When you ask Dr. Terry Tomlin, founding owner of Town & Country Veterinarians, when he knew he wanted to work with animals, he does not hesitate with his answer: “I believe I was born to do this.”
Growing up in Miami, his brothers played sports while he would be fishing, catching lizards and creating a strong bond with animals around him. Terry could frequently be found camping and fishing in the Everglades. He had no doubt his mission in life was to work with animals.
More than 71 million American households have a pet, and most people think of their pets as members of their family. Pet ownership has evolved greatly in the last 30 years with owners sparing no time or expense in the care of their pet.
Understanding the importance of the human-animal bond, Dr. Tomlin and the staff of Town & Country Veterinarians are proud to use science-based medicine with a personalized approach that meets the needs of animals and their “pet parents.” Founded in 1989 by owners Heidi and Terry Tomlin, Town & Country Veterinarians and Pet Resort offers both expert veterinary care with wellness services that can extend the quality and length of a pet’s life.
For many years, Dr. Tomlin, a graduate of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, was the sole practitioner with his wife Heidi as practice manager. They operated and grew in a converted convenience store for 19 years before moving to their current location in a state-of-the-art facility in 2009 that offers both modern technology and comforting surroundings for pets and their owners. Town & Country now has three full-time veterinarians and a very knowledgeable and caring staff.
From basic wellness to intensive care, Town & Country’s veterinarians and veterinary staff use a comprehensive approach to veterinary medicine.
“We recommend the safest possible health care and vaccination schedule, based upon your pet’s age and individual risk factors throughout their various stages of life. Rather than offering predetermined packages, we customize our health care for what is best for each pet,” Terry said. “Our goal is, and always has been, to partner with pet parents on their pets’ care. We are providing care to our patients where the owner/pet parent is the primary health care giver. We need to educate them on things like nutritional requirements and recognizing disease symptoms. We tailor compassionate care for each patient and their parent. I think this partnership differentiates us substantially as a vet practice.”
This partnership also includes very open and transparent lines of communication with pet parents. Pet parents frequently text their care providers or other staff members to ask questions or send photos of symptoms that may be worrying them. When a patient is undergoing a procedure, pet parents typically have constant contact with a member of the staff to check in, providing reassurance and comfort.
Pet parents attest to this personalized and individualized care.
“My dog is 14 years old and I have had her since she was 10 weeks old. We have lived in six different cities and seen countless vets. Nobody has ever made me feel better than Town & Country Vets. Dr. Ziegler is amazing with my little girl! He is genuine and sincere and really cares about our pets,” said a local pet owner and Town & Country client. “As he examines her, he talks to her soothingly, looks at her problems from all angles, and puts together plans that will be best for her by considering her whole picture. He sends a ‘report card’ so I have in writing all that was discussed, and he calls to follow up on our care plans to check on her. You couldn’t find a better vet.”
Town & Country belongs to an exclusive community of only 14 percent of veterinary practices that are accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association. AAHA-accredited hospitals are the only animal hospitals to regularly pass onsite evaluations based on over 900 standards of veterinary care.
AAHA guidelines are professional recommendations that help veterinary teams continue to deliver quality veterinary care, covering everything from dentistry and senior care to nutrition and vaccines. They also require veterinarians and staff to have at least 50 hours of continuing education each year, benefitting the staff and practitioners, the practice and the patients.
“Medicine is changing so rapidly, and the only way to keep up is education. It keeps us abreast of current laws and standards and keeps us practicing science-based medicine, which is our goal,” Heidi said. “We always do what is best for our patients, and if that means referring them to specialists when we cannot adequately handle a situation, we will do that.”
Town & Country Veterinarians also set themselves apart by making sure a visit to the vet doesn’t create high stress and anxiety for pets and pet parents. They are working toward becoming certified in a process that not only monitors pets’ physical health, but also their emotional well-being.
“We recognize that coming to the veterinarian often creates a ‘fear factor’ for pets,” Heidi said. “That may mean ushering a pet into a room early if being around other pets in a reception area causes them fear or apprehension. It could also mean halting the examination process in order to make sure the pet and their parents are as comfortable as possible.”
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more households than ever own specialty or exotic pets, such as fish, ferrets, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, turtles, snakes, lizards and amphibians. More than 13 percent of U.S. households owned a specialty or exotic pet at year-end 2016, a 25 percent increase from 2011.
There are many vets that do not have a lot of experience with or choose not to provide care for these types of animals. Dr. Tomlin considers birds, reptiles, and exotic pets one of his special interests. About 60 percent of his patients are specialty or exotic pets.
“Beyond cats and dogs, people also have a huge bond with their exotic and specialty animals. We see many bearded dragons, pet lizards, snakes, guinea pigs and even rats and mice,” Terry said. “I treat these patients exactly the same way I would treat another animal. These pet parents are just as invested in the care of these pets.”
Along with patients’ lives, the staff at Town & Country understands that death is a part of life. End-of-life care and euthanasia are tragic but necessary parts of veterinary care. When the Tomlins designed their new practice, they specifically designed a “comfort room” for families who do face euthanasia for their pets. There is a special garden and fountain right outside the room to offer the families a peaceful and tranquil place to say goodbye to their beloved pets. Town & Country also offers house call euthanasia for families who would prefer to stay at home.
“Dogs and cats do not live as long as humans, so we realize that death is a part of this process,” Heidi said. “We want to honor this difficult time for a family and do not want to add any more trauma to the process. Families can stay in the comfort room for as long as they need, both before and after euthanasia. We completely respect the grieving process and we know they are saying goodbye to a member of their family.”
There is a separate side entrance and exit right off of the room so that families do not have to walk through the reception area.
“The staff helped us through the tough diagnosis of our young cat with feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and were there every step of the way until we had to put our sweet cat down,” said client Michele Kuhn. “The team at Town & Country made the process as peaceful and easy as possible and I would recommend them to anyone.”
The teamwork and dedication of the entire staff of Town & Country provides a familial atmosphere for pets and their pet parents.
“We have an amazing and happy staff here at Town & Country,” Heidi said. “They greet each pet by name and welcome them as family. They love interacting with pet parents and helping their pets.”
Town & Country goes beyond their doors to give back to the community and help to mentor young aspiring veterinarians. They allow 4H groups from high schools to tour the practice or shadow veterinarians and offer UF vet students clerkships so that they gain real world experience in a private practice.
In Gainesville, Town & Country has helped to support Gainesville Pet Rescue, Alachua County Animal Services, Paws on Parole, the American Cancer Society and Southeastern Guide Dogs. Terry and Heidi have also completed veterinary mission work in Cuba, China and Inner Mongolia.