• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

The Doctors are in (Tiffin)

Pet Health Center of Tiffin is open and ready to care for your furry folks
Katie Wade (left), a veterinary technician, and Allison Malandra, DVM, perform a checkup on a nine-week old black lab puppy at The Pet Health Center of Tiffin. Dr. Malandra is one of three veterinarians on staff at the new facility in Tiffin. (photos by Chris Umscheid)

TIFFIN— Pets are often more than just furry or feathered friends; to many, they’re family.
For decades people took their pets to the Oxford Veterinary Clinic in Oxford, where veterinarians such as Dr. Bill Rugger, Dr. Kristi Anderson, Dr. Jonelle Hankner, Dr. Susan Kula (Jacobson) and Dr. Nicole Kogan cared for a variety of creatures, both large and small. The Oxford clinic is now history, replaced by a new, state-of-the-art facility on the west side of Tiffin.
Pet Health Center of Tiffin (PHCT) opened its doors in late September with Dr. Kogan and two other vets– Dr. Allison Malandra and Dr. Stephanie Timm– joining the animal care team.
The center is under the Veterinary Medical Center in Williamsburg, owned through a partnership by Dr. Mark Brinkman, Dr. Keith Aljets, Dr. Brian Huedepohl, Dr. Nicolas Rippel and Dr. Keith Stecker; all large-animal veterinarians.
Advances and opportunities in veterinary medicine coupled with the age and size of the Oxford clinic led Dr. Brinkman and his partners to consider their options.
“About a year ago, the developer of the Prairie West Subdivision approached us and asked if we had any interest in building an office in Tiffin,” Dr. Brinkman said. After looking at the demographics and predicted growth in Tiffin and the surrounding area, expansion made sense.
“With the new location on the west edge of Tiffin, and only six miles from Oxford, we feel we can still provide veterinary care to the Oxford area while bringing a new business and veterinary services to the Tiffin area,” Dr. Brinkman added. “The planned expansion of the businesses in Tiffin will be a great addition for the residents of Tiffin and the surrounding communities. We are happy to be part of the growth.”
Nicole Kogan, DVM, is a native of New York state and attended St. Matthew’s School of Veterinary Medicine and North Carolina State University. She enjoys being a surgeon as well as looking after exotic pets. “I would not say I’m a ‘specialist’ as I did not do a residency for exotic pets, but I do have a special interest in them,” she said. She has noticed an increase in house-trained rabbits as pets, “which I think is really fun,” she added. Dr. Kogan also enjoys working with the local animal shelters and the dogs and cats in their custody. “I love seeing those pets as they often need the most TLC, and hearing about their adoption stories.”
Allison Malandra, DVM, is a native of southeast Iowa with a veterinary degree from Iowa State University. She previously specialized in emergency and critical care and spent time working at the University of Iowa doing research before going back into practice.
“My time in research, while very important and rewarding, did not provide the excitement and fulfillment I have when I work with clients and their animal companions, ” Dr. Malandra said. She credits working in the Oxford facility first as a veterinary assistant for helping to shape her as a doctor. “They instilled in me that practicing the highest quality of medicine, while supporting the community around, you builds the best relationships with clients.”
Currently, she specializes in kidney and urinary diseases, diabetes management and Cushing’s disease. All are conditions one typically associates with humans but are also common among the four-legged crowd. She noted such chronic illnesses can be very challenging for the client, the pet and the veterinary team. “Many conditions can be managed and the quality of the pet’s life maintained for quite some time, even many years,” said Dr. Malandra. Often clients are overwhelmed with the possible diagnosis and the long-term plan, she said. “Clients need to know we are here to support them every step of the way as we reach a diagnosis and find the best treatment plan for each individual patient.” Such cases, she said, “…are some of the most rewarding ones we have.”
Along with helping in the care of senior pets, Dr. Malandra said she hopes to be able to offer chemotherapy and ultrasound imaging.
Stephanie Timm, DVM, is also a native of Iowa and the daughter of a veterinarian. She’s an Iowa State graduate, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2012. Initially she practiced equine medicine and completed an internship in surgery and (equine) sports medicine in Oklahoma before hanging out her shingle in Cedar Rapids. At PHCT, Dr. Timm specializes in soft tissue surgery, which she described as, “generally everything except working on bones (orthopedic),” and includes procedures such as spays, neuters, lump removals and abdominal surgery to remove, “…toys or other objects consumed” and ophthalmology (eye diseases and disorders). Cataracts, said Dr. Timm, are common in diabetic and geriatric patients and are noticeable as a cloudiness of the lens. “The owner may notice the animal has difficulty seeing in dim light and going through doorways,” she said. Another common eye malady is a corneal ulcer, an abrasion on the surface of the eye. “Increased tears or discharge, keeping the eye closed, swelling and redness can be signs of an eye ulcer,” Dr. Timm said. “This needs immediate veterinary attention to prevent it from getting worse and causing permanent vision loss.”
Diagnosing a problem with Fluffy or Fido (or even Harry the Hedgehog, for that matter) can be a challenge. That’s where pet owners play a tremendous role, the doctors said. An animal may be in great pain, they noted, but may only show vague symptoms, such as a lack of appetite or lethargy. Animals also have an ability to compensate for injury or illness making it tough for their owners to realize a problem exists.
In addition to a complete physical examination, the doctors will ask in-depth questions about the animal’s behavior, diet and activities and look for any changes. The clinic is able to perform digital X-ray and laboratory testing and can make referrals if other examinations such as Magnetic Resonance Imagine (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT or CAT Scan) are deemed necessary.
“We also have a ‘comfort room’ for our clients when they need some private time with a sick pet, consultation time with a doctor or when they need to make those ‘tough’ medical decisions and say their final good-byes,” Dr. Brinkman said.
Treatment of an illness– particularly a chronic disease or even cancer– can be expensive. Health insurance for pets is available through some insurance providers and some employers offer pet coverage as part of their benefits package.
Taking a pet to see the vet can be a stressful adventure for both the animal and the human. Animals can sense anxiety in their humans, and might become anxious and agitated themselves in response, so the staff might ask a customer to sit in the waiting room while they do their examination and/or treatment. The staff at PHCT encourages people to bring their companions in to visit before a scheduled appointment, so all concerned can become acquainted in a more relaxed and social setting.
“Of course, a nice building and technology are wonderful to have,” Dr. Brinkman said. “But what makes the Pet Health Center of Tiffin the most outstanding place for pet owners and their pets is our tremendous staff.  We have very caring doctors, each with their own areas of expertise, to provide complete veterinary care, and the support staff is great. We encourage everyone to stop in to meet the staff and doctors.” 
The clinic also provides kennel space to the City of Tiffin for stray animals. City employees responsible for picking up stray animals previously would keep animals in a city building until the owner could be located or the pet was transported to the Cedar Valley Humane Society. The new relationship between the city and PHCT allows city staff to access the kennel after hours and provides safe, warm housing for the pet in the meantime.
The City of Tiffin can now post a photo of the lost pet on the city’s web page and Facebook site to try and reunite the owner with the pet. The PHCT staff will scan the animal for an identification microchip and post additional photos on Facebook. After three days, the city will take the animal to the Cedar Valley Humane Society.
This service is only for animals found within Tiffin city limits; animals caught outside city limits will be taken to the local county shelter.
PHCT and the City of Tiffin are still fine-tuning the partnership, Dr. Brinkman said. “PHCT is not a shelter. We cannot accept pets from just anyone. Our goal is to provide a service in partnership with the city to reunite missing pets with their lost owners.”