An Open Letter to the Community


We know how difficult the last year and a half has been on you, especially for those of you who in addition to everything else, also experienced a sick or injured pet, or the loss of a beloved companion. The intent of this letter is to inform you of what is happening in the veterinary world so you have greater understanding should you need to visit us.

For a few reasons right now, demand for veterinary care is at unprecedented levels. When the world first sheltered in place, people noticed more of their pet’s behavior during the day, but avoided unnecessary trips like veterinary well visits. A few months in, there were more pet health issues identified, some of which progressed to more serious conditions, and a backlog to visit general practices. In addition, general practices had to adapt, sometimes closing or limiting caseload for weeks at a time. All of this led to more cases coming to NorthStar VETS.

The pandemic also forced veterinary hospitals to find completely new and less-efficient ways to serve patients and clients. Emphasizing safety over speed, curbside protocols had the negative side effects of increased phone call volume, less face-to-face contact, and slower-than-normal processes. That reduction in efficiency, combined with greater demand, suddenly made us short-staffed. Unlike other service industries, the people we hire are highly-trained medical professionals, difficult to find under normal circumstances. In spite of all this, we worked tirelessly, never closing our doors, to simultaneously serve patients and clients, improve processes, and scale up our team.

By the one-year mark of the pandemic, the general public was in a worse place than they were before. Politically, socially, and attitudinally divided, people’s emotional exhaustion and anxiety were overwhelming, and their patience wore thin. When starting from that place, the stress of a suddenly sick or injured pet combined with long wait times at the emergency clinic wreaked havoc on our interactions with clients. Our team, already suffering from overwork and the emotional toll of handling many tough cases, were further demoralized by inconsiderate comments, online posts, and poor treatment by some of the people they helped. As a result, the veterinary industry has never had more people leave the jobs they love, never to return, making worse a short-staffed situation.

Even though the world changed, our commitment did not. NorthStar VETS is still a team of dedicated professionals committed to improving quality of life for patients, clients, our referring veterinary hospitals, and each other. When you come to one of our locations, know that we are operating under extremely difficult circumstances, but will give you and your pet our very best care. Please arrive with the knowledge that wait times are greater, but we are still here for you and your pet. We appreciate you and your patient understanding.

Sincerely,
The Grateful Staff of NorthStar VETS

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Case Success: Mud


First NorthStar VETS Therapeutic Radiation Patient Receives Second Treatment Course

Mud-GraduationMud, a six-year-old Sharpei dog, first had symptoms of a heart base tumor over two years ago when his abdomen began to fill with fluid (ascites). Using ultrasound at his family veterinary clinic, the primary care doctor found the cause to be a tumor of the right top chamber of Mud’s heart (right atrium), which backed up fluid traveling back from the abdomen through the main vein called the “vena cava.” He was treated with a 20 daily treatment protocol of intensity-modulated radiation therapy in January 2019. The fluid slowly disappeared as Mud’s heart base tumor reduced in size. Mud lived over two years after his initial therapeutic radiation treatment, and at age six, the fluid began to accumulate again. A recheck CT scan was performed, revealing that his heart base tumor was beginning to grow again. Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT/SRT) was used for Mud’s second treatment course, which allows highly concentrated doses of radiation to be delivered with submillimeter accuracy over three consecutive days. Further, because advanced imaging utilizing the Varian Halcyon’s onboard cone beam CT scanner (CBCT), greater surrounding normal tissue avoidance for this second radiation treatment was achieved. Mud graduated from his SRT treatment on June 10, 2021 as the first patient to be treated at NorthStar VETS with PetCure Oncology, a nation-wide veterinary oncology care provider. We wish Mud a quick return to his normal quality of life and many more happy days at home!

Rick-ChetneyRick Chetney, DVM, DACVR-RO
Rick Chetney is a native of central New York and has been practicing radiation oncology since 2013. He earned his DVM degree from Kansas State University in 2010, and completed a rotating small animal surgery and medicine internship at BluePearl Michigan Veterinary Specialists in 2011. Completion of a 12-month medical oncology specialty internship at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville followed. Dr. Chetney then worked as an emergency clinician at RIVER in Chattanooga before returning to the University of Tennessee and completed his residency in radiation oncology in 2015. He was board-certified in radiation oncology by the American College of Veterinary Radiology in 2016.

