31 October 2019 Written by  By Heather Mckinney
Published in November 2019 Articles

aurora is a 20-lb, mixed-breed puppy with the sweetest eyes. She has droopy ears and a curious head tilt that invites you over to her. Seeing this playful puppy, it’s hard to imagine her painful story … until you see her scars. 

On June 22, Aurora’s life almost ended. At 3-weeks old, she was brought into Antioch Veterinary Hospital with severe chemical burns. Given the extent of the injury, it was assumed she would need to be put to sleep. However, what started as an appointment for euthanasia quickly turned into an adoption and commitment to healing. 

Vet Tech Noelle Huddleston named the badly injured puppy “Aurora,” and the entire team fought to save her life. Dr. Ken Gonsier performed a revolutionary cold laser treatment—which regenerated cell growth—every day for more than a week, followed by a twice-a-week treatment. As the burn scabs began to heal, Dr. Rosemary Panduro performed a surgery to separate her tail from the skin on her back. Aurora slept at home with her new family, Faith (a 2-year-old rescue dog) and Noelle. And every day for two and a half months, she came to work with Noelle to continue treatment and care. The veterinarians treated her with antibiotics and delicate cleaning; and as time progressed, she healed.

“Aurora is a great dog, very smart and friendly,” Noelle said. “Laser therapy is amazing. And, the surgery that Dr. Panduro did allowed her to have a functioning tail. She’s a happy dog, so that thing is always wagging.” 

Aurora’s story is one example of the dedication and compassion Antioch Veterinary Hospital has for their patients. Finding the right help for a pet is essential. In fact, it could be the difference between life and death. 

Apart from loving care, like this, what other characteristics should you look for when selecting a veterinarian? Here are five areas you should always consider: 


“In veterinary medicine, you have to have an affinity and passion for animals,” explained practice owner Dr. Howard Schutzman. “This also makes it hard because we see things that can be pretty upsetting. But for every situation, we take a loving approach, and we care.” 

A pet clinic or hospital should always provide a calm, caring environment. There is a level of empathy involved in treating animals as you would your own family member. 


“When someone shows up, we are going to try to help him in any way possible,” Dr. Schutzman said. “We know it takes a lot of effort to bring in an animal. No dog or cat comes in here on their own. We respect the effort the owners have made, and we will always find a way to help them without judgment.” 

There isn’t always a single solution for each ailment. Instead, it should be a gradient of care. The best care happens when a veterinarian looks at each situation and provides options that work with their budget and life situation. Pet medical care is expensive and often unexpected. 

Veterinarians can offer a plan A and a plan B. If hospitalization isn’t financially possible, staff can sometimes stabilize the animal. And once he is no longer critical, find a way to offer at-home care. They can teach the pet owner how to do partial treatment at home, providing the necessary medication, instructions and resources. 

“We do whatever is necessary,” Dr. Schutzman said. “If you have a very strict protocol, you will lose patients. And our goal is to save the life of every animal. We always want to give options, because it’s the right thing to do.” 



“There are choices in technology, and we are very proud of the equipment that we have here at Antioch Veterinary Hospital,” Dr. Schutzman said. 

Clinics decide what devices they purchase and whether they will offer in-house services like lab work, radiation therapy, ultrasounds or x-rays. Often, having these machines in their offices will save the patients money they would otherwise have to spend on a referral service. Additionally, the most advanced technology is also more effective, allowing for better patient outcomes. 


There is a general code of conduct that all veterinarians are expected to adhere to, known as the Veterinary Medical Ethics (PVME). These principles include putting the needs and safety of the animal first, upholding the standards of professionalism with honesty and integrity and continuing to study, apply and advance scientific knowledge of veterinary medicine.


Communications are evolving, and pet owners shouldn’t be expected to depend on a call-only based veterinarian clinic. Modern practices offer texting, emailing, and online request forms. Pet owners can book appointments online, contact the clinic after-hours or reach the veterinarian with a few clicks on their smartphone. Texting services are both convenient and secure. 

“We strive to be on the forefront of technology,” Dr. Schutzman said. “We realize the importance of communicating when there is a need, and we want to be available to our clients.” 

Some practices even offer or affiliate with online pharmacies to simplify standard, preventative medications, as well as acute prescriptions. 


Antioch Veterinary Hospital has three locations in the East Bay: 5151 Deer Valley Road in Antioch (phone: 925-757-2800), 1432 West Tenth Street in Antioch (phone: 925-757-3600) and Broadway Pet Hospital at 4920 Broadway in Oakland (phone: 510-653-0212). 

They have a staff of more than 90 employees, including Drs. Howard Schutzman, Jennifer Boyle, Ken Gonsier, Rosemary Panduro, Stacy Wright, Ryan Koopmans and Julia Olincy. The clinics operate seven days a week, offering wellness care, vaccinations, dental care, surgery, spay and neuter, allergy care, laser therapy, emergency care, as well as boarding and expert grooming. 

Antioch Veterinary Hospital is an AAHA-Accredited Animal Hospital, which demonstrates their commitment to offering the best medicine and customer service possible. They are Fear Free Certified, offering anxiety resources for animals who need special attention. Additionally, they are a Diamond Certified animal hospital, a distinction they have held for 18 years. 

Photos by Casey Quist

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