Robert B. Justin
Ultravet Diagnostics 220 East Jericho Turnpike
Mineola, New York (800-486-3246)
"Everything that walks through our doors
is sick and needs help, and very few have textbook medical conditions,"
Robert Justin says of his referral-only practice. Animals are usually
referred to him for ultrasounds or endoscopic or laparoscopic procedures
after simpler diagnostics have failed. Ultravet is a 24-hour clinic
that works with about 100 practices in the New York region. Justin
typically travels -- with his state-of-the-art equipment -- to nine
or ten different offices a week.
In vet school at Cornell, Justin -- a bearded, skinny science-fair
type who grew up in the Bronx with pet lizards and snakes instead
of puppies -- decided he'd rather be a veterinary sleuth than a
veterinary surgeon. "By the time a surgeon gets a patient," he says,
"the problem's already known." In his specialty, however, "when
you do a probe on an abdomen or heart, you hold your breath a second
to see what you find. It can be disturbing. But that's also what
keeps it interesting."
St. Marks Veterinary Hospital 348 East 9th Street (212-477-2688; www.stmarksvet.com) When Sally Haddock was applying to vet schools in the seventies,
women were the exotics. Now things have improved vastly -- women make
up about 75 percent of vet students -- and Haddock has become an expert
at exotics, particularly the avian kind. "Birds have great personality,"
says the spirited blonde author of The Making of a Woman Vet. "They're
very curious." Injuries, viral infections, and gastroenteritis are
the most common bird ills, but Haddock also deals with obsessive feather-picking,
bad diets ("Birds are seed junkies," she says), and "way too many
Because blood loss is a major issue with surgery on tiny bird
parts, St. Marks, with its laser-surgery machine, is the place in
the city for avian operations.
Other exotics that visit the clinic include bearded dragons, potbellied
pigs, hedgehogs, ferrets, snakes, and hairy chinchillas ("the cutest
things in the whole wide world," says the vet). Soon, after renovations,
St. Marks hopes to accommodate fish. "If we have to hospitalize
fish," she says, "it would be handy to have an aquarium."
Board-certified in avian practice Animal Medical Center
510 East 62nd Street (212-838-8100, ext. 8619; www.amcny.org)
Laurie Hess was just out of Tufts vet school in 1994 when a
man burst into the AMC at 3 a.m. with a large, exotic cat and a
one-armed baby monkey in a coma. The monkey's seizure had scared
the cat into attacking it, and the man wanted Hess to retrieve the
simian arm from the feline colon and reattach it. This proved impossible,
and the monkey died from what turned out to have caused the seizure:
"Effectively, someone kissed the monkey, gave it herpes, and killed
it," Hess says. Herpes simplex, so common in humans, is fatal to
Since then, Hess and the three other staff doctors in the AMC's
exotics department have treated an average of 3,000 animals each
year -- not counting emergencies. She recently doctored Izzy, a
male guinea pig with breast cancer who made it through a double
mastectomy only to contract an unrelated lymphoma. Izzy's owner
was willing to do anything to save him, so Hess e-mailed other exotics
specialists and oncologists to find a way to give the animal chemotherapy,
something the AMC had never done for a guinea pig. Poor Izzy survived
one round of chemo but later died.
How Sammy Got His Meow Back...
In 1997, Sammy was retrieved from an abandoned building in Chinatown
by City Critters animal-rescue service and taken to West Chelsea Veterinary
Hospital. He had difficulty breathing and was unable to meow. Read
Sammy's story >>>
Long Island Veterinary Specialists 163 South Service Road
Plainview, New York (516-501-1700; www.livs.org)
When he's not helping local zookeepers deal with afflicted wildlife,
the benevolent and bearded Gerald Post, 40, is trying to cure dogs
and cats of cancer. His practice offers the most advanced in vet oncology:
CT scans, chemotherapy, and some experimental protocols like biological
immunotherapy and vaccine therapy.
Cancer in animals seems to be on the rise, says Post, but "it's
pretty rewarding to see the progress. The therapies we're using
now are similar to those used with people."
Post, who founded the national Animal Cancer Foundation in 1999,
disputes the notion that veterinary oncology is grim work. "These
are animals who, without intervention, will die. Even if we help,
they might still die, but at least we can increase their survival
time and quality of life. My patients are happy."
Manhattan Vet Group 240 East 80th Street (212-988-1000)
"A major part of my day is patient education," says Tim Rocha, 34,
of his oncology practice on the Upper East Side. The Manhattan Vet
Group primarily offers diagnostics and chemotherapy; radiation patients
head down to the AMC. Before recommending any course of treatment
-- or maybe none at all -- Rocha makes sure the owners understand
their options and gives them plenty of time to make a decision.
Since beginning his practice in 1994, Rocha has cared for mostly
middle-age to older pets, many with lymphoma or mast-cell tumors.
So this is a vet who's sensitive to animals that are likely to have
other ailments that might affect their response to chemo or slow
the healing process.
Animal Medical Center 510 East 62nd Street (212-838-8100, ext. 8723; www.amcny.org)
"Things that are strange to general vets become pretty run-of-the-mill
here," says John Broussard, the 38-year-old Texan who heads the AMC's
gastrointestinal- and respiratory-disease departments. "There are
very few places in the world where you can put together a collection
of, say, feline and canine gastro cases that reach numbers in the
thousands. So a lot of knowledge can be generated quickly here; we
optimize the diagnostics and treatments."
About twenty of these gastrointestinal or respiratory cases a
week come from veterinary referrals. "A lot of animals are directed
here because they need an intervention: They won't eat or have been
vomiting and need tube feeding."
Broussard and his team of interns and residents also work on clinical
studies, which include testing drugs that are just becoming available
for liver and intestinal problems (such as inflammatory bowel disease).
"We're like the last step in the stamp-of-approval process," he