As a board-certified veterinary radiation oncologist, Dr. Chetney is one of fewer than 100 specialists practicing within his field in the world. He has a special interest in minimizing radiation side effects, skin healing, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT/SRS/SBRT) for various tumors. He was the first on-site veterinary radiation oncologist to employ the use of linear accelerator-based IMRT in eastern Pennsylvania, and has practiced previously in the use of strontium-90 brachytherapy. After working in the Greater Philadelphia Region for five years, Dr. Chetney joined PetCure Oncology in June of 2020, and now provides his services to the patients and clients of Northstar VETS. He resides in Southeastern, PA with his wife, where they enjoy disc golf, kayaking, hiking, and anything outdoors. They are pet parents to Theo (Siamese/ragdoll mix cat), Logan (Border collie), and Roux (toy poodle).

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New Satellite Summer Hours


Effective Thursday, July 1st, the NorthStar VETS satellites in Maple Shade and Brick will have new hours. For the duration of the summer, these offices will be open from 7:00am-11:00pm and closed during the overnight hours.

Additionally, both satellites will close completely on Sunday, July 4 and reopen on Monday, July 5 at 7:00am.

The Robbinsville location will remain open 24/7, 365 days a year.

This temporary change is designed to increase the level of service we provide to your patients and clients when they visit during our busiest times of the day. Thank you for your continued trust in us as we strive toward providing the best possible medicine and customer service to our community, clients and patients.

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Why Emergencies are Longer


WHY IS MY PET’S EMERGENCY VISIT TAKING SO LONG?

Due to the pandemic, all of our NorthStar VETS locations have seen huge patient surges due to family veterinarians with limited hours or other emergency hospitals diverting patients. As in human medicine, our facilities triage patients according to an assigned degree of urgency based on wound, illness, or trauma. The higher degree of urgency, the quicker a patient is admitted. While this can be frustrating, it helps our ER staff assist those requiring immediate treatment faster and even saves lives.

Reasons Why You May Be Experiencing a Long Wait Time:

  • Large volume of cases overall increases client wait times.
  • Socially distanced appointments take longer to navigate. These challenging precautions keep all of our staff, clients, and pets safe.
  • Critical patients take priority and require immediate refocused attention of staff.
  • A major influx of phone calls causes longer hold times. We apologize for any inconvenience.
  • Diagnostic work-ups and tests (blood work, X-rays, and ultrasounds) take time to process.
  • Backlogs in our Pharmacy Department also cause discharge delays.

Behind-the-Scenes Challenges Require More Time To:

  • Check-in/check-out patients
  • Review test results
  • Discuss pet exam findings to the pet parent
  • Explain/demonstrate patient discharge instructions
  • Traffic and schedule follow-up appointments
  • Fill or refill patient prescription(s)
  • Process payments

What Hasn’t Changed Is Our Absolute Commitment To You And Your Pet. We Are Doing Our Best To Serve You 24/7, But We Need Your Help!

  • One masked family member per pet may enter our facility.
  • Please adhere to our corporate policies and COVID social distancing protocols for trouble-free service.
  • Please bring patience, kindness and good energy to your conversations with our: Customer Service Representatives, technicians, and emergency doctors.
  • Allow ample wait times for physical exams, patient work-ups, prescriptions, discharge instructions and follow-up paperwork.

Read the flyer: Why are ER Visits Taking so Long?

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The Canine Cranial Cruciate Ligament


The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is an important ligament inside the knee (stifle) joints of dogs. The ligament plays an important role in stabilizing the stifle during weight-bearing. It prevents the shin bone (tibia) moving forward relative to the thigh bone (femur). Cranial cruciate ligament rupture is one of the most common orthopedic injuries in dogs and is the most common cause of degenerative joint disease in the stifle joint. CCL ruptures occur in dogs of all sizes, but are most prevalent in large and giant breeds.

CCL Tears are the Most Common Canine Orthopedic Injury
NorthStar VETS sees hundreds of patients each year with unilateral, bilateral and partial cranial cruciate tear (CCL) injuries. When the CCL ruptures, dogs will have stifle (knee) joint instability characterized by forward movement of the tibia with respect to the femur and excessive internal rotation.

There have been numerous techniques used to repair CCL ruptures in dogs over the years. The most common repairs performed today are divided into two categories: extracapsular repairs and bone-cutting techniques.

