Drs. Kristen Nevgesky & Celine Hayek with veterinary technicians Katie Whittemore and Sarah Deming

A quick Google search of animal hospitals or veterinarians in Orange County will return hundreds of pet clinics. But cat and dog parents know all too well: Not all animal hospitals or pet clinics are the same.

One of the most cutting-edge facilities of veterinary medicine – Tustin Legacy Animal Hospital – opened up in Tustin last year.  Drs. Kristen Nevgesky and Celine Hayek are quickly making their mark as one of the best animal hospitals in Orange County.

The scoop behind Tustin Legacy Animal Hospital

CC: Tustin Legacy Animal Hospital recently celebrated its first anniversary June of 2018. What motivated you two to start your own clinic?

TLAH: We knew together we’d have really good ideas for a hospital.  We had very similar interests and opinions on how a hospital should be run.  Dr. Negvesky had gone to a Women’s Veterinary Summit and this really sealed the deal on getting a business started ASAP, instead of “in the future.”  Dr. KLN called Dr. CH up with excitement and said “Celine! I’m blown away by what I learned at the WVS and we can actually start the process now to own a business! There is no reason to wait!”

CC: What sets TLAH apart from the others?

TLAH: We strive to be the doctors that everyone can talk to, the hospital that everyone could say that they are comfortable being at.  We have separate exam rooms for dogs and cats and on different sides of the hospital.   We have up to date equipment to ensure we stay on top with technology.  We have a hospital that was built with a lot of care regarding how a hospital flow should be (based on years of experience at other hospitals).

CC: We as humans spend a lot of time scoping out physicians. Sometimes, the physician-patient relationship works – and sometimes it doesn’t. What should cat parents look for in a pet clinic to best ensure a good, long-term fit?

TLAH: They need to know that the physicians are here to stay and are willing to work with clients until they are satisfied with the service.   They need to know that we truly care about the well-being of all pets and want to do the best we can to keep them happy and healthy.  Pet parents need to look for a hospital that shows/provides personalized care.  All staff is a part of this care, from receptionist to kennel attendant.  If there is a break in the “friendly” flow, there will be a question about the care we have for our furry pets.

CC: What is the best and worst aspect of your job as a veterinarian?

TLAH: Best: puppy and kitten wellness visits! Worst: putting an animal to sleep.

The good, the bad, and the controversial

CC: Pet boarding facilities are required by law to board cats who have had their Rabies vaccination. Some of our customers have been advised that the Rabies shot is not ideal for an indoor-only cat due to the risk of Sarcoma down the line. Is kitty at risk for being vaccinated for Rabies?

TLAH: No, Rabies vaccines in this day and age have been developed to prevent this from happening. There are also specialized non-adjuvant vaccines developed for cats made by Boehringer Ingelheim called Purevax.  An adjuvant is a substance that is added to a vaccine to enhance the body’s immune response to the vaccine. Adjuvants have been associated with injection site reaction, injection site granuloma, and chronic inflammation in cats. The old rabies vaccine contained adjuvant.

CC: In a similar vein, we require all of our kitties to have flea medication to prevent the spread of fleas among our boarders. Some swear flea medication is toxic for cats. Is that accurate?

TLAH: Some topical flea medications that contain Pyrethrin or Pyrethroids are for dogs only and can make cats very ill if it is applied to them-which is where people might get the impression that flea meds are toxic for cats. Always read the medication label to make sure that it is a brand to be used on cats. The products that are made for cats are very safe and have rare instances of adverse reactions.

CC: Sadly, many OC pet parents have lost their cats and dogs to coyote attacks as coyotes seek urban life for food. Is it irresponsible for cat owners to let their kitties outside knowing this?  Is it cruel to keep kitties cooped up inside?

TLAH: We always recommend keeping your kitties inside, not just because of the risk of coyotes, but also because there are so many dangers for domesticated cats outside; from being hit by cars, to contracting diseases from feral or other outdoor cats, to ingesting chemicals or toxins from small mammals or dirty water. Not to mention the fact that outdoor cats wreak havoc on our native bird and small mammal populations. Cats can have very full happy lives being indoors exclusively, as long as you provide them with stimulation. Depending on what your cat enjoys, you can enhance their living spaces with cat trees, scratching posts, and lots of toys to chase and play with. There are even some options for feeding toys that will make your cat “hunt” for their food. Of course this always includes spending time with you!

CC: Recently, New York passed a controversial bill making declawing illegal there. A similar bill is making its way through California after San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities in California have already made the procedure illegal. While advocates of such bills argue that it is an act of animal cruelty, the American Veterinarian Association does not oppose it. What are your thoughts as animal advocates AND veterinarians?

TLAH: We do not offer onychectomy (declaw) surgery at our hospital; however we do not want to see it banned altogether. There are always exceptions to every rule, and we have all witnessed situations where the cat was facing a declaw surgery or being surrendered to the shelter or even euthanized.

Should you board your kitty cat?

CC: Domestic cats become easily stressed when taken out of their habitat. But if you don’t have someone trustworthy who can care for your cat when you travel, finding a place to board kitty is often the only option. What should cat parents look for in a boarding facility to ensure optimal health, safety, and welfare?

TLAH: Do your research! Always speak with the employees at the facility that you are considering, find out what their policies are on vaccination, prevention of disease, etc.

CC: We recently boarded a one-year-old cat who was not socialized well with humans outside of his owner. How can cat parents help socialize their cats and at what age should they start?  Is it ever too late?

TLAH: Socialization should start immediately! It is especially important in kittens, which is not to say that older cats cannot be socialized successfully. When you bring a new cat into your home, try to make the transition as smooth as possible, because stressed cats are more likely to “act out” with unwanted behaviors like scratching, hissing or even biting.