July 21, 2007

Dueling vet hospitals

Mary Lou Masone, a radiation therapist, with Horace, a pit bull. The linear accelerator at NYC Veterinary Specialists has been used to treat Horace's brain tumor.

In Sunday's NY Times Allen Salkin covers the rivalry between the old, established Animal Medical Center and the up-and-coming NYC Veterinary Specialists. You'll find the article in the Fashion & Style section, not Science or Business or Technology or even Health. Go figure.

Nowhere is the competition for deep-pocketed pet owners more apparent than at the city’s leading specialty hospitals. NYC Veterinary Specialists touts its $1.25 million dollar linear accelerator for radiation therapy and shows off a $750,000 M.R.I. and $350,000 CT scan machine. Across town, the Animal Medical Center says it is planning to install its own linear accelerator and upgrade its M.R.I. It trumpets its hemodialysis clinic for pets with kidney disease and a new $300,000 rehabilitation clinic with an underwater treadmill.

The two hospitals are not shy about dropping the names of celebrity clients to enhance their appeal. A few nights before Christmas last year, Steve Martin's blond Labrador, Wally, gobbled down some chocolate and his regular veterinarian advised him to rush the dog to NYC Veterinary Specialists, said David Gersholowitz, the hospital administrator. The attending vet induced vomiting and by the next morning Wally was home safe. The bill: $935.

Check out the fine selection of photos by Librado Romero which accompany the article. [I've reprinted one above.]

Not all dog owners have deep pockets, of course, but many of us would be happy to take wash in if it meant getting the best vet care for our dogs.

Once in a while an email from the rural Midwest reminds me that veterinary specialists are a two- or three-day drive away from many of the country's dog owners. I'm fortunate to live in SoCal, with veterinary specialists in surgery, dentistry, ophthalmology, dermatology and oncology just an hour's drive away and a good emergency clinic ten minutes from the farm. Friends and relatives up north have taken dogs to the specialists at UC Davis. One memorable night a decade ago I called a Pet Ambulance service, on the advice of a veterinarian friend, to transport a dog from a local vet hospital to a specialty hospital in Orange County. [My dog lived, but it was a squeaker.] Pray God I never have to do that again, but I'm glad to know the service is available.

And after paying for various pound rescues to have surgery for torn ACLs, elbow dysplasia and a ruptured extensor tendon, far be it from me to laugh at Steve Martin's $935 chocolate emergency ;~)

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