What is the Best Surgical Option for my Pet?
There are many decisions pet parents must make regarding surgical options. Some factors to consider and discuss with your surgeon are: patient’s age, breed, size, and general health, as well as athletic condition, finances, home environment, and additional health issues.

In general, bone-cutting techniques like the Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) are preferred for larger dogs as they provide patients with a very strong repair and a much earlier return to function. Bone-cutting procedures require special X-rays, implants, and are a more extensive orthopedic alternative.

Your veterinary surgeon will guide you to the CCL repair technique best suited for your pet. Learn more about orthopedic options at NorthStar VETS.

Barri Sarowitz, VMD, DACVSBarri Sarowitz, VMD, DACVS
Having grown up in south Jersey, Dr. Sarowitz is excited to join the surgery team at NorthStar VETS. Dr. Sarowitz obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Cornell University in 2007. She moved to Philadelphia and worked as a veterinary technician for a year before completing veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. After graduating, Dr. Sarowitz completed a rotating internship at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, NJ. Following her internship, she completed a three-year residency in surgery at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in 2016. Her surgical interests include surgical oncology, minimally invasive surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, and wound management. She is trained in the tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) and lateral extracapsular suture techniques for cranial cruciate ligament disease. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and football.

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From the Client Perspective: I Feared Losing My Best Friend


I have a natural love for dogs, all animals, and life in general, but I especially know the heartbreak of losing a beloved dog. They are simply not with us long enough, and the last dog I lost was my Black Lab, Onyx. At the age of ten, Onyx suddenly became sick one Wednesday night and by Saturday morning he was gone. I feel like I never quite got closure and still carry his loss with me.

Onyx sired one litter in his lifetime resulting in nine beautiful puppies. One of those dogs was Chockie, who I gave to my son. At the time, my son moved around a lot and Chockie visited me on different weekends. One particular weekend, while my son was stopping by to drop Chockie off, he said, “Dad, I know how much Onyx meant to you, and what you went through with him. Why don’t you keep Chockie?” Chockie was five months old at the time and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

Chockie1I was living alone with my two cats, but Chockie became my boy. We came to love each other deeply and do everything together. He sleeps in my bed when I’m not home. He rides in the car with me. We even live off our own organic diets. He is wonderful and we understand each other completely.

He turned ten recently, and is getting older. On our rides, I help him in and out of the car. He sees his family veterinarian twice a year, and on a recent visit, we received some bad news. Normal liver enzyme levels for a dog should be between five and one-hundred-thirty. Chockie’s enzyme levels were at three-thousand! We were referred to Dr. Karah Burns of the NorthStar VETS Internal Medicine team for further treatment. I was shocked, devastated, and frankly scared.

Chockie2We got the first available appointment because there was no question I would do everything possible to save his life. It was hard sending him into the hospital without me, but I trusted the team at NorthStar VETS. Dr. Burns used an ultrasound machine to find a tumor on his liver. Suspecting a type of cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma, she recommended I see a veterinary surgeon to have it removed, and I wanted to see a surgeon that afternoon! I was able to speak with the surgery team who said the first step was getting a CT scan. I was told that hepatocellular carcinomas originate from liver cells (hepatocytes) and have a low rate of spread to other organs. The doctor recommended staging, which would use blood work and the CT scan of the chest and abdomen to look for other life-threatening problems in the body that could be associated with the mass. Finally, I was told that surgically removing the tumor is the best option and statistically has favorable results. This is because untreated liver tumors result in a much higher rate of death resulting from the tumor than dogs who get them removed. These tumors can rupture and bleed into the abdomen or compress the main bile duct that drains bile from the liver into the intestines, causing jaundice. It could also compress other internal organs or blood vessels. I knew what needed to be done, and we left the hospital confident in our plan. That night, he seemed painful, so I called the surgeon, who let my family veterinarian know they could prescribe some pain medication. A few days later, we were back for the CT and surgery.

Dr. Jackie Williams, the Radiologist, confirmed a softball-sized tumor on Chockie’s liver and he was off to the operating room. Dr. Gregory Zuendt of the surgery team successfully removed a liver lobe and the tumor. Two days later, Chockie came back home with me.

