The American Heritage Animal Hospital is Small in Size But Big in Heart

by Heidi Campbell

Dr. Cat McGinnis, known to her veterinary customers as “Dr. Cat,” is the owner of American Heritage Animal Hospital in Snellville. She recognized her passion for working with animals at a young age, and worked in veterinary hospitals ever since she was fifteen. When she was ten, she got her first dog. The deal she made with her parents was that if she got a dog, she had to promise to take care of it. She promised over and over. On the way home, the new puppy became carsick and started to wretch. “In my great attempt to prove to my dad that I would take care of the dog,” recalls Dr. Cat with a grin, “I put my hands under the dog’s mouth to catch the vomit!”

Born and raised in Decatur, Dr. Cat graduated from the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008, gained experience doctoring small animals and horses in South Carolina, and moved back to the Atlanta area to open her veterinary hospital in 2013. She has four dogs of her own – a Great Dane, a spunky mixed breed, and two Chihuahuas – and enjoys her regular boarding guests and rescue dogs. “I have customers who tell me all the time,” Dr. Cat admits, “that they think I love their pets as much or more than they do. And I do!”

American Heritage Animal Hospital, which currently offers half price exams for new clients, is a small practice with a full range of services for dogs and cats. The practice provides all preventative care and surgeries, and Dr. Cat works to stay within a family budget, which she believes is a major advantage to a smaller practice. “I’m not a veterinary conglomerate,” she explains, “so I can really tailor the care here to meet the individual needs of my customers.”

Many clients board their cats and dogs at the hospital where they are treated like family members. They are kept in runs where they interact with the people working in the kennel, and they get to go out for three walks a day in their fenced back yard. Frequently, boarding guests who prove they get along with other animals will get time to hang around up front as well. The office is one that truly loves animals and treats them like their own, which makes it hard when they have to put an animal down. “I’ve had quite a few people come to me when they need to put their pet down because they have heard that I’m caring and compassionate about it,” says Dr. Cat about one of the most difficult parts of her job. “It is heartbreaking for all of us when the life of a pet is at its end.”

While there are sad days in her field, Dr. Cat has countless inspiring days as well. She recently had a man bring in his Pomeranian. The dog was completely weak and barely moving. When she looked closely at the dog’s skin, she realized that it was covered with fleas, which were making the dog anemic. She did not need to run any additional expensive tests; she simply administered a Capstar to kill the fleas. She kept the dog overnight, and the next day he was up eating and livelier. “I love being able to diagnose and treat these animals,” Dr. Cat says. “People come in thinking that they are going to have to put their animal to sleep, and I’m elated when a pet gets better.”

Dr. Cat enjoys helping the community, and donates her time, talent, and resources to three different Great Dane rescue organizations. She works with the fostered animals to provide medical care and to find loving homes, is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and takes part in numerous local festivals. “Whenever I can, I like to teach people how to be better pet owners,” says Dr. Cat.

Students benefit from the guidance of Dr. Cat as she works with three different student programs. She has an active Explorer program where high school kids come and shadow her work. This opportunity, developed by the Boy Scouts of America, enables kids to really see if they want a career in veterinary science. She also has a Veterinarian Assistant program that helps students at the Animal Behavioral College get their clinic hours for certification. Finally, she provides clinic hours for Grayson Tech’s Veterinarian Tech students. Dr. Cat says, “I like to teach the students about animal care and what they should be doing. Students learn to draw blood and run heartworm and fecal tests.”

American Heritage Animal Hospital is a small practice with a big heart. Dr. Cat isn’t afraid to educate her clients along with her students. She encourages pet dietary health, and doesn’t shy from suggesting alternative treats such as baby carrots and green beans to help control a pet’s weight. “I believe in being completely straightforward with people,” Dr. Cat shares. “I will never run unnecessary tests, and I will always be truthful with what a pet needs.”

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