CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Acupuncture, laser surgery, ultrasound, chiropractic adjustments: These are the tools of modern medical treatment.
At Parkway Veterinary Hospital, dogs and cats get the benefit of these techniques and Eastern medicine typically used for people.
Some treatments are known for decreasing inflammation, reducing pain and improving recovery time, founding partner Dr. David Hirsch said. He has taught a course on acupuncture in animals for the past 10 years at the Chi Institute outside Gainesville, Fla.
Hirsch also is certified in veterinary chiropractic, which provides much of the same benefit to animals as it does for people with back, spine or mobility concerns, he said.
“A lot of animals have back problems, arthritis or knee problems. You get the spine to loosen up and they can walk better after a chiropractic adjustment,” he said. “We use all of these modalities in conjunction: drugs, surgery and treatment.”
His two offices, on Route 9 in Cape May Court House and Roosevelt Boulevard in Upper Township, offer an array of traditional and specialty treatments, including laser surgery for declawing cats or removing tumors.
“We don’t always use a laser, but it gives us the option,” Hirsch said.
Hirsch and his partner, Dr. Cliff Mosson, work at the practice with Dr. Jennifer Brownhill, Dr. Kira Ernst and Dr. Chris Grant.
Mosson said veterinary medicine requires a lot of problem-solving, which makes tools such as ultrasound so valuable.
“You can’t say, ‘Where does it hurt?’” he said. “There’s a lot of satisfaction in figuring it out.”
Hirsch grew up in Michigan and graduated from Michigan State University in 1985. A friend encouraged him to spend summers working as a lifeguard for the Ocean City Beach Patrol.
When he graduated, he moved to Somers Point to work for a local veterinarian. He started his own practice in 1986.
Veterinary medicine is challenging because of the difficulty in making a diagnosis.
Once, a dog came in with a parasitic disease found typically in southern states far from New Jersey. Hirsch had to do some research before identifying the problem and treating it.
South Jersey last year saw a surge in flea infestations, leading to lots of rashes and skin problems for dogs and cats, he said. Amid a statewide increase in rabies cases recently, Hirsch recommends people double check their pets’ vaccinations.
Cape May County has seen a population decline over the past 10 years. But Hirsch said his business draws clients from Atlantic County.
“We’ve been fortunate. Our business has held up well,” he said.
Some people are investing in pet health insurance to take some burden off high medical bills. Unlike traditional health insurance, the veterinarian is not involved and instead bills the patient, who recoups expenses through the company.
Hirsch said clients often make personal financial sacrifices for their pets. Since the recession, others have been waiting longer to bring in their sick dog or cat.
“We’re dealing with a much harder economy. A lot of people can’t afford to come in for annual visits or they wait to see if they can treat their pet themselves,” he said. “By the time we see the animals, they’re train wrecks. It’s harder to treat and it’s harder on the animal.”
Veterinarians often have to help pet owners make end-of-life decisions for their beloved animals. But Hirsch said the pace of the job keeps him from getting too absorbed by a single sad outcome.
“You’ll be in one room with a depressing case and in the next room you have a cute, healthy puppy or kitten,” he said. “They seem to come in at the right time.”
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