June 2007

Hilton Head Veterinary Clinic: Big on Creature Comforts

Author: Paul deVere

No question about it. The pet industry is on the rise. With 69 million families owning pets in the U.S. (an almost 20 percent increase from 2001) and an overall 10 percent rise in spending on pet products and related services in just one year, the pet market is HOT. It’s only been a little over a decade since big box stores like PetSmart and PetCo started going national. While there are more things and services to buy to make Fido’s and Fluffy’s lives more enjoyable, when it comes to solving an immediate problem or getting personalized service, pet owners look to their local veterinarians for help.

Dr. Brock Sauls & Dr. Kirk Dixon

Since 1985, one such veterinarian has been Kirk Dixon, DVM of the Hilton Head Veterinary Clinic. Now with two locations (109 Mathews Drive and 26 Palmetto Bay Road) and a third opening in Bluffton (Bluffton Parkway) early next year, Dixon and Dr. Brock Sauls are dedicated to Dixon’s mantra: creating the most convenient, complete and customer-friendly services possible.

“Convenience is king here,” said Dixon, a graduate of Colorado State University; and along with Sauls, a University of Georgia graduate, he intends to continually improve that business model. Currently, the two clinics offer personalized veterinary services, grooming and boarding. But with the opening of the Bluffton hospital, Dixon will be taking the Hilton Head Veterinary Clinic to an entirely new level. The Bluffton location will not only add convenience, but a new set of services that he believes pet owners will greatly appreciate.

“Right now we board at both island locations. When our Bluffton location opens, it will become our main boarding facility,” said Dixon. That doesn’t mean island pet owners will have to travel to Bluffton, however. Dixon has already purchased a specially-equipped shuttle bus, called the “Pet Waggin,” to transport pets to and from the Bluffton location for either boarding or grooming.

“We’ll also have about an acre of exercise yards and a dog park with ‘Bark Park’ playground equipment for dogs,” explained Dixon. The dog park will be open to the public for a fee. Owners will also be able to choose the type accommodation for their pet, from luxury suites to something more economical.

“My goal is to try to give the owner a choice instead of ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of service. We’re continually trying to figure out ways we can customize what we offer,” Dixon said. Another option when the Bluffton location opens: 24 hours drop-off and pick-up. “If the plane gets in at 10 p.m. and an owner wants to pick up his pet, he’ll have that convenience,” he said.

The new location will also offer “Doggie Day Care,” a pet taxi service, and hopping on a popular trend, a self-service pet wash. “Ours will be climate-controlled and in a secure location,” Dixon explained. A pet crematorium is also in the planning stages.
Because of the influx of so many new residents, especially those not familiar with the pet health problems associated with the area, he often finds himself explaining about two important health concerns for dogs and cats. “Whether they are indoor or outdoor pets, heartworm and fleas are our two ‘biggies’ in the Lowcountry. And they are very preventable,” Dixon explained.

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats and other mammals. “All dogs should be on a heartworm preventative,” said Dixon.

While fleas are seldom fatal, they can be the most bothersome pest for pet owners and pets. “Whether your pet is indoor or outdoor, everybody should have flea prevention year round. I’ve had people call who didn’t even have any pets but were infested with fleas,” Dixon said. “A person can be outside and a flea jumps on him, then jumps on the indoor cat. The flea lays 2,000 eggs, and in 30 days you can have a quarter million,” he warned. “Using proper procedures, prevention is simple.”

While all these services will definitely appeal to the pet owner—and pet—in terms of comfort and convenience, pet health and treatment will always remain the focus of Hilton Head Veterinary Clinic. Ultrasound can be performed for better diagnostic results. When the Bluffton clinic opens, pets will also be able to receive physical therapy. “Even with all of these services, these ‘creature comforts,’ our greatest benefit to pets and pet owners is that we are, above all, general practitioner veterinarians,” said Dixon.

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