MICHIGAN CITY — With a preventative approach to good health and a focus on their patients’ entire well-being, the staff at Animal Wellness Clinic, 4401 E. U.S. 12, live up to the business’s name.

As explained on its website, www.animalwellnessclinic.com, the veterinary practice focuses on “preventative care, wellness exams, and exploring alternative avenues of treatment in a family-like atmosphere.”

“I tend to tailor my wellness program to the animal and what they might or might not require,” said Dr. Kathleen Puerling, DVM.

For example, Puerling explained that she conducts canine vaccinal titer testing on dogs after age 2 to determine if they hold protection against distemper and parvo; she then only administers these vaccinations if necessary.

“We promote raw food and talk about diet a lot in regard to how it influences health,” the veterinarian went on.

Puerling also noted how the practice uses cold-laser technology, which promotes tissue healing at the cellular level. It’s used for a variety of ailments such as nerve issues, arthritis or dermatitis and its application is often administered to relieve pain.

Another procedure offered at Animal Wellness Clinic is VOM (Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation), which uses an activator to make adjustments of the spinal vertebrae.

Puerling knew from a young age her calling in life.

“I decided in the fifth grade that I wanted to be a vet. I always liked dealing with and working with animals and I liked science a lot. Being a vet combined the two well,” she said.

“I grew up with a family dog, a shepherd box cross named Mitzi,” Puerling continued. “She was more of my job, coming with me on my daily paper route. I mostly trained her. She was amazing – she was really good. I’ve always had a dog since then.”

After her graduation from Pulaski High School in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Puerling earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, and then her veterinarian degree from University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1990.

While studying to become a vet, she added the first dog, Kiko, owned by herself to her home.

“I’d take her for walks every day and tell her about my day,” she fondly recalled.

Since her graduation in 1990, Puerling has lived in Indiana working in practices in Valparaiso, Munster, La Porte and then with the late Dr. Sandy Roach at Animal Hospital of Michigan City.

In February 2001 she purchased Animal Wellness Clinic from the late Dr. Werner Langheinrich. He began his practice in 1958 and built the building at 4401 E. U.S. 12 in 1982.

Besides herself, there was only a receptionist and an employee who took care of the kennels at that time. Today, Animal Wellness Clinic has a staff of seven. This includes the Practice Manager, Sandy Haines, who began 18 years ago. Two others employees, Receptionist Kathi Ferguson and Veterinary Assistant Linda Orlowski-Smith have been with the practice about 14 years, and Receptionist Gayle McCray began nine years ago.

At Animal Wellness Clinic, Puerling said she primarily sees dogs and cats in addition to occasional small animals, such as a Guinea pigs or rabbits. Animal Wellness Clinic offers exams and consultations, nutritional counseling, surgery, vaccinations and microchipping. They provide a wide variety of in-house diagnostics testing using state-of-the-art technology and a focus on preventative medicine with an emphasis on regular checkups. A small selection of retail items including dog food, leashes, collars and medications is available in the lobby.

“What medications I don’t carry here, I can provide online through our associated pharmacy,” said Puerling.

Educating pet owners is also a matter of emphasis at Animal Wellness Clinic.

“We try so hard to have people research pet ownership before they get a breed or a certain age of a pet so there’s not a bad match. We very much promote responsible pet ownership,” said Orlowski-Smith.

“I like the time I get to handle and help the animals, but it’s also fun to teach the new pet owners and guide them in training, feedings and things they didn’t think about,” said Puerling. “The aspect I didn’t consider as a vet was the different people you get to meet and get to know and hear all their different stories.”

At one time Puerling owned seven dogs. Today, she has three dogs: a cattle dog cross named Danny, a pit bull named Red and a French bulldog named Jesse. Red and Jesse regularly hang out at the practice, with Red greeting many clients at the door.

“We like to keep things low-key and low-stress here. The animals seem to enjoy it here,” said Puerling. “It’s a nice enough pace coming in that the animals aren’t stressed.”

A special playtime for dogs is offered on Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The $10 cost is placed into a special fund used for donations.

“Several clients bring in their dogs and they get to interact with each other,” Puerling said.

Animal Wellness Clinic regularly donates to Michiana Humane Society, where Puerling serves on the board, as well as other organizations such as animal rescues including Giant Paw Prints Rescue.

The practice is looking forward to new paint and an updated tile floor. The focal point, a large painted tree that extends to cover the ceiling will remain, however. Client Robert Cox provided the artwork, with animals throughout its trunk and branches; two clinic cats that once called the practice their home are included.

“Kids like to find the animals on it,” said Puerling.

In her spare time, the veterinarian said she enjoys working in her garden and other artistic endeavors including painting barn quilts and making items such as her chicken coop, bench, and garden shed out of recycled pallets.

The hours of operation for Animal Wellness Clinic are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, 7:15 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, and 8 a.m. to noon the first and third Saturday of each month. For more information on the Animal Wellness Clinic call 219-872-1661, go to www.animalwellnessclinic.com, or look up “Animal Wellness Clinic” on Facebook.

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