Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandi Leonard, DVM.
Hi Sandi, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I have wanted to be a vet since the age of 12. I went about it the usual way through KSU vet school graduation 1992 at first in small animal medicine at a Waldo area clinic for a couple of years, then transitioned to working as a relief vet in clinics all over the KC metro area. In 2004 I got interested in acupuncture as a way to possibly help those patients for whom there weren’t answers in conventional medicine and went through the 5-month certification process through Colorado State University. Local vet practices weren’t that interested in having an acupuncturist come in regularly, so I stopped doing relief work and began a house-call veterinary acupuncture practice with success. In 2010, I got certified in Chinese Food Therapy to better address problems like skin issues that were less responsive to acupuncture alone—using food as medicine remains a large aspect of my holistic practice. In 2012 I added certification in animal chiropractic through a 5 month program at Options for Animals in Wellsville, KS. I passed two tests to be certified by the International and American Veterinary Chiropractic Associations.
I am now about 75% of the way to completing their Advanced Certification, which is analogous to a board certification level of continuing education, including a research project and case reports. In 2014 I decided to use my skills in holistic medicine in combination with being able to do bloodwork, x-rays, and conventional care by opening Whole Health Pet Center in Raymore, MO. Unlike most vet practices which draw clients from mostly within a 2-3 mile radius, our practice routinely sees clients who may drive up to an hour and sometimes more for our type of approach. While we don’t offer surgery, boarding, grooming, or critical/emergency care, we can handle most other veterinary care. Our practice tries to use low-stress handling and lots of treats so our patients can become relaxed about their visits. About half of our patients are getting chiropractic, and we treat one or two acupuncture patients almost daily. One of our approaches is a Comprehensive Exam which includes a routine physical, a Chinese Exam to determine energetic imbalances and guide food therapy or acupuncture decisions, and a chiropractic evaluation and adjustments. Then we have a lengthy consultation with the pet owner about our treatment recommendations, optimal food type, and prognosis. This is a 90-minute appointment. Our practice also tries to schedule so that we don’t have multiple patients waiting, uses essential oil diffusion and soft music, and generally tries to keep visits low-stress for everyone. It’s a very different kind of veterinary experience! The practice has grown continuously since our grand opening just after Memorial Day in 2014. We are now looking at renovations to add a surgical space, bring in a surgeon part-time, and possibly add a second veterinarian in the next 4-5 years.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Relatively smooth though the first few years were pretty lean. I started with only one employee, and it took 2 years to build up the practice enough that I could start taking a salary, so it was a good thing my husband made enough to support us. Having never owned or managed a practice before meant a steep learning curve in all business management, but I built a good team of fellow business owners as advisors to help in my weak areas. The good thing about never doing it before was that I could choose to do things MY way. I developed a good business plan and mission statement and have tried to stay true to those while we grew. I’ve been lucky in most of my employees. I choose them for personality and how they will fit in with our office culture first, worrying only secondarily about their skills. I feel you can train the skills, but you can’t fix a personality that clashes with the rest of your team. While some have moved on over the years, I know I’ve had better luck than average.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Basic well-pet care, non-critical medical issues, x-rays, lab work, acupuncture, chiropractic, cold laser, nutritional consultations and guidance, and individualized whole-pet care from puppy/kitten to end-of-life care.
Training and behavior advice is also part of our offerings. I’ve been training dogs for agility and obedience and competed successfully for thirty years, so I’m happy to help clients train their pets to be better family members. Holistic care means treating the whole pet, not just the presenting problem. A pet with skin problems likely needs a diet adjustment. It’s also very individualized–we don’t have treatment protocols. Will treat one pet with skin issues differently from the next one. We also consider household dynamics and client ability and tailor our recommendations to make the treatment work for the entire family. We will use conventional medications and vaccinations when appropriate but also recommend vaccine titers in adult dogs and natural therapies when they are effective. Instead of recommending certain food brands, we focus on type–minimally processed with high-quality ingredients to maximize absorption and reduce inflammation, with various prices and commercially available.
Chiropractic care helps to maximize nervous system function, which then improves all body system function. We feel all pets should receive chiropractic care at least 2-3 x yearly. We use acupuncture to aid pets with chronic issues like back pain and arthritis and also for paralyzed or weak dogs. We’ve succeeded in even getting dogs paralyzed from ruptured discs back on their feet. We teach clients physical therapy and massage techniques to partner in their pet’s care.
What would you say has been one of your most important lessons?
To be true to yourself and how you want to do things. We are NOT just another veterinary practice. After ten years of relief work, I had experienced many different veterinary practices and had some ideas about how I did or did not want to do things. I built my practice from the ground up instead of buying one already in business. I planned our entire practice to optimize the experience our clients and patients would have. I did it my way. This has not only led to a successful veterinary practice but one in which my staff and I work reasonable hours with ample time off for activities we enjoy instead of working ourselves to the bone like many other practices.
- Comprehensive Exam $136
- Chiropractic Exam $85
- Nutritional Counseling $42
- Acupuncture $70-124, packages avail.
- Website: www.wholehealthpetcenter.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WholeHealthPetCenter/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxdqvRWSIQvEmmD0eo58RJA
Amy Muller Boden, Boden Photography