We’re a city of the pet-obsessed. New Yorkers live with 1 million dogs and 4 million cats – and our pampered darlings have considerably longer lives than their counterparts in the rest of the country. That’s partly because we keep them indoors (significantly limiting their contact with cars and raccoons), but also because they receive the finest medical care money can buy. Laser declawing? Root canal? Endoscopic surgery? If your pet needs attention above and beyond what your regular vet can provide, you have the good luck to be living among the top veterinary specialists in the country.
“Just like with people, there’s a second level of care,” says veterinary neurologist Richard Joseph. Some of the vets on our list of the best specialists in New York are affiliated with the city’s veterinary hospitals, but we’ve also included many private-practice specialists. Every doctor here was nominated by multiple peers, and our list includes both board-certified specialists and general practitioners whose reputations are built on their expertise in a specific field. Among other things, these specialists tend to have access to the most advanced equipment; so the more technologically reliant the field (dentistry, oncology), the more worthwhile a visit to a specialist might be.
Just ask some of the pets that these great specialists have saved, like Oakley, the dog who swallowed a spiky rubber ball; Sammy, the cat who couldn’t meow; and Bonkers, the cockatiel who wouldn’t stop laying eggs. What do these animals have in common? Owners who can – and will – go to great lengths to keep their pets healthy and happy into their golden years. “The oldest cat I’ve seen was 31,” says Paul H. Schwartz, a general practitioner at the Center for Veterinary Care. At first, Schwartz didn’t believe the animal’s owner. “Then I looked at the record and saw that the cat’s name was Groovy.”
*Addresses for hospitals and vets’ offices are provided on first mention only.
Animal Medical Center*
510 East 62nd Street(212-838-8100, ext. 8748; www.amcny.org)
“There are some snow leopards at the Bronx Zoo sporting my root canals,” says the AMC’s Dan Carmichael. It seems the cats, in a randy mood during breeding season, had gotten aggressive and broken their teeth on the chain-link fences of their enclosure (the zoo has since installed Plexiglas). Carmichael’s other notable clients include police dogs and bomb-squad sniffers.Carmichael went to Cornell’s famed veterinary school, where his father, a vet virologist, invented the now-mandatory dog vaccine for parvovirus. The silver-haired 38-year-old dentist has distinguished himself, too. Only two vets are board-certified for dentistry in the state of New York. Carmichael is one of them; the other, Thoulton Surgeon (yes, that’s really his name), practices in New Rochelle. For once, finding the right guy is easy if only you can get in to see him. He’s very busy.
“Dental disease is the most common medical problem in dogs and cats,” says Carmichael. “Many people take a wait-and-see attitude. If there’s no pain, they just let it go. But 85 percent of dogs over three years old and about 50 percent of cats are suffering from some dental condition that needs attention.” Usually, that condition is periodontal disease, which calls for a cleaning under anesthetic. He tells the story of a Scottish terrier that had been diagnosed with a neurological disorder for incessantly licking and biting at the air. It turned out that he had advanced gum disease. Carmichael simply gave the Scottie a cleaning and extracted some of the offending teeth.
Animal Medical Center (212-838-8100; www.amcny.org)
Say that Dick Cheney were a dog. His (discreet) motorcade would pull up in front of the AMC and he would place himself under Betsy Bond’s care. Because for veterinary heart trouble, she’s the best.
Bond, 52, who’s been practicing at the AMC for 25 years, is one of three excellent cardiologists on staff. The center also has two residents in the specialty and all the exquisite technology for Doppler echocardiography and coil and pacemaker implantations that any critter could need. So Bond can usually test patients right away instead of requiring a several-hour stay. “A lot of the animals I see have complex problems,” says Bond. “It’s great to know there are so many specialists in the building.”
The AMC’s ability to provide 24-hour care is particularly critical for her specialty. “You just can’t predict when an animal will have cardiac trouble,” she says.
220 East Jericho Turnpike
Mineola, New York (800-486-3246)
If the AMC is the mother ship of animal cardiac care, 45-year-old George Kramer is the Obi-Wan Kenobi. Since 1989, he has been summoned to handle special cases at virtually every veterinary hospital in New York, treating dogs and cats – even the occasional Bronx Zoo gorilla – for conditions like arrhythmia, valvular disease, and cardiomyopathy.
But Kramer prefers to work at Ultravet on all matters of the heart. “The hardest part of my job is helping people make decisions about keeping a puppy or kitten with heart disease,” he says. “But dealing with the problem later, when there’s a bond and history with the same pet, could be a lot harder.”
The only cardiologist on staff at the Mineola clinic, Kramer sees a lot of Dobermans, poodles, and Cavalier King Charles spaniels – breeds that tend to have bad tickers. The good news? The technology has evolved, says Kramer, so that an animal with a new pacemaker can spend just one night in the hospital.