Chockie3At a follow-up appointment with my family veterinarian after the surgery, Chockie’s liver enzyme level decreased to 200! Last week’s follow up had the number just two points above normal. Now, we don’t have to go back to follow up for another six months. The team at NorthStar VETS obtained clean margins and my boy is cancer-free at this point!

Life is pretty much back to normal now. I’m considering a career change that will allow me to help more pets. Chockie and I are still inseparable and I can’t thank the doctors and nurses at NorthStar VETS enough for saving my dog’s life.

Learn more about the Internal Medicine service at NorthStar VETS

Karah Burns DeMarle, DVM (Practice Limited to Internal Medicine)
Karah-Burns-Web
Dr. Karah Burns DeMarle was born and raised in Rochester, New York. She completed her undergraduate studies in New York, receiving both an associate’s degree in veterinary science technology from SUNY Canton and a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Cornell University. From there, she moved to Ohio to complete her veterinary degree at The Ohio State University. Upon graduation in 2016, she moved to Massachusetts to complete a one-year rotating internship followed by a 3-year small animal internal medicine residency at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Although she enjoys all aspects of internal medicine, she has a special interest in diseases that affect the liver and gallbladder of cats and dogs.

She currently lives with her husband, Patrick, and their two dogs (Dolly and Frenchie), three cats (Ziggy, Mya and Pickles) and betta fish (Sashimi). In her free time, she enjoys visiting the beach, traveling abroad, sewing, watching baseball (go Sox!) and college football (go Buckeyes!).

Jackie M. Williams, DVM, MS, DACVR
Jackie-Williams
A native of Virginia,Dr. Williams initially began a career as an engineer after completing undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Virginia. She earned her veterinary degree from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. Dr. Williams then completed a small animal rotating internship at Affiliated Veterinary Specialists in Florida and a diagnostic imaging residency at Iowa State University. Following an academic career as a clinical assistant professor of diagnostic imaging at The Ohio State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Williams joined NorthStar VETS in 2016. Her clinical interests include ultrasonography of the feline biliary tract and pancreas, CT of avian coelomic diseases, and dental radiography.

Gregory Zuendt, DVM

Dr. Zuendt graduated veterinary school from the University of Illinois in 2015. He went on to complete a small animal rotating medicine and surgery internship at Oradell Animal Hospital. Following this, he completed a surgery-specific internship in Nashville at BluePearl Veterinary Partners. Dr. Zuendt then joined NorthStar Vets in July 2017 and has a special interest in surgery, critical care medicine, neurology, and cardiology.

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Feline Blood Donors Save Two Lives


Cats need blood transfusions for many reasons, but anemia is a common scenario. One measurement of a cat’s blood is its packed cell volume (PCV), which estimates the percent of blood that is red blood cells. In a healthy cat, that number is somewhere between 30% and 45% with some variability. When a cat’s PCV falls below 25% (anemia), a veterinary internist or emergency doctor will transfuse blood from a donor cat into the sick cat to save its life. Recently, this procedure was needed in two separate cases at NorthStar VETS, and two healthy cats donated blood that same day.

Patch was brought to his family veterinarian for lethargy and low appetite. His blood work showed anemia, a mild elevation in white blood cells (indicating infection), and weight loss. He was referred to Dr. Tammy Anderson of the NorthStar VETS Internal Medicine team who admitted him for further testing. Patch’s PCV dropped to 12%, requiring a blood transfusion which saved his life by bringing his PCV back up to 20%, good enough for him to finish recovering at home before his next recheck.

Jasper was brought to his family veterinarian for lethargy and low appetite as well, where it was found he was anemic. He was referred to NorthStar VETS where it was discovered he had a PCV of 12%. Because he was in anemic shock, Dr. Marko Drazenovic of the NorthStar VETS Emergency and Critical Care team gave him a blood transfusion and handed the case to Dr. Anderson. After a couple days in the hospital, his PCV was up to 20%, but dropped back down to 14%. Jasper received a second transfusion which brought his PCV back up to 17% the next day. Looking much brighter, he went home with a PCV of 20% when discharged and will get further care.

From where did that life-saving blood come? NorthStar VETS Veterinary Assistant, June O’Hara, brought in her cats, Squeaker and Gandalf the Grey, to make the donations. Squeaker’s blood was taken in one room of the hospital and carried to the room where Patch needed it right away. Gandalf’s blood went to the bank, but was almost immediately taken back out to save Jasper. The need for blood from dogs, cats, and exotic pets is great and new donors are always welcome into the program!

