Cedar Street, Norwalk, Connecticut (203-854-9960; www.vrecnorwalk.com)
Nina Shoulberg works at five hospitals
-- the two mentioned above, one in White Plains, one in Bedford
Hills, and a private practice in Norwalk -- where she treats dogs
and cats, 99 percent of them referrals from vets. Shoulberg, 45,
who has been practicing since 1984, says her patients mostly suffer
from allergies, but she's also diagnosed skin and ear infections,
and immune-system diseases like lupus. "I see a lot of dogs who
are allergic to cats," she says, "but that's fairly common." She
had one patient that turned out to be allergic to marijuana. "The
owner clued me in. We had him stop smoking. Then, when we reintroduced
it, the dog got itchy all over again." Alas, relief can't always
be achieved by cutting back on the bong; most pets have to take
antihistamine pills or undergo allergy shots. "We really try to
avoid steroids," says Shoulberg.
Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society
West Chelsea Veterinary Hospital 203 Tenth Avenue, at 22nd Street (212-645-2767)
A dozen needles are still visible in Angus's dense coat, but
the thirteen-year-old German shepherd is unfazed: He's about to receive
treats. Thirty-six-year-old Bridget Halligan is rummaging through
the cupboard under her examining table as Angus attempts to nose in.
She produces a biscuit, then runs her hand along Angus's back several
times to remove the last of the tiny needles. Angus doesn't flinch;
he does this every two weeks.
Roughly a third of Halligan's practice at West Chelsea is acupuncture
patients, and most of them, like Angus, suffer from pain from orthopedic
problems. She also treats some diabetic cats and older dogs with
arthritis. Her patients generally don't mind the five to fourteen
needles involved in a treatment. "I'll try to make the visit different
from a regular trip to the vet," Halligan says. "For some newcomers,
we even lower the lights."
She grew up in Staten Island -- not exactly a holistic-health
hotbed. Yet it produced three acupuncturing Halligans: Her father
and sister practice the art on humans. "So many people will say
acupuncture works because people believe it works," she says. "When
it's effective on dogs, the evidence is obvious."
Westside Veterinary Center 220 West 83rd Street (212-580-1800)
Tuesday evenings only
"Neurology and acupuncture have a nice marriage," says Richard
Joseph, who practiced for sixteen years at the Animal Medical Center.
The 45-year-old Joseph started out as a psychology major in college
. . . until he failed biology his first semester. Clearly, he got
over the hurdle, because he's now one of 110 board-certified veterinary
neurologists in the world.
Each week, he schleps a mobile MRI unit from the neurology practice
he shares in Yonkers with another of the rarefied 110, Jason Berg
(see page 34), to clinics in Norwalk, Connecticut, southern New
Jersey, and Manhattan. He has a thick Queens accent, longish dark,
curly hair, and a hoop through his left ear.
Joseph estimates that he has achieved an 80 percent success rate
in joint-pain management through acupuncture. "It's a reasonable
alternative to medicine, with its side effects, and surgery, with
its risks. My clients' pets walk better, feel better, even revert
to old habits, like jumping on the couch." That's success, in Joseph's
line of work.
Having Too Much of a Ball...
It happened in a blink during a Central Park dog gathering last spring.
One moment, Oakley was holding the ball in his jaws, the next moment,
it was down his throat. Read
Oakley's story >>>
Rivergate Veterinary Clinic 403 East 37th Street, (212-213-9885)
Tall, dark, and humane, Andrew Kaplan is like a refugee worker, compelled
to be wherever the need is greatest. So he moved back to New York
-- where he'd done his residency at the Animal Medical Center -- from
California about a year ago. "The situation in San Francisco is as
good as it gets in terms of animal control and overpopulation," he
says. In the five boroughs, by comparison, 40,000 to 60,000 animals
are killed in accidents or by euthanasia each year.
The 37-year-old general practitioner considers his specialty to
be "puzzling" diagnoses and hard-to-manage diseases such as diabetes.
His own mixed breed, Katie, is diabetic; you'll see her slowly but
sweetly padding around the Rivergate clinic, where Kaplan says he
will be practicing only until he can start his own shelter project.
The vets at Rivergate support his plan, he says: "They believe in
a lot of the same principles I do."
Mark E. Peterson
Animal Medical Center 510 East 62nd Street (212-838-8100, ext. 8658; www.amcny.org)
If your ravenous-yet-diminishing cat is waking you at 5 a.m. to
demand ever more food, Mark Peterson may be your man. Peterson,
head of endocrinology at the AMC, estimates that about one in 300
cats in the city -- maybe even one in 50 over the age of ten --
suffers from hyperthyroidism, a condition in which excess thyroid
hormone is secreted, creating a constant state of overstimulation.
He has been handling such cases for 22 years and was the first veterinarian
in the city to treat cats with radioiodine therapy. Peterson's treatment
does, however, leave you with a temporarily radioactive cat, which
means a one-week hospital stay for your hot little furball and then
limited contact with him or her back home for two more weeks.
Friendly, soft-spoken, and anything but hyperactive himself, Peterson
grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota. In vet school, he became interested
in dogs and cats when he realized that medicine for pets was more
sophisticated: "If you can't fix a cow for $25, well, it gets shipped
St. Marks Veterinary Hospital 348 East 9th Street (212-477-2688; www.stmarksvet.com)
"If it's going to be the claws or the cat, we'll save the cat, of
course," says 29-year-old Kristin Iglesias. "Laser declawing is the
kindest, least traumatic way to do it."
Thanks to St. Marks's laser-surgery machine, Iglesias and the
other vets there are masters of the scratchless cat. Iglesias estimates
that her homey clinic performed about 55 laser declawings last year.
Many vets don't like to declaw cats, and Iglesias is no exception.
Tugging at her ponytail, she says, "We're talking about major surgery
that, no matter what technique you use, involves removing the whole
tip of the [cat's] finger, the entire bone."
Confident and politically committed -- "Sometimes people bring
in these beautiful cockatoos and I just think, Oh, you should be
in a rain forest" -- Iglesias received a prestigious scholarship
in high school to work in Cornell's vet college for the summer.
She was assigned to the department of pathology and necropsy, she
says, "and I thought, If I like animals this much when they're dead,
imagine how much I'll like working with the live ones."