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This Vet Makes House Calls!

Updated: Apr 30



Veterinarian Jonathan Leshanski, who specializes in making house calls in Manhattan and surrounding communities, founded At Home Veterinary in 1997

 

The Insider:

Hi Dr. Leshanski. Ready to start our text interview?


Dr. Leshanski:

Sure!


The Insider:

How many years have you been a veterinarian?


Dr. Leshanski:

25


The Insider:

How old were you when you started practicing?


Dr. Leshanski:

29


The Insider:

Did you always know that was what you wanted to do professionally?


Dr. Leshanski:

No, not really. Took me a while to figure it out. But that is a bit of a longer story, and one which revolves though a few countries


The Insider:

Want to give me the quick version of that?


Dr. Leshanski:

Hard to really make this a quick version but more or less…

After college I went and lived in Switzerland for a year with one of my college roommates. We happened to be there in ‘89-90 as the Iron Curtain was falling. So every weekend, we’d end up traveling to countries whose dictatorships had just ended


And while we often didn’t have any language in common, I started playing a lot of chess with people despite language barriers. And it was then I realized just how much I loved the mental aspect of doing things like that…solving puzzles, figuring out what was going to happen next, predicting and preventing


And I realized I had not felt that sort of challenging thing since some more or less basic Mendelian genetics back in high school. So I decided to go back into science.


Went back to school and started taking pre-med classes. Figured if I found one science I loved, I’d veer off into that, as pre-med gives a decent overview of some sciences. And if worst came to worst, I could go to med school.

I was partly though it when an advisor asked if I had ever thought about vet school.


And that was pretty much the moment I figured it out.


Though to be fair, I thought of it more as doorway to epidemiology or something else. But once I started doing actual medicine, I loved it. And basically stayed here.


The Insider:

Wow! What a wonderful epiphany! Of course, you know that your story would make a terrific memoir. I’ll buy a copy of that!


Dr. Leshanski:

People keep telling me that. Especially with all the things I’ve dabbled in on the side, and the travel too


Dr. Leshanski at a tiger rehabilitation center in Thailand (2014)

The Insider:

When you started practicing, did you have a traditional vet practice?


Dr. Leshanski:

Well, I didn’t have one, but I worked at a few. I did a big internship at a place in North Carolina where I saw 30-40 patients a day, then came back to New York to work with a veterinary acupuncturist and did a bunch of per diem work. So I worked for others and while I was doing it, I planned to open a house-call practice.


The Insider:

What was the appeal of a house-call practice?


Dr. Leshanski:

That came while I was still in the early stages of vet school. My big orange cat, Hobbes, was at the end of his life (he died young), and when the time came I had to take him into a hospital.


I felt in the end he had spent the last two hours of his life in abject terror. All of it, the crate, getting taken out of the house, being transported by taxi, and being brought into a hospital with barking dogs, strange smells, etc…

He glued himself to me that whole time.. so afraid. And I strongly felt that no animal should ever have to go through that at the end of life. Or really at any time in life.

So At Home Veterinary was born, although everyone thought I was crazy to strike out on my own and not just take a full-time gig working for someone else.


The Insider:

Because we’re a pandemic publication, I’m really curious how your practice has changed during the pandemic.


Dr. Leshanski:

Hmm…in some ways it really has, and in some ways it hasn’t. Obviously, we take precautions pretty seriously-- we’ve been N95ed though the whole thing, and early on, we used a lot of drop cloths, chucks and things to prevent our equipment from touching the environment in a home. And obviously a lot of disinfecting. But we adapted just like human hospitals did.


And we tried to cater it to our clients’ needs. We saw a lot of pets without owners present. Even did exams, and more in hallways for people who were infected. And helped rescue and arrange temporary shelter for pets who had sick owners who could not care for them at the time.

That said, we lost a lot of clients as they and their families fled the city


And we gained too, from people who were uncomfortable with just dropping their pet off at a hospital door.


The pandemic has posed unique problems for Dr. Leshanski, including owners who are too sick with Covid to care for their pets

The Insider:

Tell me more about helping people who had Covid deal with taking care of their pets.


Dr. Leshanski:

Well, it varied widely. And there is too much to tell really. It ran the gamut from hallway exams, or exams with people in other rooms, with us in hazmat suits, to a woman who was so sick, so badly that all she couldn’t even be in the house for a euthanasia.


The Insider:

Wow! So sad.


You wore Hazmat suits to avoid catching Covid from pet owners?


Dr. Leshanski:

When they had Covid and we were going into the house we did, gloves too, and we wiped the animals down with surgical scrub to examine them when we needed to take gloves off.


The good news was that almost everyone recovered


The Insider:

Thank goodness! Did any of the animals get sick from being around sick pet owners?


Dr. Leshanski:

That is a very hard thing to say. I currently have one cat I’m treating who I think may gotten Covid from an owner. But she has not allowed me to test the cat, so that is just speculation at this point. But by in large I think most animals escaped unscathed.


