By Ashley Watson
Our clinic of the month for August is a veterinary hospital with two locations in Vermont’s Champlain Valley—The Animal Hospital of Hinesburg and Bristol Animal Hospital. A few of us on the Marketing and Web Design team at Vetri-Science® Laboratories had the opportunity to visit each branch and meet with several vets and staff members. While there are many unique features at both locations, the level of professionalism and friendliness demonstrated by every employee we met is the one quality that stood out for my co-workers and me.
During our visit, the vets and owners were very generous with their time, and we would like to especially thank Dr. Marv Greenberg, CVA for taking some time on his day off to speak with us. That degree of dedication and passion for their work is one of the reasons we are featuring Hinesburg Veterinary Associates (HVA) and their two clinics located in nearby Hinesburg and Bristol, VT.
While both locations have been in business since the mid-eighties, the modern facility in Hinesburg was built in 2007, and the new Bristol location opened its doors in 2010. Both buildings are equipped with advanced technology, an in-house pharmacy and laboratory, as well as limited boarding facilities for clients. The pharmacy makes it more convenient for clients to get prescriptions, but like many animal hospital pharmacies, they lose a lot of business to places that can afford to sell pet meds at prices much lower than the suggested retail price, such as Costco and Wal-Mart.
But this loss is minor given that both hospitals collectively have close to 12,000 active patients. Vetri-Science® Graphic Designer, Amber Webster, brings her two dogs and cat to the Animal Hospital of Hinesburg. Growing up near Bristol, she recalls how much her parents appreciated the vets at the Bristol location, so when she moved to Hinesburg with her husband, there was no question about which clinic she would choose for their pets.
Webster nominated The Animal Hospital of Hinesburg for our clinic of the month mainly because of her positive experience with the vets who work there. Her Miniature Pinscher, Dora exhibits the typical behavior of a guarding breed. “She’s very territorial and wary of strangers, but all the vets who work there are very good with her. Dora trusts them, and she loves Dr. Greenberg and Dr. Hale.” Webster is also impressed with the special services offered by the hospital, such as the Individualized Flea Control Program.
The vets worked with her to provide a comprehensive plan to solve the flea problem with her other dog, Emma, a Boxer mix who came from a shelter and brought fleas with her. “I wasn’t sure what to do to make sure the fleas didn’t get out of control and spread to our other pets. They were very helpful, and one staff member guided me through step by step to ensure a 100% improvement.”
The Bristol Animal Hospital has added another unique feature to the practice with the Comfort Room in their new facility. This room is designed for clients who had to make the difficult decision to euthanize a pet. It provides a comfortable area for pet parents to spend the last moments with their companion.
Diverse Veterinary Team
Part of what makes Hinesburg Veterinary Associates (HVA) unique is that the vets on the team have different areas of expertise and extensive experience in veterinary medicine. This allows HVA to offer a wider variety of services than what many smaller clinics can provide. From chemotherapy and endoscopy to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, HVA offers a wide array of services.
Dr. Greenberg is certified in veterinary acupuncture, which is offered at the Hinesburg location, and he has been a partner of HVA since he started working there in 1988. He emphasized the advantages of having a team of doctors with such diverse backgrounds.
“I bring a more holistic approach to the practice, but the entire staff meets regularly to discuss our separate views on certain aspects of veterinary medicine, which helps us create an approach that ensures we are giving the best care possible for our patients,” he explained. Vaccinations are a good example of this since it is such a debated topic in the animal world. Many pet owners don’t vaccinate their pets because of the belief that it will weaken the immune system.
But according to Dr. Greenberg, it isn’t that simple. He pointed out that there are many factors involved in immune health, including the pet’s environment, diet, and even genetic background. “Some breeds are simply more predisposed to certain diseases,” he explained, adding that there’s been a resurgence of certain deadly viruses, such as the Canine Parvovirus, due to a lack of vaccinations.
In fact, a recent outbreak of the Parvovirus in Massachusetts killed several dogs, and a Worcester news source reported that “All of the dogs that have been infected during these outbreaks had either never been vaccinated, or had only received one vaccine.”
Another factor involves the belief that some vaccinations will be effective for longer than the timeline given for that specific immunization, or that one shot is enough and no further vaccinations are needed. However, Dr. Greenberg urges pet owners to be on the safe side. “Will some of these vaccinations last a year or two longer than the given timeline for that shot?” he asks with a shrug, “Maybe. But I can’t practice medicine on maybe.” Dr. Greenberg and the other HVA vets urge pet owners to stay current with all recommended vaccines.
Another contributing factor to animal wellness is the relationship the vet has with the pet owner. We also spoke with Dr. Rich Armstrong who has been with The Animal Hospital of Hinesburg since 2000.“We can’t treat our patients without a good relationship with our clients,” he said when discussing strategies for preventive pet care. Getting pet owners, particularly ones who have indoor cats, to bring in their pets for regular exams is one of the biggest challenges for many of the clinics we’ve visited. Dr. Armstrong believes that when vets make a connection with pet parents, they may be more responsive to reminders about check-ups and vaccinations.
Some of the most common health concerns for pets can be prevented with regular check-ups. For example, GI issues due to poor diet is one of the main health concerns for dogs. When clients bring in their dogs for regular wellness visits, it gives the vets a chance to discuss the dog’s diet and any changes in behavior. It also provides an opportunity to educate pet owners about proper diets for dogs and other ways to maintain GI health.
Rabbits are another good example of a general lack of education about pet ownership. While the Hinesburg location does not see that many exotic pets or pocket pets, the Bristol clinic sees rabbits on a regular basis. Cathy Smith works at the Bristol branch, and she talked about the reasons rabbits are now filling local shelters in growing numbers. People who buy rabbits on impulse don’t understand how much work it takes to give rabbits proper care and attention. That’s when the rabbits get dropped off at the shelter. Another sad reality about this is that when the rabbits get sick, the pet owner doesn’t want to spend money on a vet visit.
The recent recession is also a factor in the decline in alternative vet practices, according to Dr. Greenberg. He has seen a drop in acupuncture appointments in recent years, but he said they are finally beginning to increase again as the economy improves. The clinic also offers financing and will work with pet owners who might have trouble with payments. This is just one of the many courtesies the HVA practice offers to customers, which helps improve their relationships with clients and their practice overall.
Practice Manager, Tammy Lavallette, meets regularly with managers from other clinics as part of a group created to improve their practices through discussions about solutions for any administrative challenges facing today’s veterinary clinics. Reaching out to clients is one of the biggest challenges, and HVA is beginning to use a more comprehensive approach that includes creating an email listserv for clients and utilizing various social media platforms.
The team at Vetri-Science® would like to thank all the vets and staff members for taking the time to speak with us about their clinic. We would also like to send out a special thanks to the clinic “house cats” Jerry and Gunther, and all the animals that gave our photographer and graphic designer Sean Cater a lot of new pictures, as well as making our visit even better.