November 2017 unleashed something to howl about for Kentlands Veterinary Hospital. The month marked two decades since the hospital’s owner, Dr. David Handel, hung his shingle at 117 Booth St. where his practice has “gone to the dogs” and cats, iguanas, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, rabbits, and some reptiles, which are a special interest of Handel’s colleague Dr. Stephanie Reitz. With its mission “to provide the best quality of veterinary care we can in a caring environment,” Handel said he and his staff “continually strive to meet the community’s needs, so we’ve continually added new services.”
In addition to preventive care, clinical care, surgery, and other more traditional treatments, the practice offers innovative, noninvasive physical therapy modalities as well as acupuncture and herbal therapy, and chiropractic care. “Acupuncture in my practice is mainly used for muscular skeletal pain,” said Handel who is becoming certified in Chinese herbal therapy. This winter, he also begins a course focused on veterinary hospice care.
Handel, who currently serves as president of the Maryland State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and is co-president of the Montgomery County Veterinary Medical Association, expressed that he and his staff “derive a great amount of pleasure from interacting with so many families over the years and helping them.” A recent case involved a dachshund that came to the hospital paralyzed with a disc problem “who for a number of reasons was not a surgical candidate so the family wanted to try medical therapy. We used a combination of acupuncture and rehabilitation medicine and this dog is walking normally now,” noted Handel.
Reduced rate house calls have been a popular option for senior citizens right across the roadway at Kentlands Manor Senior Apartments. “Some of our seniors are not as mobile. If they can come here, great, but for those seniors who can’t because of limitations, we go to them. As part of the community, we feel that we need to help meet people’s needs. We don’t want their pets not to receive appropriate veterinary care so we come to them,” Handel said.
He added, “I think we are fortunate that we have a very large number of pet-loving and pet-owning people who really do care about their pets.”
As part of their community involvement, the hospital has participated in events such as Kentlands Day, Oktoberfest, and the Kentlands/Lakelands 5K Run/Walk. The hospital has also volunteered with local rescue groups to help dogs find new homes and provide lower-cost veterinary services to them. Handel noted, “We also work with the Montgomery County Humane Society. We’ve tried to be a part of the community and the community has accepted us as that, which we’re very grateful for.”
Over the years, Handel and his staff have mentored senior veterinary students and high school interns, and contributed to the educational experiences at several local high schools’ career days including Quince Orchard, Northwest and Wootton.
The relationships with clients and their pets established over the past 20 years have brought generations of the same families to Handel’s practice. “I’m not only seeing the parents, but I’m seeing their children with their pets. That’s wonderful, and to me that’s a highlight,” he noted.
Handel said one of the challenges of his work “is that the lifespan of my patients is significantly shorter than that of a person, so loss is unfortunately a part of what we do. We’ve also gone through the cycle of various pets and that’s sad because we care about the families and we care about the pets so, when the families go through a loss, we go through a loss with them.”
The four-legged cat-alysts of the hospital’s security detail are two purr-fectly suited felines who add to the welcoming smiles at the front desk. Chester, a.k.a. “Mr. Cat” and his female companion Una are beautiful domestic shorthairs. Handel met Una while volunteering at the animal shelter. He explained that she came by her name because “she had a very significant eye injury and needed to have her eye removed.” After her surgery, his staff “fell in love with her so she moved in. They’re very gentle cats and the clients and kids adore and play with them. We like the little kids to have a positive experience because someday, hopefully, they’ll be pet owners too and they’ll bring their pets to us.
“I’m just really happy that we’ve been so well accepted by the community,” Handel said. “We’re happy to continue to be part of the community and hope to meet their needs and to be doing this for a significantly longer period of time.”