Russ: Hi, I’m Russ Capper and this is BusinessMakers USA, brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance. Still today in Charlotte, North Carolina, and my guest now is Steve Bonilla, Co-founder and Hospital Administrator with Passionate Paws. Steve, welcome to the show.
Steve: Thanks, Russ.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about Passionate Paws.
Steve: Well, we are the pet hospital for pet parents, to start with. Our focus from the very beginning was to design a hospital that was unique to pet parents.
Russ: Ok, pet parents meaning pet owners who care a whole lot about their pets?
Steve: A whole lot, yes. They actually look at their fur children as actual children.
Russ: What’s different about Passionate Paws than a regular veterinary service?
Steve: For one, we’re an integrative practice, which means we are using eastern and western philosophies together to treat the whole pet. We’re not just looking at the disease that you might be coming in for if the pet is sick.
Russ: That’s the western method.
Steve: That’s right. We’re looking at the bigger picture. We want to know exactly what the root causes are of what’s going on.
Russ: Such as, what?
Steve: If you have arthritis, for example, a lot of traditional veterinarians would just give you a pain medication. As pet parents have evolved from pet ownership, they’re not looking for those things anymore. They’re saying, ‘What more can we do? There must be something else.’ Some pets, at a certain age, can’t have those medications, so we use acupuncture, as an example.
Russ: That’s interesting because my wife is giving our dog supplements for arthritis, too. Do you guys do that?
Steve: Yeah, we do a lot of supplements. As a rehab therapist, she does a lot of supplements for arthritis, for joints, pain, sometimes food allergies, that kind of stuff.
Russ: Ok, and that works on dogs?
Steve: It does, it does work. It works really well.
Russ: Are there other things you can ingest, a dog can, to help them?
Steve: We actually started working with CBD oil, or what people might consider medical marijuana. It’s not really medical marijuana, it doesn’t have the THC component in it.
Russ: But it’s derived—
Steve: But it is derived from there. So, it’s pretty fascinating to see, it really works. We actually give it to two of our dogs and it works really well.
Russ: How do they behave?
Steve: Normal. Completely normal.
Russ: Interesting. And your wife must be the other co-founder?
Steve: Yes, my wife, Susan Bonilla, she is the doctor right now.
Russ: So, she is a veterinarian.
Steve: She’s a veterinarian.
Russ: And practices acupuncture?
Steve: Yes, acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy as well.
Russ: Chiropractic, physical therapy? So, those are kind of practices that it seems to me like aren’t easy to perform on an animal.
Steve: No, it definitely takes a trust, a buildup between her and the patient so that they feel comfortable—especially with chiropractic, it’s a manipulation and so sometimes it’s not always comfortable because they are in pain. Certainly with physical therapy it’s a little bit easier in the sense that much like humans, where you have to do a series of exercises to build back up, she works a lot with post-op patients from, let’s say recovering from a spinal surgery or they have some kind of degenerative disease with hind legs where they’re not able to walk as well, or maybe someone had a limb removed, so it had to get them back to walking, just like humans.
Steve: That’s like a series of different kinds of exercises and also some manipulations. And then, she also does other things; in cases where luxating patella, let’s say, or a partially torn cruciate, she’s going to fit them for braces if they’re a good match for that. She actually has the ability to fit them and measure them and do the whole casting and then send that all in and then they get a customized brace for their pet.
Russ: In addition to these very progressive practices, does she do normal veterinarian procedures, like surgeries and stuff like that?
Steve: Oh yeah. We definitely do regular routine surgeries; spays, neuters, we do abdominal exploratories, and then of course we do all of our dental work as well. Because she has advanced training in dental, she actually does a couple more things like bone grafts that your traditional vet might not do. We also use digital dental x-rays with every dental that we do. There’s no point in doing the dental, just like on us, if we didn’t take x-rays.
Russ: I’m sitting here sort of agreeing with everything that you’re saying. I didn’t know about all of this.
Steve: It’s a lot.
Russ: It is. There’s got to be instances where the dog or the cat doesn’t allow these procedures. Does that happen often?
Steve: It doesn’t happen too often, no. If she does have a case where a patient isn’t as receptive to the treatment, then we try to see how we can get them to be receptive. It might just mean coming back a little more often. We do loving sessions where a pet parent will come in with their pet and for nothing else other than to get treats and some attention. Again, it’s all about building that rapport.
Russ: Did she have to go get training for the acupuncture and the chiropractic?
Steve: Yes. Prior to us opening up Passionate Paws, she had gone, pretty much straight out of vet school she decided she wanted to do acupuncture and physical therapy. It took her a little over a year to get both of those certifications, and then while she was working as a veterinarian she went and got her chiropractic certification. In March she had just attended the start of her certification for food therapy.
Russ: Food therapy.
Steve: Food therapy. That’s the next big thing with pet parents is they want to know, what are we feeding our dogs and cats.
Russ: If you really care about food therapy do you still go and buy dog food or are you actually buying food at the grocery store and preparing it specially?
Steve: It really does depend on, one, what the pet parent’s belief is, as well as what’s going to be good for the patient at hand. There are cases—and also time, right? It takes time to cook a lot of this stuff. Some people go in it thinking, yeah, that’s what I want to do, and they realize, I don’t even cook for my own family let alone cook for my dog, so is there another thing we can do? We are actually looking at a food product right now called Honest Kitchen, which is a pretty cool product. We actually started using it on our own dogs, and that’s dehydrated. You just add a little warm water and it’s a really good food, it’s well balanced and it’s all natural. It’s actually human grade quality ingredients made in a human grade facility. We’ve been pretty happy with how our dogs have been reacting to that.
Russ: I guess the thinking is that fresh food is better, like we’ve sort of graduated for human food.
Steve: Yeah, staying away from the kibbles, because it’s simple carbs, so it’s sugar. We wonder why our pets are gaining wait sometimes.
Russ: Even food for humans has veered multiple times. Do we expect that to happen too with dog food?
Steve: Probably, because we’ve already kind of seen that where we’ve started with the grocery store and your typical Purina, Pedigree type food, the kibble-based stuff, and then we’ve kind of moved into, well, maybe we can do something a little bit different, a higher-grade kibble. So, you have your Royal Canine and your Hills, and even your high grade Purinas. And now we’ve kind of moved into raw, right? We’ve got to do a raw died. Everybody has got to be on a raw died. That’s good for some pets, not good for all pets. And then, of course, from a human perspective we have to be careful with not getting bacteria like salmonella from handling that. It’s a tough thing.
Russ: It’s complicated.
Steve: It’s complicated. If you’ve walked into any PetSmart and looked down the food aisles, it’s complicated. And then we’re looking at the dehydrated foods and cooking your own foods. Some small companies are actually preparing sort of like the ingredients they send to your house now to make your own foods and stuff. They’ll kind of do something similarly where they’re preparing those meals and then sending them to your house.
Russ: My goodness. Fascinating story, for sure. Where do you guys see your company, Passionate Paws, four or five years from now?
Steve: I think we’re definitely going to be a much bigger practice than we are right now. We’ve just hired our first associate, so that’s pretty exciting for us. I do see us opening up a second location within that same time frame and just continuing on from there.
Russ: Well, Steve, thanks a whole lot. That’s really an interesting story and I wish you guys good luck.
Steve: Thank you.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Steve Bonilla, Co-founder and hospital administrator with Passionate Paws. And this is BusinessMakers USA.
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