I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal stories however.


The Insider:

What have you heard?


Dr. Leshanski:

I tend not to give a lot of credence to stories. I think far too many times they are just not true. Blaming Covid instead of a more likely cause for death gives people comfort, and in some ways allows them to absolve themselves for not getting care that might have made a difference. So I don’t believe or repeat those stories. Though I never can say 100% that some are not true.

Especially since some big cats did die of Covid.


The Insider:

If a pet owner gets Covid, what do they need to do to protect their pets? Or would you tell them not to worry?


Dr. Leshanski:

I would suggest that they isolate from their pets as best as they can, as it costs nothing, so why take the risk? But even with owners in studio apartments, I don’t see a reason to believe the risks are very high. Especially since almost all of the known/proven cat cases have pulled though without real issues. And I’ve yet to see a credible case in a dog


The Insider:

Can animals with Covid spread it to human beings?


Dr. Leshanski:

Unlikely, but certainly not impossible. Most pets who have come down with this have had very close contact with an infected owner. Which is not to say a pet could not spread it between owners, but based on what we know right now, I think it most likely if the pets were infected by someone in the household, and sleeping, or being kissed by someone else in that same household. There are too many things we don’t know yet to say for sure.


The Insider:

We did a cover story about zoos and Covid, and about how many zoo animals are being vaccinated now. Why is it more common in species like lions or gorillas than in house pets?


Dr. Leshanski:

When you are talking about hominids, they are certainly more like us. As to big cats… we don’t really know. It could be as simple as we are not testing for this as much in house cats. Or that they weather the symptoms a lot better than big cats do.


Dr. Leshanski’s patients are not all family cats and dogs. During his career, the New York City vet has treated everything from elephants to tarantulas.

The Insider:

Before we close, I’d love to ask you a few of the questions I bet you get asked all of the time. What is the most unusual animal you’ve ever treated?


Dr. Leshanski:

Again, a bit of an odd one. In the city it was probably a tarantula whom the owner accidentally stepped on in the dark one night. But I’ve been lucky enough to work with big cats, elephants, bison, and quite a few others in my career.


The Insider:

You’ve worked with racehorses, too, haven’t you?


Dr. Leshanski:

Yep. A long time ago.


The Insider:

And is getting bitten part of being a vet?


Dr. Leshanski:

Inevitably it is. No matter how good you are, you are going to bleed sometimes. More likely from scratches, but the occasional bite too.


The Insider:

New York is the only state, I believe, that has outlawed declawing cats. Any thoughts on that debate?


Dr. Leshanski and his 14-year-old daughter Lily. She has helped her dad on house calls to clip pets’ nails, restrain pets as needed, and retrieve them from under beds or other hiding places. A future vet? Her family doesn’t rule it out.

Dr. Leshanski:

I don’t believe we are the only state. I think there are or two others and that Maryland is now debating it.


I think most of the time there is no reason to declaw a cat. I think for the animal’s well-being, it is better not to. That said, I think there is room for certain exceptions.



The Insider:

And finally, I would be remiss in not asking you whether you have pets yourself.


Dr. Leshanski:

Of course! I don’t currently have a dog (I don’t really have the time for one and I’d feel terribly guilty if I couldn’t take care of them right) but I have two cats, Tiger Lily and Duke, and a tank full of fish at home.


The Insider:

Better keep the cats away from the tank! Thanks so much for a wonderful interview!


Dr. Leshanski:

My pleasure. The cats oddly have zero interest in the fish tank!


 


Dr. Jonathan Leshanski, a NYC native, founded At Home Veterinary in 1997. He was awarded his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. He has worked with horses at Aquaduct and Belmont Racetracks, exotic and zoo animals at Oklahoma State University and in southeast Asia, and did internships in CT and NC in small animal and alternative medicine. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Leshanski has gathered a loyal following of thousands of pet parents whom he serves with the utmost care and compassion.


Dr. Leshanski is trained in acupuncture from the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) and the American Association of Veterinary Acupuncturists (AAVA), as well as trained in Herbal Traditional Chinese Medicine in New Mexico with Dr. Mona Boudreaux and Gary Allen, OMD.


He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and is the former President of the American Association of House Call and Mobile Veterinarians (AAHV). He was featured in NY Magazine’s Best Vets issue as part of the “Doggy Dream Team”, and has been in numerous other journals, magazines and television segments discussing the healthcare of pets.


As a first responder on 9/11, Dr. Leshanski worked with the rescue and recovery dogs. He volunteered for 52 straight days with the veterinary unit at ground zero.


In addition to his strong love of animals, he is an avid cast iron collector, enjoys travel, exploring different foods, scuba diving and spending time with his family. Dr. Leshanski is the proud parent of his 14 year old daughter Lily, and two felines, Tiger Lily and Duke.


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