Squeaker's blood immediately saved Patch

Squeaker’s blood immediately saved Patch

Gandalf's same-day blood donation saved Jasper

Gandalf’s same-day blood donation saved Jasper

To see if your pet could donate to the NorthStar VETS Blood Bank, visit https://www.northstarvets.com/blood-bank.

Tammy Anderson, DVM, DACVIM

Dr. Anderson is a New Jersey native who received her veterinary medical degree from Ohio State University in 1995. She completed her small animal internship at Michigan State University in 1996, and her residency in small animal internal medicine at the University of Tennessee in 1999. She remained at UT as an assistant professor of small animal medicine until 2001, when she returned to New Jersey and entered private practice. Dr. Anderson joined NorthStar VETS in 2004.

Marko Drazenovic, VMD

Dr. Drazenovic grew up in New Jersey, and received his undergraduate degree in Animal Science from Rutgers. After completing his veterinary education at the University of Pennsylvania, he went to Ocean State Veterinary Specialists, another veterinary trauma center in Rhode Island, for further training during his rotating internship. Dr. Drazenovic joined the NorthStar VETS team to continue practicing his passion for high-quality emergency care. His clinical interests include emergency stabilization and exotic species. In his spare time, Dr. Drazenovic enjoys caring for his cat, gecko, and aquariums.

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Meet the NorthStar VETS Team: Zoe Launcelott, DVM, DACVS


Zoe Launcelott, DVM, DACVS is a doctor in the Surgery service at NorthStar VETS. In this video, she talks about why she left a future in human medicine to pursue veterinary surgery, the case that meant the most to her, and the number one thing she wants you to know.

How Dr. Launcelott got into Veterinary Medicine
We caught up with Dr. Launcelott, who was checking on her patients before heading to the operating room. She told us more about herself and what she does. “I am one of the surgeons here, and what we do here in the surgery department is orthopedic surgery, soft tissue surgery, and emergency surgery.”

“I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, so I ended up going to school at the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island. After veterinary school, I did a rotating internship in Toronto, Ontario, and then I came down to the United States doing a specialty surgery internship in Connecticut followed by a three-year residency.”

“My father was an anesthesiologist so I basically grew up working in the human hospital my whole life and figured that I would end up being a human physician. In my third year of university, my cat, Snowy, ended up being diagnosed with a vaccine-related fibrosarcoma, which is a cancer. I went to the veterinary office very frequently for her care and realized that the compassion side of things in veterinary medicine was more ‘me’ than what I was seeing on the human side. I elected to then apply to veterinary school thinking that I was going to be an oncologist and cure cancer, however, during my schooling, I realized that surgery was really my passion and therefore I would be able to remove the tumors on these pets and give them a chance at a happy, healthy life.

What Dr. Launcelott Loves About Her Work
“What I like about NorthStar VETS is the camaraderie, being able to walk into various departments and collaborate on a case in order to give the best possible care to the patient. What I love about being a veterinarian is being able to help the animals that are so reliant on us.”

The Case that had the greatest impact on Dr. Launcelott
“A lot of times here in surgery we’re focused on orthopedics or a small procedure, and we see the client two or three times. You don’t get to build any sort of long-term rapport with them. But this one wound case had a terrible complication and came to me where we ended up having to do wound therapy. The wound, unfortunately due to its nature and location, was unable to close primarily, meaning we couldn’t close it first pass. We ended up having to use a wound vac, which is a device that just helps to increase the ability of a wound to heal and heal quicker. We then had to do multiple bandage changes until this wound healed by second intention.”

“No matter the issue, whether it’s big or small, we are always here to help you and your pet and make recommendations for their care.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAxIF0OM-pE

Learn more about the Surgery service at NorthStar VETS.

Zoe Launcelott, DVM, DACVS

Dr. Launcelott is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2009. Following her Bachelor’s degree, she moved to Prince Edward Island where she earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 2013 from Atlantic Veterinary College. She completed a rotating internship at the Veterinary Emergency Clinic and Referral Centre in Toronto, Ontario in 2014, followed by a one-year internship in surgery at VCA Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center in Norwalk, CT. Dr. Launcelott then completed a three-year residency in surgery at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, NJ in 2018. After her residency she joined the surgery department at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

She is excited to be a part of the surgery team at NorthStar VETS and make New Jersey her home. Her special surgical interests include, but are not limited to, orthopedic surgery, wound management, surgical oncology, and minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Launcelott is trained in the tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) and lateral extracapsular suture techniques for cranial cruciate ligament disease.

