By Sabina Mollot
Gramercy resident and veterinarian Timothy Mann, who used to own a practice in Brooklyn, will be bringing his skills closer to home on Valentine’s Day, when he’ll be opening Whole Health, a holistic veterinary hospital and dental clinic on First Avenue.
The animal hospital is opening at 335 First Avenue, opposite Stuyvesant Town, which was last home to the French Cleaners dry-cleaning shop. Already the space has been rebuilt, complete with a mural of pets on the storefront’s grates, painted by street artist Vince.
This week, Mann spoke with Town & Village about what pet owners can expect at Whole Health and what it means to offer holistic health services to pets.
Mainly, Mann said he wanted to offer a more personal approach to care, from trying alternative treatments like herbal medication or acupuncture to encouraging alternatives to vaccination.
In particular with older dogs, Mann said that idea is to first see if there are other forms of treatment available that don’t run the risks of side effects. This would be checked with tests to see how the dog would respond to vaccines before they actually go through getting one.
“We vaccinate as a knee-jerk reaction,” said Mann. “Vaccines can save lives but they can also cause side effects.” The precautionary lab work, however, he said, “is cheaper than a vaccine, so you save money and do better for your pet.”
Another thing he wants to do is bring a warmer and fuzzier approach to euthanasia. This will be done by offering pet owners use of a “zen room,” a secluded section of the building with a fountain and a color scheme courtesy of a feng shui expert that’s designed to be calming. This will be where clients can spend final moments with a pet without feeling rushed or even like they’re in a vet’s office.
“There’ll be a sense of privacy,” said Mann. “You don’t want to feel like you’re in an examination room.”
Mann added that he often thinks there’s more than one approach to each patient’s treatment.
“I like the idea of complementary,” he said. “(At vets’ offices,) you see ‘ear worms in room one, UTI in room two.’ You have to look at the whole animal. If a vaccine is the best treatment, great, but maybe the best course of action is through homeopathy or acupuncture for an older dog who can’t handle medication. It’s more tools in the tool box.”
He gave an example of a success story in his own dog, Ruby, an older rottweiler-poodle mix who had been adopted four times, and returned four times, before Mann took her from the ASPCA.
“Each time she would pee in the house, and they thought she had hip issues,” said Mann. “And you couldn’t touch her head. She was a puppy and she didn’t like it, which is what made people not want her.”
But Mann said after giving her an X-ray, he learned that Ruby had a tooth root abscess. “That’s what was giving her urinary tract infections and that’s what was making her head-shy,” he said. But after removing the bad tooth, while she still had some issues with her hips, she no longer had any other health or shyness issues. “That basically saved her life,” said Mann. “Now we use her to train other shy dogs. Everybody loves her.”
Whole Health won’t just be for cats and dogs, though. Mann said he welcomes all animal patients, having treated many during some educational trips abroad from a breeder’s sheep to tigers in need of dental work.
“It makes you a smarter vet,” he said of his work in other states and countries. “You can apply it to cats and dogs.”
Mann’s center will also offer stem cell treatment, which he said is cheaper than what many people might think. “It’s $800 and it’s an option for older dogs,” he said.
There will also be microchip services, which Mann recommends, noting that a dog that was microchipped in the Bronx after two years of being missing was found through the chip at his old practice. The dog’s owner, who had gotten the dog from his son who died in Iraq, was naturally thrilled to be reunited.
This story, along with other experiences Mann has had a vet over the last 12 years, will be included in a book he wrote called The Beautiful Aardvark. The book is mainly about his previous practice, Brooklyn Cares, and focuses on the growth of that business on the border of the Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy neighborhoods as well as other businesses in the newly swank-ified area.
“Now everyone wants to be there,” said Mann. “We had a yoga pre-school open at the same time (as us) and an independent coffee shop.”
The book, which is self-published, features interviews with owners of those other businesses as well as some personal stories, and Mann hopes it will be released by the time Whole Health opens.
As for his old practice, Mann said he recently sold his interest in it after a partner he’d brought in a while back took the business in a “more corporate” direction he didn’t like.
“I thought it was time to part ways amicably,” he said.
Though not due to its growth, Brooklyn Cares did make headlines in the New York Post in 2014 when a dog owner was allowed to tattoo his pooch as it was sedated during surgery.
When asked about this, Mann said he was not made aware of the tattooing incident until after it happened, and promised nothing like that would ever happen on First Avenue.
“I wasn’t involved. It’s something I don’t agree with,” he said.
Other things Mann said he doesn’t agree with are cosmetic surgical procedures for pets (like tail clipping) and cat de-clawing, so those services will not be available at Whole Health.
“We’re part of a no de-clawing movement,” said Mann.
On Valentine’s Day, there will be an open house from 10 to 4 p.m., during which time pets can get free exams and treats and even take pictures with their owners at a photo booth.