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For almost 20 years now Dr. Chris Hoolian has been a veterinarian. To quote him, “It’s funny, I don’t feel like I’m one of the old vets, but I actually am now.” Chris definitely has a young, vibrant energy about him, and instantly puts you at ease with his genuinely friendly nature.  In 1997 he graduated veterinary school at UC Davis, completing his undergraduate school. He followed with a year longinternship at South Paws Veterinary Referral Center, an emergency critical care center in the Washington DC area.  He wanted to specialize in cardiology, however his wife and he were pregnant with their 2nd child at the time, so his wife told him it would have to wait. Dr. Hoolihan worked emergency for a long time, and again tried to become a specialist this time securing a Residency in Cardiology in Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, that did not work out. 

In 2009 he bought his practice, which he’s owned for over 7 years now. And what a fantastic and friendly practice it is! I was given a behind the scenes tour by Rhonda, their warm and cheerful Practice Managerwhile I waited to speak with Dr. Hoolihan. Everywhere I looked I was greeted with a melodic “Hello!” and warm smile. It’s very clear everyone enjoys being a part of Dr. Hoolihan’s team! 

What  are the top 3 questions to ask when deciding on a Veterinarian?

“The first thing your average person is going to look at is fees.  However, I would be hesitant to make that your number 1 thing. In my experience, asking about vet fees is simply the way to find the least expensive office visit. Less expensive practices are often so overwhelmed and so busy because they see so much, they can’t give you the personal attention.”

“I think the number 1 thing to ask is, how long is your office visit, and how long do I get to spend with the doctor?  You want to get doctor time for that office fee.  For example, my office visit is $58.50, compared to somebody else down the road’s $58.50 you might only be getting 10 minutes of time from that doctor if that!  Here nothing is less than 15 to 30 minutes of doctor time.  I’ll sit there and talk to you forever because I like that kind of thing. We’re all about having a sit down conversation.  Doctors that are in a hurry to get out of the room, and there’s not really a reason for it like “OMG they just got hit by a huge emergency and there’s 3 hit by cars or something like that.”, that is a red flag.  If in the wellness visit you are not getting a doctor spending enough time with you, and your only seeing the tech, and the doctor comes in and goes “Hey, how are you doing...K Bye,”  I would think you would want more attention given you are paying for professional time.”

“The 2nd question would be; what standards they have for vaccine protocols. For instance if they don’t seem to know what they are talking about, in terms of who recommends what or if theyare not mentioning AAHA’s vaccine protocol, (American Animal Hospital Association,) I would question whether you are getting what is really needed or maybe getting too many vaccines that are unnecessary.

“And the 3rd question, will you work with my pet insurance? That’s a smart question. With pet insurance, you usually have to pay the veterinarians but then it’s reimbursed. A good question to ask is, will your office help me with my pet insurance? That’s important in this day and age.  Anybody that does not have pet insurance I do not know what they are thinking. Veterinary care is just too expensive with ever increasing prices in drug costs and what veterinarians have to do to keep their doors open.  Even a middle of the road guy like me is not cheap when your pet has an illness problem or an emergency.  Preparedness for what can happen to your pet is crucial to pet ownership.

What’s the most common question you receive from a dog owner?

“How much should my dog weigh and isn’t this the cutest dog you’ve ever seen?”

What is the most common reason a dog comes to see you?

“In the summer for sure it’s skin issues. Aside from wellness stuff, the most common issue in my practice is skin problems. Usually it’s flea allergy dermatitis, because people don’t listen and they do not use appropriate flea control. To do it right, you have to pay a bit more, because the stuff that’s cheap doesn’t work so they get into trouble unless they’re lucky.  Second closest reason we see pets would be vomiting and/or diarrhea.”

How often should you bathe your dog?

“This is an individual dog answer, anywhere from once a month to never just depending on the dog. There are dogs that never get bathed, and it’s not necessarily wrong. If the dog truly has skin issues for instance, let’s say they are a dog that has allergies to their environment, more frequent bathing actually washes away the allergens so it’s better for them. You could bathe that dog 3 times a week if you had to. It’s best to ask your vet what they would recommend on an individual basis.”

What is your number one piece of advice to give a client when getting a brand new puppy?

“Know what you are getting involved in specifically as it relates to the breed you are getting.  I can’t tell you how many people think “Oh this is such a cute dog breed!” and then they go and get a Vizsla and they have an apartment and work 12 hours a day. This is a high energy dog that needs at least an hour of activity time that is stuck in the apartment.  Why did you get a Vizsla if you live in a 12 story apartment if the dog is going to be there 12 hours while you’re working every day? You should get a dog that’s going to fit your lifestyle, and don’t be mad at the dog when it doesn’t fit the lifestyle because you chose inappropriately. I really think people need to look at what their lifestyle is, what expectation they have, because maybe the answer is get a cat. Certain breeds will get anxiety because they have all of that energy, so crate training can be recommended. 

                                                                       Hi Gretel!

                                                                       Hi Gretel!

Do you have a favorite breed of dog?

“I have a personal affection for dachshunds, I just love dachshunds. I kind of grew up with them. I didn’t have one in my house but my grandparents and family friends did. I jumped at the chance to get one when I could because it was a puppy being rejected by the owner, and I was like “I’ll take her if you’re not going to!” and I still have her. I also love lab mix/retrievers.  I have two dogs, Tessie the lab mix and Gretel is my dachshund.”


Along with a standard veterinary practice, you will also find inside an animal rehabilitation center, Pawsitive Rehabilitation. Just a handful of treatments they offer include, hydrotherapy, theraputic exercise, and custom wheelchairs. Please check out their website for more information.

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Thank you to Dr. Chis Hoolihan and his fantastic team for participating in this week's Zen Vet blog feature. Please click here for more information about Pacific Beach Veterinary Clinic, and be sure to check out their great Facebook page!