Specialty vet practice opens Durham hospital

Sep. 13, 2013 @ 06:06 PM

Veterinarians behind a new animal hospital in Durham that provides cancer treatment, after-hour emergency care and other services say demand for specialty services has grown alongside advances in medicine and demand from pet owners.

Last month, the private specialty practice Veterinary Specialty Hospitals of the Carolinas opened a new hospital in Durham estimated to have cost about $1.8 million between equipment and the interior build-out. Located in a shopping center off N.C. 751, the hospital is the third location for the practice behind locations in Cary and Raleigh.
In 7,000 square feet of space, the 24-hour hospital in Durham has two surgery rooms, a special procedures room with an ultrasound imaging machine and endoscopy equipment for gathering images or samples using a scope, and a room with animal cages, lab equipment and a procedure table.
The hospital is still working to build its client base, but saw its first patient within a few minutes of opening, Kevin Concannon, one of the hospital’s three founding veterinarians, said.
Cindy Eward, a surgeon at the veterinary hospital, said about five surgeries have been done at the Durham location to repair torn animal knee ligaments. That’s one of the more common surgeries they do, she said. They also remove tumors, take biopsies, do spinal surgeries and other work, Concannon said.
The location is staffed with internal medicine, surgery, oncology and emergency veterinarians. It takes referrals from general practice veterinarians during the day, and handles emergencies at night. The medical oncology cancer treatments are provided three days per week.
Hospital leaders see the new Durham location as an opportunity for the practice to grow, and as a way to add convenience for patients in Durham and westward. It’s one of two specialty referral hospitals in Durham, behind the Triangle Veterinary Referral Hospital on Morreene Road. Specialty veterinary care has grown in North Carolina, Concannon said, compared with when the practice got its start in the late-1990s.
“The demand was there as more people in the profession decided that I’d like to be really good and know a lot about these specialty areas … at the same time, pet owners are looking for additional care for their pet,” he said.
In terms of animal cancer care, more pet owners are willing to treat it. He said that 20 years ago, they may have taken it as a death sentence.
“It’s very different,” Eward said, speaking of cancer treatment in animals compared with what a person might experience themselves. She added that one particular area that she expects to see growth in is in minimally invasive surgeries, as people have experienced it themselves and begin to expect it for their pets. The laparoscopic and arthroscopic surgeries are only available at the practice’s Cary location.
In terms of the business, Concannon said the practice took a hit during the recession, but he said it’s still a good area to be in. According to a study done for the center in 2006, about 75 percent of its clients had an income at or below the average for the area.
In the first eight months of this year, the practice saw a monthly average of 537 new patients in Cary, and about 286 new patients in Raleigh. Cary had a monthly average of 316 recheck visits per month and Raleigh had about 168 rechecks.
“The reason that people come to us, and the reason that they pay for our services, is they want to dig deeper … bonds that they have with their animal,” Concannon said. “We’re not looking for the really high-income levels in order to be successful.”