Paws up for new vet practice in Grant Park

Practice to treat patients the way vets expect for own pets

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This article was published 14/08/2020 (847 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Animal lovers are keeping a close eye on a veterinary hospital under construction at the Grant Park Festival mall, eagerly anticipating opening day, hopefully later this August.

A trio of well-known veterinarians — Drs. Jonas Watson, Chris Bell and Tim Kraemer — are putting their 20 years of friendship dating back to their student days at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatchewan together to open the Grant Park Animal Hospital.

The veterinarians will offer routine veterinary medicine and surgery, in addition to specialized services such as cardiac and abdominal ultrasound, canine sports medicine, dentistry, oncology, exotic animal medicine, and a unique aquatic/fish medicine service, according to Watson.

Sou'wester Dr. Jonas Watson inside the new Grant Park Animal Hospital expected to open in late August.

The hospital — located at 8-1170 Taylor Ave. — will be the kind of traditional veterinary clinic people have come to know and trust for as long as families have had pets.

“We’re taking an old-fashioned approach to veterinary medicine,” Watson said. “Think about the ethos of the James Herriot stories. We intend to consider both the pet and the owner in terms of treatment and care.”

The guiding philosophy of the practice will be simple, he said. They will treat patients and clients exactly the way they would hope to be treated themselves. That impetus led to their forming an independently-owned and operated companion animal veterinary clinic.

“Many people do not know that a venture capital corporation from Toronto has purchased approximately 25 per cent of the veterinary clinics in Winnipeg,” Watson said, adding that purchase has the potential to affect the way veterinary medicine is practiced in those clinics, with greater emphasis on business and profits than on the welfare of animals.

“It can change the way we, as veterinarians, are able to practice. When you’re being told you cannot subsidize care, or tailor a treatment plan for owners with financial limitations, that goes against our ethics,” Watson said. “It limits what we’re able to do, what medications we can prescribe. We lose autonomy. Obviously, we’re very happy to be starting our own clinic where we’ll be independently run.”

Watson has travelled internationally and in Canada’s north, working with underserved communities in need of treatment for their pets.

There is no veterinary care available in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, for example,” he said about his trips to First Nations and Inuit communities seeking basic care such as immunizations and check-ups, in addition to spay and neuter programs to help keep domestic animal populations under control. “I’ve also held clinics in places like Madagascar, where people thought we were wizards using magic on animals, never mind veterinarians.”

Watson is also the regional co-ordinator of Community Veterinary Outreach, a Canada-wide program which combines human health services and companion animal care to pet owners who can’t afford veterinary care.

“If someone is homeless, they can receive dental care, smoking cessation, physical and mental health care, at the same time their animal is receiving care such as vaccinations and spay and neuter,” he said.

Partnerships are being set up with provincial animal rescue groups, and with some of the 70 First Nations communities in Manitoba.

Bell is Manitoba’s only board-certified equine surgeon, who will continue his work at Elder’s Equine Clinic, as well as at the Grant Park Animal Hospital.

Chris will translate his knowledge of equine medicine to other species, such as dogs who compete in sports,” Watson said. “He will use advanced technologies, such as laser therapy, Shockwave therapy and stem cell treatments, among other techniques.”

Shockwave therapy directs ultrasonic waves at muscle and tissue, especially in limb injuries in horses, dogs and cats.

Kraemer is one of the top veterinary sonographers in the province, treating animals across the province with cardiac and abdominal scans.

 “He has quite the following. There are some days I wonder if I should be jealous of Tim’s fans,” Watson said. “‘What am I? Chopped liver?”’

Along with being the immediate past president of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association, Watson was one of six recipients of the 2019 World Veterinarian Association’s global animal welfare award. He said he enjoys the challenge of treating exotic pets, including fish, rodents, reptiles and birds.

The other day, we treated a wild caught chipmunk that had been brought in with botfly larvae under its skin,” he said, adding this was at the clinic he currently works at.

Squirrels, rabbits and other wild animals often get this problem with Cuterebra fly larvae that are deposited near burrows. “We pulled two larvae out, flushed the wound. That chipmunk will be released once she recovers.”

He says he doesn’t regard himself as an expert in exotics, as other Winnipeg clinics offer that service, but he does his best to treat what comes through the door.

“We’re not going to turn any pets away,” he said. “We’ll do our best to treat a wide range of species. And when necessary, we might consult with or refer to colleagues with more experience in a given area.”

Watson’s wife, a veterinary technologist who previously worked at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, will be on staff at the clinic along with other vet techs with exotic animal experience. “It’s great when your staff know how to hold a snake or a macaw.”

The new animal hospital will include a waiting room with separate areas for cats and dogs, treatment rooms, a grooming service, a surgical suite, treatment area backstage including a pharmacy and lab, X-ray room, tech stations, kennel area for day patients, as well as offices upstairs. Hours are expected to be daytime during the week with a few evenings, plus Saturdays.

For more, see www.grantparkanimal hospital.com

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