Photo by Donald A. Promnitz Ana Sherwood looks on as Monica Dansby and Maggie Torres of Waterhouse Animal Hospital do blood work on her dog, Daisy.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
For many pet owners, the idea of specialty care for their animals may seem unusual, but it’s a concept that’s become increasingly prominent — and it’s already being used at a Fresno clinic.
Veterinarian Cheryl Waterhouse opened Waterhouse Animal Hospital 23 years ago at 1115 E. Champlain Dr., and has been there ever since. In that time, she’s brought specialty care for dogs and cats in the Valley in a primary care setting. This has meant bringing in experts for everything from dental care to cancer, and from laser therapy to acupuncture. Many of these treatments would typically be associated exclusively with humans, but according to Waterhouse, the ways that pets are being treated continue to evolve, just as they do with their owners.
The clinic’s specialists are rotated in about once a month, typically for one or two days, coming from areas including Sacramento and Los Angeles.
“Like the dentist, all he does is work on teeth in dogs and cats — that’s all he does,” Waterhouse said. “The surgeon, all he does is surgery, the cardiologist, all he does is heart disease.”
In the past, if patients wanted to seek treatment for their pets outside of primary care, this typically meant a trip to the veterinary school at UC Davis. Now, however, more and more specialty care is becoming available locally. For example, Waterhouse noted that at any given time, they usually have 10 to 12 patients on chemo. She added that dogs and cats tend to handle this treatment better than people, typically avoiding sickness or excessive hair loss.
Waterhouse said this growth has gone hand-in-hand with the rise in people buying and using pet health insurance. For example, Trupanion, America’s leading provider of pet health insurance, received more than 80,000 claims for cancer in the last five years. This has resulted in more than $34 million in reimbursements. The use of this insurance means that owners are more likely to seek better treatments for their animals, as opposed to the costs they would face by paying out of pocket.
Waterhouse credited the growing use of insurance primarily in changing attitudes — especially in how owners perceive their pets.
“The dogs went from the barnyard to the bedroom,” she said. “And so as cats and dogs have become more important in our lives, as they’ve become members of the family, they want more advanced medical care for their pets. So therefore, specialists have come along.”
Meanwhile, Waterhouse Animal Hospital continues to provide primary care for pets, giving them the ability to reach out to a wider array of clients. One of these clients is pet owner Ana Sherwood, who’s been taking her dog Coco (and later her second dog, Daisy) to Waterhouse for 11 years.
“There have been times we’ve come in that I didn’t know there were any health issues and they’ve discovered ear infections,” Sherwood said. “And like today, I mentioned my older dog is not getting around as well and the doctor made a recommendation…but I didn’t realize there was something we could do.”
“I love being able to work with people who take care of their pets,” Waterhouse said. “They value us because we help to make their beloved pets better — to make them happier and healthier and longer.”