Healing Touch
Bucks County Veterinary Emergency Trauma Services and Bucks Animal Rehabilitation Center provide vital treatment for sick, injured and recovering animals of all types
by Bill Donahue

Katrina S. Jackson, V.M.D., grew up in Hunterdon County, N.J., surrounded by dogs, cats and chickens, even Standardbred racehorses. Her childhood experiences fostered the development of a lifelong love of animals of all sorts, a devotion that inevitably led her to a career in veterinary medicine. When she opened her own veterinary practice—Bucks County Veterinary Emergency Trauma Services (Bucks VETS)—in 2001, she decided nearly every animal under the sun would have access to the hospital’s expert care.

Bucks VETS is anything but a typical veterinary practice. The practice provides around-the-clock hospital care and potentially lifesaving treatment for medical and trauma-related emergencies during times when a regular veterinarian is unavailable. When a pet owner in Bucks County or eastern Montgomery County needs emergency treatment for, say, a dog suffering from seizures, a diabetic cat or even an injured bearded dragon, he or she can take comfort in knowing that urgent care in the hands of highly qualified veterinary professionals is only a brief car ride away.

“Dogs, cats, turtles, guinea pigs, hamsters, snakes, rabbits, exotics—you name it, we treat it,” says Dr. Jackson, who earned her degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (and now lives in Upper Bucks County, where her pets include sheep, a nearsighted cat named Winky and a pond full of koi). “We don’t do many fish, but we do treat a fair amount of birds, all the way from finches to macaws. Some patients need minor outpatient care while others require lengthy medical workups and intensive hospitalized care.”

Staffed by a team of experienced emergency veterinarians and licensed technicians, Bucks VETS can perform surgical interventions to address serious conditions such as bloat, laceration repair, abscesses and C-sections. The staff also offers critical care services such as diagnostic monitoring and other specialized treatments, ranging from oxygen therapy and ECG monitoring to fluid therapy and blood transfusions. Bucks VETS has a full lab on site, in addition to digital X-rays—“just like a human hospital,” according to Dr. Jackson, 

“With the digital X-rays, we’re able to give [pets’ owners] a disc with their pets’ X-rays right on it so they can take it to their regular veterinarian, if needed,” she says. “We have ultrasound equipment that can be used as a scanning tool to detect internal bleeding and abdominal tumors—things that would lead to us into emergency surgery. We also have two oxygen cages that create an oxygenated environment with two and a half times the oxygen of air in a normal room. That’s ideal for a pet with a collapsed lung or a heart condition, and it can provide lifesaving treatment until they are stable enough for further tests or surgery.”

Bucks VETS has grown to offer much more than just emergency care and hospital treatment. The practice has expanded to include a separate, self-contained operation known as Bucks Animal Rehabilitation Center (BARC), which is nearly 100 percent referral based.

Led by Natalie Lucyk, D.V.M., BARC offers a comprehensive program of exercise and therapeutic modalities for pets in need of physical therapy for pain relief, weight loss and postoperative return to function. Patients that come to BARC for treatment are examined closely by veterinary professionals to assess their impairments, functional limitations and other health-related conditions. A veterinary professional then determines a diagnosis, intervention plan and the potential for long-term recovery.

“Rehabilitation is usually always rewarding, because the patient always benefits,” says Dr. Lucyk, who started working at the practice 13 years ago as a veterinary technician and then left to attend veterinary school. “A complete cure might not be ultimately reached, but there is almost always some kind of pain relief or improvement. After the initial evaluation we will usually formulate a treatment protocol and, depending on the patient’s progress, we either continue on or change the protocol until we arrive at the right result. Most animals successfully finish the active rehab program in six to eight weeks. Owners usually go home with instructions for continued exercise goals to prevent relapse.”

One of the most effective means of therapy offered by BARC is the aquatic treadmill— essentially, a treadmill inside a glass tank filled with water, which enables a patient to walk or run in a weight-free environment against the natural resistance of water. This piece of equipment can be used to accelerate a pet’s recovery from surgery, reduce the effects of arthritis or even repair an injury without surgery; it can even serve as a form of exercise to promote weight loss. In addition, BARC offers a number of other therapies to stimulate a patient’s recovery, including massage, therapeutic ultrasound, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, pulsed signal therapy and laser treatments.

“With the hydro treadmill, it’s good for dogs that need to rehabilitate their hips, knees, spine, or neck after surgery,” says Dr. Lucyk, who graduated from St. Matthews University School of Veterinary Medicine, completed her clinical rotations at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and completed the veterinary physical therapy program at North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine. “Sometimes we’re using it to work with animals on something as simple as weight loss or helping animals with cardiac conditions where they need to be in a controlled environment like ours for safe and effective exercise treatment.

“For the future, we’re hoping to gain even more space for another hydro treadmill or a pool,” she continues. “We currently offer some great therapies, and we want to continue to build upon the ways we’re able to help animals on the road to recovery.”

In addition to Drs. Jackson and Lucyk, the Bucks VETS staff includes Tanya Emslie, D.V.M., and Sean Hoffman, D.V.M., among others. Despite Bucks VETS’ already impressive team, Dr. Jackson intends to further enhance the practice’s capabilities by adding even more veterinary professionals with expertise in different areas of specialty.

“We already had a specialist in ophthalmology, and we are now looking to add new specialties slowly but surely,” she says. “We would have a specialty practitioner available one or two days a week in areas like cardiology, internal medicine, dermatology and neurology. That way, we can use the practice facilities during the day to provide comprehensive services in the specialty realm. We have already started to inquire about the availability of boarded specialists in the area.”

Dr. Jackson admits that helping animals can require significant demands of her time, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. The satisfaction she receives from getting a sick or injured animal back on its feet—not to mention providing pet owners with peace of mind—is well worth the sacrifice.

“This has been a very rewarding career, and I don’t think I would have done anything different,” she says. “Sometimes I might miss out on some family things—a birthday here, a wedding there—but that’s the nature of what we do. If a patient needs to have a doctor here, then that’s where we are.”

Bucks County Veterinary Emergency Trauma Services

Bucks Animal Rehabilitation Center

978 Easton Road
Warrington, PA 18796

Photograph by Kim Billingsley