Meeting The Needs Of Animal Friends

Sophie, a boxer, is getting a checkup from Jackie, a supervisor and licensed technician at Long Island Veterinary Specialists. (Photos by Chris Boyle)

While the neighborhood veterinarian has been around for ages, animal care in recent years has become a rapidly-evolving field, rivaling actual human care in many respects. Long Island Veterinary Specialists of Plainview may just represent the very pinnacle of that noble profession in the Long Island area and beyond.

Long Island Veterinary Specialists (LIVS), located at 163 South Service Rd., is a surprisingly impressive sight when you first happen upon it. Encompassing a whopping 30,000-square-feet, the LIVS facility is a massive testament to the care and treatment of animals and the dedication of each and every employee within towards that ideal.

Long Island Veterinary Specialists first opened its door in Plainview in 1998, and was formed by a group of specialists who were previously practicing at an animal hospital in Levittown. At the time, the notion of a specialty hospital for animals was still new, and establishing such a facility was indeed the trailblazing notion behind the founding LIVS, according to hospital administrator Brian McKenna.

PetVet_030715B“It started becoming more of a popular thing…if your pet’s general practitioner feels that the issue is past their area of general expertise, they can refer your pet to us,” he said. “We do the next level of work and we happen to have a lot of equipment that allows us to do diagnostics better. It’s a unique place in that there isn’t anything we wouldn’t do for an animal that has a problem.”

Some of the more interesting procedures and services Long Island Veterinary Specialists offers, according to McKenna, are brain, spinal and thoracic surgery. A high-powered MRI machine that was said to put those in most human hospitals to shame (for example, the average MRI runs with a 1.5 Tesla magnet; LIVS’ MRI runs at 3 Tesla, and with a more powerful magnet comes a far sharper image); and specialists who do anything from dental treatment, cataract lens replacement surgery, hip replacement, advanced physical therapy, and even the repair of things like cracked turtle shells and bird beaks. Clearly, there’s very little that is beyond LIVS’ scope of care.

McKenna, a Cedarhurst resident and one of the original members of the crew that came over from Levittown, said that he’s always had an affinity for animals. While he initially served as a veterinary technician, he eventually transitioned over to administrative duties, eventually becoming head administrator for the facility.

“It just seemed like a natural evolution where I moved into a managerial position,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed working with animals, but my mindset has changed to ‘How can I take care of the people who take care of the animals?’ Even though my hands are no longer directly on the animals, I want to make sure they’re being taken care of and that they leave here happy and healthy.”

Long Island Veterinary Specialists’ area of expertise doesn’t simply cover the usual gamut of dogs and cats. They also handle all manner of exotics, raging anywhere from reptiles to horses to birds and just about anything else you can name that walks, crawls, flies or hops.

In addition to serving the needs of the local pet population, Long Island Veterinary Specialists has relationships with zoos, the military and law enforcement as well. Many of these agencies rely upon LIVS to not only treat their canines, but to also train their two-legged members on how to properly care for them as well, McKenna said.

“We’ve done work with various military and police agencies to help them with canines in their operations,” he said. “There are times when the dogs are relied upon very much for the safety of the soldiers, and if the dog ends up in a bad situation, the soldier wants to be able to provide care. So, we help train soldiers on how to perform emergency care for canines, such as CPR, applying a tourniquet, things like that so they can get them to the next level of care.”

A real-time x-ray machine that allows doctors to take live images of their patients without the need to wait for results.

Heather Fields of East Northport works at LIVS as a veterinary assistant, and said that her profession is indeed a very fulfilling one.

“It’s very rewarding, taking care of animals that are sick and making them well and sending them home to their owners,” she said. “In an average day, I’ll deal with at least 20 animals, suffering from all manner of ailments, and it’s such a good feeling to see them getting the care that they need and to see them recover and improve, day by day.”

While mainly handling referrals for specialty treatment, LIVS nonetheless maintains an emergency walk-in care facility as well that is open a staggering 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. McKenna said, if your cat, canary or corn snake falls ill at 3 a.m. on Christmas Day, you’ll always have a place to rush them for the urgent care that they need.

“Since we first opened our doors in 1998, we have never closed them,” he said. “We have our own generator, so during any blackout, during Hurricane Sandy, anything, we’ve always been fully operational 24-7. We’re here for the community, and we like to reach out and help by working with charities like the Ronald McDonald House. Having specialty care for animals locally is important, and since we’ve opened we’ve been a good thing for Long Island.”

To find out more about Long Island Veterinary Specialists, visit their website at



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