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Surgery Success: Alana


In spite of all she’s been through, Alana has the heart of a fighter and the guts of a survivor. Recently, she was rushed to NorthStar VETS for weakness. In the following hours, our ER team (Dr. Higgins, Dr. Jones, and Dr. Tasker), along with Cardiologist Dr. Keegan and Dr. Kerrigan of the Radiology team discovered that Alana had a mass on her heart which was bleeding into her pericardial sac. When too much blood filled the space, the pressure caused her heart to collapse. Three times a needle was inserted removing the pooling blood and stabilizing her for surgery. In addition, Alana had masses on her spleen. She went into surgery with Drs. Johnson and Zuendt along with Critical Care specialist, Dr. Berkowitz, and Veterinary Technicians Caitlin and Rachel managing anesthesia. All of Alana’s masses were successfully removed, and the next day she impressed us all by walking around and eating.

She’ll return to tackle her cancer with oncologist Dr. Barber, but for now, she goes home bright and strong.

Alana

Alana’s Care Team:

Lisa Barber, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)

Originally a native of New York City, Dr. Barber received her DVM degree from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1992. She went on to pursue a rotating internship in small animal medicine and surgery followed by a residency in medical oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. She then served as a staff oncologist at Penn until 2001. Dr. Barber joined the faculty of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in 2002 and became section head of oncology in 2003. During her 18 years at Tufts, she treated a variety of different types of animals for cancer, conducted clinical trials of new therapies, published many scientific articles, and trained veterinary students and residents. She is a recipient of the Artemis Award for Clinical Excellence and the Zoetis Award for Veterinary Research Excellence. She remains an adjunct professor at Tufts. Dr. Barber joined NorthStar VETS in 2020. Her interests are both innovative therapies for the treatment of cancer in companion animals and palliative care, but her primary focus is preserving and enhancing quality of life in pets with cancer.

Steven Berkowitz, DVM, DACVECC

Dr. Steven Berkowitz attended St. Georges University and did his clinical year of training at University of Illinois. Dr. Berkowitz joined NorthStar VETS after service as the Chief of Emergency and Critical Care at another specialty hospital. Prior to that, he completed a three year residency in Emergency and Critical Care medicine at Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, NJ. His residency was completed at one of the first level one veterinary trauma centers in the United States. Prior to his residency, he was a staff emergency veterinarian at Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers, New York, as well as at Animal Emergency and Referral Center in Fairfield, NJ. Dr. Berkowitz can be seen on seasons 5 and 6 of “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet, which was filmed at the Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital of the ASPCA wherein he did his rotating internship after completing veterinary school. Dr. Berkowitz’s professional interests include management of metabolic and endocrine emergencies, as well as management of septic patients. He is published as the primary author in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care with his article “Resolution of spontaneous hemoabdomen secondary to peliosis hepatis following surgery and azithromycin treatment in a Bartonella species infected dog.”

Dr. Berkowitz proudly serves on the Board of Trustees for “Mickey’s Kids,” which helps provide service dogs in New Jersey for children in need. He is also on the Board of Diversity and Inclusion with the College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, as well as serving as a critical care reviewer for Vet Companion, which is an online service for veterinary professionals. He is also currently involved in the reviewing process for the newest version of the RECOVER Guidelines for advancing knowledge in CPR in the veterinary field.

Lauren Higgins, DVM
Dr. Lauren Higgins is a New Jersey native who completed her undergraduate degree in Animal Bioscience at Penn State University. From there, she moved to Southern California to pursue a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences and graduated with honors in 2011. She then returned to New Jersey and completed a small animal rotating internship in medicine and surgery at Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls, NJ.

Dr. Higgins joined the emergency team at NorthStar VETS in August 2012. In her spare time, she enjoys horseback riding, reading, and spending time outside.

