Dr. Nancy O. Brown, owner of Hickory Veterinary Hospital in Plymouth Meeting, is seen here with her husband of 35 years, Dr. William J. Kay, the presiding neurologist at the the 24-hour animal hospital. The couple are joined by their nearly 15-year-old Labrador named Woman of Whitemarsh or “Marsh” for short. The staff deals with the issue of euthanasia on a daily basis. (Photo courtesy Hickory Animal Hospital)

by Barbara Sherf

Dr. Nancy O. Brown, owner of Hickory Veterinary Hospital on Hickory Road in Plymouth Meeting, has some tips for keeping older pets comfortable and for helping pet owners decide when it’s time to help their beloved animal “pass over the Rainbow Bridge.”

Dr. Brown’s late father, Dr. William J. Brown, started the family legacy of veterinary medicine in 1942 when he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. In that same year he opened his first practice, Mt. Airy Veterinary Hospital, on Mt. Airy Avenue, just east of Germantown.

“My father’s mother had been a dog breeder and offered a portion of the property in Mt. Airy to help him set up his first practice,” said Dr. Brown, noting that the Mt. Airy practice grew quickly, and a second location in Plymouth Meeting was established in 1958.

Patriarch Dr. William J. Brown eventually sold the Mt. Airy practice to concentrate growth efforts in Plymouth Meeting with Hickory Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Brown purchased the facility from her father in 1983 and became a board-certified veterinary surgeon and founding fellow of surgical oncology.

According to their website, in 1970 Hickory Veterinary Hospital was awarded accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and has maintained the status for 50 years. In 2014 Hickory received AAHA accreditation as a Referral Specialty Hospital in surgery, oncology and for emergencies.

A practicing veterinarian for 40 years, Dr. Brown is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1973. Her husband of 35 years, William J. Kay, is the presiding neurologist at the facility, although their 32-year-old son, Dr. William J. Kay, Jr., helps when he is not practicing veterinary medicine in Little Falls, New Jersey. Dr. Brown’s son and daughter-in-law both graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2014.

“If you are in this business, you’d better love what you do because the hours are long, and cases can get complex,” said Dr. Brown, who lives a few miles from the hospital.

Speaking in between surgical procedures, Dr. Brown stressed the importance of getting routine blood work, urine samples, x-rays and even an echocardiogram or MRI as a pet ages to be better informed about the issues the pet might have. “Pets can’t tell us if there is something wrong, so it’s critical that we keep our eyes and ears open and advocate for them as they become seniors.

“At some point, you have to address the quality of life issues for the pet and the owners. Is there pleasure to the day or is it more of a hospice situation …

“We can offer much needed medical help to our aging pets to control or counter the progression of disease. For example, an arthritic dog may respond to pain medications and rehabilitation programs, or a dog or cat with heart disease can respond to diuretics and cardiac medications.”

Dr. Brown and her husband share their home with an almost 15-year-old Labrador named Woman of Whitemarsh, more fondly called “Marsh” by family and staff. Marsh can’t hear and has cognitive issues.

“Unless there are obvious decisions to be made with an abrupt acute disease, the decision to euthanize can be very difficult for a pet with a slowly progressing disease. It is the owner’s responsibility to do what is fair for the pet. A veterinarian can certainly help guide owners in the process. The problem is we live longer lives, and pets live 15 years more or less, and it’s not always so easy, especially since pets often become members of the family.”

Hickory Veterinary Hospital is at 2303 Hickory Rd. in Plymouth Meeting. In addition to the 24-hour hospital, Hickory offers a pet lodge as well as crematorium services. For more information, call 610-828-3054 or visit hickoryvet.com

Flourtown resident Barbara Sherf tells the stories of businesses and individuals through CommunicationsPro.com. You can email her at CaptureLifeStories@gmail.com or call 215-9909317. She and her husband are caring for a rescued Golden Retriever named Tucker, who is estimated to be 14 years old.