Meet the NorthStar VETS Team: Kristina Vygantas, DVM, DACVO

Dr. Kristina Vygantas is a Veterinary Ophthalmologist at NorthStar VETS. In this blog post and video below, she talks about how she got into veterinary medicine, the kinds of things she does most commonly for pets and one of her favorite cases…Snow Leopards!

How Dr. Vygantas got into Veterinary Medicine
We caught up with Dr. Vygantas while she was checking on her patients. Dr. Vygantas was originally pre-med, before she found a passion for working with animals. Here is how she tells her story. “In second year of college, we had a class called comparative anatomy where we dissected a cat, and my wheels got turning. I decided I would much rather be a veterinarian and work with animals and their people in THAT way, rather than practicing medicine on people primarily. My college didn’t have a program in veterinary science, so I just went with the pre-med students and I was the only veterinary student there, but I was able to get in, thankfully. I went to school at Cornell where I spent four years. After that, if you’re interested in specializing, additional training is needed. So after Cornell, I went south, to the deep south, to Auburn. I spent a year there doing a general rotating internship. I was lucky enough to get an Ophthalmology residency at Auburn University. I spent three years there and then have been in private practice ever since.”

eye-exams2The most common types of things Dr. Vygantas treats
Dr. Vygantas is an Ophthalmologist, working on the eyes of all kinds of animals. She went on to talk about the kind of work she does today. “We are lucky enough to treat all species, but just treat eye disease. Though mostly we’re working on dogs and cats, but I see horses and zoo animals, exotic animals…every species but one…the human. We see mostly dogs and cats, and a lot of the diseases we see in veterinary medicine are similar to what people would get. So that includes glaucoma, cataracts, injuries, corneal abrasions, dry eye, and retinal disease. There are a lot of similarities, but then there are also some very significant differences between human ophthalmology and veterinary ophthalmology. It’s interesting to compare and a lot of our MD colleagues find it really cool to see what we’re doing and we learn a lot from them also. It’s a nice interchange of information.”

One of Dr. Vygantas’ favorite cases – Snow Leopards
NorthStar VETS cares for and treats animals from a number of zoos in our area. Dr. Vygantas told us about one of her favorite exotics cases. “One medically simple experience that was rewarding for me personally was working on some snow leopard cubs. They are an endangered species and as a result are very highly inbred. These cubs were born with some eyelid abnormalities and we were able to correct those before the animals grew up and keep their eyes as healthy as possible. What’s interesting is that when you’re working with adult species of some of these big cats, you don’t get to interact with them very much because they’re under anesthesia. But while they’re still cubs, you get to hold them while they’re awake and interact with them before they’re dangerous. That was a really unique and special experience for me.”

Dr. Vygantas and the team at NorthStar VETS are always available to help you and your pets. Dr. Vygantas gave us her final thoughts. “I really enjoy working with the clients and seeing how much they love their animals and what their animals bring to their lives and I obviously love their pets. It’s really awesome to be able to treat so many really sweet animals.”

Learn more about the Ophthalmology service at NorthStar VETS

Kristina R. Vygantas, DVM, DACVOKristina R. Vygantas, DVM, DACVO
Dr. Vygantas is a graduate of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University. She completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery as well as her residency in ophthalmology at Auburn University. Dr. Vygantas became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists in 2001. She was in private practice in Birmingham, Alabama, for four years prior to joining NorthStar VETS in 2005. She also served on the board of the exam committee of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists. Her special interests include corneal surgery and wound healing as well as equine ophthalmology.

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