BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Trixy has no problem eating soft cat food, but she’s been shunning her dry dog food for about a week, so her owner brought her to Veterinary Specialty Center of Ohio for an ultrasound.
As Trixy’s owner stood by, registered vet tech Holly Smith and office manager Amy Graham gently placed the 20-pound pup on her back and soothed her so that Dr. Rachel Bowlus could thoroughly run the ultrasound probe along Trixy’s belly to get a thorough image of her internal organs.
“I love helping owners and veterinarians get a deeper understanding of what might be going on,” said Bowlus, who opened the Veterinary Specialty Center (VSCO) at 210 Farnsworth Rd. last month.
VSCO accepts referrals from general practitioners and appointments made by pet owners with a referring veterinarian. It’s the only center of its kind in Northwest Ohio – offering abdominal, thoracic and musculoskeletal ultrasounds for dogs, cats and exotic pets, as well as ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration and biopsy. VSCO also offers teleradiology with Bowlus interpreting X-rays, contrast studies, CT scans and MRIs from approved facilities.
“I evaluate patients for evidence of cancer. The vet might see a mass or something in an X-ray and I can help confirm that,” she said. “It gives owners peace of mind to know what they’re dealing with and to know their options. I send the results to the vet, and we talk about options.”
During her years of experience in radiology, Bowlus has seen a cockatoo in heart failure, tendon problems in dogs, and plenty of foreign objects – including an embedded porcupine quill. One feline patient had ingested a mouse toy that showed up as a vague outline on an X-ray. Through ultrasound, Bowlus was able to pinpoint the exact location.
While general practice veterinary clinics may take and interpret X-rays, not all have the equipment, time or experience, so they rely on specialists like Bowlus.
“There’s not enough of her in our area,” said Smith, noting that most veterinary specialists of Bowlus’ caliber are in Cleveland or Detroit or at academic institutions.
“And even then, it can be a monthlong wait,” added Graham. “This is a great option for someone local.”
During the pandemic, so many people adopted pets, but at the same time, there’s a national shortage of veterinarians and specialists, Smith noted. The cost to attend vet school can rival or exceed that of med school.
Growing up in Perrysburg, Bowlus showed quarter horses through 4-H and open shows. When her horse, Jenner, developed bladder cancer, the family took him to Michigan, where she saw an equine vet in action. That’s when she decided to enroll at the University of Findlay, where she earned her degree in biology and pre-veterinary medicine. While there, she worked with Dr. Michael Kerns at the university’s western farm, getting firsthand experience in everything from vaccines to surgeries. She also rode on the equestrian team, taking a national championship for horsemanship in her class.
From there, it was on to The Ohio State University, where she planned to specialize in equine medicine – until she discovered how much she enjoyed radiology.
“Radiology allows me to work with all types of animals and people – I get to talk to surgeons and internists and give answers to the owners,” she said.
After graduating summa cum laude from OSU with her doctorate of veterinary medicine (DVM), Bowlus headed west, working at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Denver and earning her board certification in veterinary radiology from Kansas State University. With extensive training in cross-sectional imaging and ultrasonography, Bowlus has worked with emergency, specialty and general practice clinics as a teleradiologist, consulting on imaging cases worldwide. In 2017, she returned to Northwest Ohio and launched her own mobile veterinary radiology practice.
A Middleton Township resident, Bowlus said she began looking for an office close to home and discovered the building that was formerly an office for Dr. Barry Argentine.
“This is feels like home,” she said, looking across the street to Peddlers Alley. With a new park about to open nearby and business growth occurring, Bowlus said she’s excited to be part of the community and has joined the Waterville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Next year, she wants to remodel the outside of the building and will be reaching out to invited veterinary specialists to use her facility as a satellite office when coming to the area. In the field of veterinary medicine, there are specialists in dermatology, neurology, internal medicine and even acupuncture, she said.
For more information, visit www.vsco.vet or call (419) 210-8110.