County Animal Specialty Group
1574 Central Park Avenue
Yonkers, New York (914-779-2670)
Sick-pet symptoms don’t get much scarier – for pets and owners – than seizures and paralysis. “A lot of what we do here is take care of people,” says 31-year-old Jason Berg, whose one-and-a-half-year-old clinic offers only treatment in dog and cat neurology, by referral.
Berg and his partner, Richard Joseph (see page 36), are the only two licensed veterinary neurologists in New York City and Westchester, and they have all the necessary machinery for their speciality: MRI scanners as well as equipment for brain and spinal surgery, spinal taps, and physical therapy. One thing the doctors have noticed: Meningioma brain tumors are inexplicably more common in East Coast cats than West Coast cats. But luckily, “cats have an amazing recovery from this type of surgery,” says Berg. “I can usually send the patient home two days later with an 80 percent chance of survival.”
Animal Behavior Consultants
House calls only
Today, Peter Borchelt is visiting with Charo, a “hypersensitive” Chihuahua. He gently tugs his signature tool, the Snoot Loop, a small facial halter that closes Charo’s mouth and will (after prolonged use) calm her recently acquired habit of shrieking when her owner comes near.
“Her little-bitty brain has somehow gotten the idea you’re a bad person,” he says to the client.
“Obedience training would be a waste of time here. She’s not misbehaving; it’s fear.”
According to Borchelt, who back in ‘78 became the first behaviorist in the city, his therapy can eliminate quirks like Charo’s – and more serious problems – without using the violent (and passé) whack with a rolled-up newspaper.
And though a paper costs considerably less than a visit from Borchelt ($300 to $400), only the latter will bring you good karma and a happier pet.
345 West 70th Street, No. 6D
Playing with Kelsey, a hyper poodle that wildly jumps on her Upper West Side owners when they come home, animal behaviorist Linda Goodloe remarks in her gravelly, businesslike voice, “What a well-meaning, devoted dog.”
A dog that loves her owner too much would be a change of pace for Goodloe, who, like most animal behaviorists, often spends her afternoons teaching owners how to handle rough dogs.
Even so, Goodloe doesn’t believe in punishment. She shows owners how to use a halter as a calming – not a restraining – tool. Goodloe visits each family one time, then sends them a game plan for how to deal with their problematic pets. For cats, she says, a phone consultation is often enough. “Cats don’t do what they usually do when someone else is there,” she says. Her technique also saves owners money – she charges $45 for the first 30 minutes, then $1 for each additional minute.
Because animal behavior is such a new field, there are few doctors with advanced degrees: Goodloe and Borchelt are the only practicing behaviorists in the city who are certified by the Animal Behavior Society.
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 appointments.
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’sinternists to treat.
Animal Emergency and Referral Center
647 Bloomfield Avenue
West Caldwell, New Jersey
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
(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.
Rivergate Veterinary Clinic
403 East 37th Street
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
(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 off.”
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.”
Robert B. Justin
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
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 cat bites.”
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
(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: herpes simplex.
“Effectively, someone kissed the monkey, gave it herpes, and killed it,” Hess says. Herpes simplex, so common in humans, is fatal to simians.
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.
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 (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 says.
Manhattan Veterinary Group
240 East 80th Street (212-988-1000)
Sheri Berger treats all kinds of animal eye conditions; she has, on occasion, fitted a pet for contact lenses. But most of her day is spent dealing with common infections, cataracts, and glaucoma. Resembling a tall and lanky Winona Ryder, Berger, 38, comes from a horse-racing family; at one point in college, she considered becoming an equine orthopedic surgeon. But ophthalmology batted its eyes at her in vet school.
At the MVG, where Berger has been the medical director for three years, she sees mostly dogs and cats. Certain breeds, she notes, are more prone to eye conditions, like Shih Tzus, cocker spaniels, and chows.
However, all city animals must contend with particularly urban ailments. “Pollution and dirt make infections harder to manage,” says Berger. “But there are also fewer exacerbated cataracts in New York because of the tall buildings and lack of UV light.”
Center for Veterinary Care
236 East 75th Street (212-734-7480)
In practice for more than 35 years, Richard Greene trained most of the other surgeons on New York’s list during his fifteen years at the AMC. He’s one of the few board-certified surgeons who also see general cases, at the cheery Center for Veterinary Care as well as at the ASPCA on Thursdays and in Park Slope at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital on Fridays.
At the ASPCA, he performs as many as fifteen spay-neuters a day. Lately, he’s been doing a lot of colectomies on a referral basis for cats with chronic constipation. “In New York, we spend so much intimate time in close confinement with our animals,” says Greene. “People will come in with pages and pages of notes on their cat’s defecation. It’s nice to be able to tell them that you can help.”
As for dogs, Greene explains that as different breeds become more popular, “we start seeing more of the diseases that dogs get.” Currently, that means a lot of Labs with orthopedic (elbow and knee) problems and cocker spaniels – “they seem to be back” in vogue, he notes – with skin and ear troubles.
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.”
(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.”
Board-certified orthopedic surgeon
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.
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.”
Click here for Incredible Pet Stories