Kelly Johnson, DVM, MS, DACVS

Dr. Kelly Johnson is a Vermont native who received her undergraduate degree from the University of Richmond in 2002. She earned her veterinary degree from Michigan State University in 2006. After graduation she completed a small animal rotating internship at the Hope Advanced Veterinary Center in Vienna, VA followed by her surgical residency at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. During her residency she also completed a Master?EUR(TM)s Degree in Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences. Dr. Johnson practiced as a small animal surgeon in northern NJ for nine years before joining NorthStar VETS in 2020.

Dr. Johnson is trained in the tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) and lateral extracapsular suture techniques for cranial cruciate ligament disease. Outside of work she enjoys paddle boarding, yoga, downhill skiing, traveling, attending country concerts and watching the New York Rangers.

Veronica Jones, DVM

Dr. Veronica Jones received her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from Cook College at Rutgers University. Prior to attending veterinary school, she worked as a veterinary assistant and technician for 3 years. She moved to Alabama and completed her DVM at Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2016. Dr. Jones started in general practice after returning home to South Jersey, and then practiced emergency medicine. She has interests in surgery, trauma, and critical care. Dr. Jones enjoys listening to music, reading, and traveling during her free time. She also spends time with her two sweet miniature poodles, Duchess and Bella.

Ryan Keegan, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology)

Dr. Keegan attended the University of Notre Dame and received his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He then completed a one year rotating internship at Oradell Animal Hospital. After his internship, Dr. Keegan completed a 3-year residency in cardiology at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital and received Board Certification in Cardiology in 2014. His goal is to provide the most accurate diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment for your pet’s heart condition.

Dr. Keegan’s special interests include early treatment of pre-clinical mitral valve disease and cardiomyopathy, improving quality of life for chronically coughing animals and advanced cardiac cases, accurate assessment of pulmonary hypertension (high lung pressure), and long-term management of congestive heart failure and arrhythmias. In his spare time, Dr. Keegan enjoys swimming, the beach, and participating in rescue/shelter work. He resides with his wife, their cat, and a loving pack of dogs.

Katherine Lynch Kerrigan, DVM, MS, DACVR

Dr. Kerrigan, originally from Connecticut, is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed a rotating internship at the University of Pennsylvania and returned to Illinois to complete her residency in diagnostic imaging in 2014. During the course of her residency, she also completed a Master’s degree in veterinary clinical medicine.

Dr. Kerrigan joined NorthStar VETS in 2014. Her clinical interests include CT angiography, and emergency imaging.

Laura Tasker, DVM, CVMA

Dr. Tasker earned her bachelor of science degree in animal science from the University of Delaware. She continued her veterinary studies at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, with a year of clinical training at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed an internship in emergency and critical care at the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Levittown, Pennsylvania. Her professional interests include trauma stabilization, wound care, and metabolic diseases. She is certified in both large and small animal veterinary acupuncture, and has a particular interest in pain management. Outside of NorthStar VETS, Dr. Tasker enjoys spending time with her family and friends, playing with her Australian Shepherd, and all things horses.

Gregory Zuendt, DVM

Dr. Zuendt graduated veterinary school from the University of Illinois in 2015. He went on to complete a small animal rotating medicine and surgery internship at Oradell Animal Hospital. Following this, he completed a surgery-specific internship in Nashville at BluePearl Veterinary Partners. Dr. Zuendt then joined NorthStar Vets in July 2017 and has a special interest in surgery, critical care medicine, neurology, and cardiology.

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Update to Our Covid-19 Hospital Protocols


On Monday, May 3, 2021, we are taking steps toward reopening our hospitals to the public. The safety of our clients and staff is our highest priority, and we will continue to follow safety protocols outlined by the state.

As you pull into our facilities, please follow the instructions below. One pet parent will be escorted by a staff member to a private exam room.

  • Robbinsville: In an emergency, drive up to the front door where you will be triaged. Scheduled appointments should park, and one person may come to check in.
  • Maple Shade: Bring your pet into our building (one client per pet).
  • Brick: Bring your pet into our building (one client per pet).

Plexiglass shields have been installed in our lobby along with touchless payment options. We ask that everyone maintain social distancing practices and utilize the hand sanitizing dispensers located throughout the facilities.

Lastly, for pet parents wishing to safely remain in their vehicle, our staff will come out to receive your pet and communicate via phone to limit face-to-face contact.

We thank you for your patience and understanding, and hope that you are staying healthy and safe during this time.

The NorthStar VETS Team

Learn to expect and how to prepare for your visit.

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