Dr. Carr Kelsey, a veterinarian at the Kelsey Canine Medical Center in Collierville, Tenn., spends his day with Cavalier King Charles spaniels, beagles, Yorkies, golden retrievers, Labradors and labradoodles. He sees dogs with everything from ear infections and itchy skin allergies to heartworms and fleas. On his schedule, most days are the “midterm exams” that he emphasizes senior dogs should receive every six months.
What you won’t find -- or hear -- anywhere around the Kelsey Canine Medical Center is a meow or a purr; the Kelsey Center only serves dogs. “We’re really honing in on veterinary medicine just for dogs,” says Kelsey, who opened his dog-only clinic in 2007. “There aren’t a lot of other distractions. Veterinary medicine does grow and expand, and it’s hard to keep up with everything these days. Being able to focus on one species makes my practice better and more enjoyable for me.”
The Benefits of a Dog-only Clinic
An American Veterinary Medical Association article published a few years ago made an argument for more dog-only practices. That made sense to Kelsey, a lifelong dog lover. He faced some skepticism when he opened his clinic, but now some dog owners travel a considerable distance because they prefer the dog-centric focus, Kelsey says.
Dog-only clinics are still relatively uncommon, but these practices are expected to expand. The potential benefits of using a dog-only clinic include:
- Expertise: Kelsey focuses his continuing education on dog-related health issues. He’s particularly tuned in to health matters that affect certain dog breeds. The repetition of seeing dogs each day helps in making diagnoses and developing familiarity with dog-related medical problems.
- Dog behavior: Cat owners often choose cat-only practitioners to avoid the stress of sharing a facility with dogs, but being around other species can be upsetting for dogs as well. Your dog might be calmer and behave better in a dog-only clinic. “A lot of the dogs that might have had problems at other clinics act really good here,” says Kelsey.
- Facilities: At Kelsey Canine Medical Center, the exam rooms are a bit roomier. Two exam rooms feature lift tables so that large breeds can be easily transported from ground level to a comfortable exam height. At Gilroy Veterinary Hospital in Gilroy, Calif., Dr. Greg Martinez is a dog-focused veterinarian, though he does treat cats. However, he accommodates his dog patients with bigger exams rooms and plenty of space to walk a dog.
- Allergies: If you own a dog but are allergic to cats, you may prefer a dog-only clinic.
The Value of Dog and Cat Clinics
There are also reasons to choose a traditional veterinary practice that treats both dogs and cats. First, it may be difficult to find a dog-only practice in your area. If you own both cats and dogs, you may want the convenience of using just one veterinarian.
There may be medical benefits as well, says Dr. William M. Fraser, a veterinarian who runs Mentor Veterinary Clinic and Brightwood Animal Hospital in Mentor, Ohio. “I can treat the whole pet family,” he says. “For example, if I find a parasite issue in the cat, I can check to see if the dog is also carrying the parasite. If there are behavioral problems with either the dog or cat, I can work with both to resolve the problem.”
Find the Right Fit
It’s important to make sure your veterinarian understands your dog’s breed or size. For example, Fraser provides medical and surgical services for micro-breed pooches that weigh less than 5 pounds. “Lots of species have specific health problems,” notes Martinez.
You want to choose a veterinarian who genuinely likes dogs and feels comfortable with your dog specifically. “We’re the dog’s advocate,” says Kelsey. “You’re helping dogs that can’t speak for themselves. The time has come for somebody veterinary-wise to focus in on dogs’ problems.”