As a child, Dina Steineker preferred stuffed animals to dolls.
When it came to the real thing, though, allergies kept her from getting a pet – “which made me want them so much more,” she said.
She’s making up for it now.
Steineker, who earned her veterinary degree from Kansas State University in 2010, opened the Animal Health Center at Harry and George Washington Boulevard last month.
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Steineker is trying several tactics to set her clinic apart in what she says is a crowded market for veterinarians.
For one, the Animal Health Center is a walk-in clinic that requires no appointment and stays open during the noon hour and on Saturday afternoons. One of three assistants on her staff used to be a dental assistant and so is an expert on teeth cleaning, a new area of emphasis in the care of pets.
“We strive to clean teeth just as clean as yours would be,” Steineker said.
She picked the location because that area of Wichita has relatively few veterinary clinics.
She does most of her lab work in-house to get the results of blood tests in minutes rather than days.
Finally, there’s her specialty – pocket pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters and rats. She also treats dogs and cats, offering general veterinary care and minor surgery, such as spaying and neutering. One of her professional goals is to receive training in orthopedic surgery.
Steineker originally majored in business in college but realized she wanted to be a veterinarian after completing an externship with one. After college, Steineker worked as a relief veterinarian for several clinics and as an associate at Arapahoe Veterinary Clinic.
“The only thing you can be prepared for is you cannot be prepared for anything,” she said of running a walk-in clinic. “Really, you’ve got to prepare for anything.”
Steineker outgrew her allergies long ago and amassed a menagerie of pets, which today include a cat, dog, guinea pig and two rabbits.
At the clinic on Tuesday, Steineker weighed, examined and took blood samples from a diabetic 13-year-old tabby named Bootsy, brought in by Jennifer and Dave Davis.
The couple said that when Bootsy seemed disoriented on a recent Sunday, they contacted Steineker through Facebook and quickly got her cellphone number as well as advice on what to do.
“She walked us through what to do, or else we would have been a mess,” Dave Davis said.
“He’s got good parents,” Steineker said of Bootsy.
Then, for Steineker, it was on to a Pekinese puppy brought in for vaccinations.