If Dr. Gerald Johnson’s patients could speak, they would likely give flawless endorsements to the good doctor’s ability to change their lives. And he would probably say he already knows.
Johnson, a doctor of veterinary medicine at Silverthorn Animal Clinic, has a remarkable ability to look into his patients’ animated eyes and communicate at a level that is difficult, if not impossible, to explain. And when he discusses his passion, his own eyes moisten with emotion.
Johnson is no ordinary vet. Although he does practice traditional medicine at his clinic on Powell Road in the Silverthorn Shopping Center, he also specializes in alternative treatments.
Kala Johnston, the clinic’s owner and Johnson’s wife, said her husband is one of the few vets in the area that practices holistic and chiropractic treatments on his patients. “He’s very specialized in what he does,” Johnston said. “He’s even been to China to study.”
Dr. Johnson graduated in 1982 from the University of Florida with a DVM degree. That laid the groundwork for his practice and triggered his obsession to continue his education into other areas of treatment. He went on to obtain his certification in acupuncture by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.
He also joined the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture, the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
After thirty years of veterinary practice, Dr. Johnson said his focus is becoming more geared toward alternative medicine. “I guess it started with acupuncture,” he said, which then led to an interest in Chinese Herbal Medicine.
His interest in homeopathic remedies, triggered by questions from clients, led to chiropractic and massage therapies. He added Chinese Herbal medicines and began prescribing diets to manage disease, especially cancer treatments and geriatrics.
“One thing led to the next and I found, overall, that it just gave me a better perspective on prescribing and diagnosing and especially helped with the physical exams.”
Running a general practice with alternative options allows Dr. Johnson to recognize different ailments and diseases from a broader view, and to treat them more effectively.
“Every kidney failure isn’t the same. Every heart failure isn’t the same. Every seizure isn’t the same,” he said. “You balance it on what you observe; bringing the body back into balance is the goal.”
And he has observed quite a bit, Kala Johnston added. “He has had some amazing cases.” She described her favorite example of one involving a kangaroo that had an issue with one of its arms. “Traditional medicine couldn’t fix it,” she said. “He did acupuncture and electro stimulation on the pet.”
Many of the patients seen by Dr. Johnson have, after only a few treatments, walked out of the clinic when they originally had to be carried in.
One of their favorite success stories involved a paralyzed Chihuahua named Topolino. The dog was paralyzed after playing ball with his owners and had to be carried to his first treatment. After just five treatments, he was running around the clinic.
“It’s very gratifying to see what he can do,” Johnston added.
The clinic, which opened only a year ago, is also molded differently than most traditional facilities. The building is designed with a comfortable atmosphere.
“We wanted it to be like a spa,” Johnston explained, “more relaxed.”
From the soothing hues on the walls to the gentle dripping of a tabletop water sculpture, there is certainly less tension inside this waiting room.
They are careful about scheduling appointments that don’t overlap.
“We don’t want people hanging out for hours waiting to see the doctor,” she said.
Even the nonporous floors in the walkways and examining rooms were carefully crafted so the patients don’t slip.
“We put a lot of thought into this,” Johnston said, “even for a relatively small practice. We wanted a more relaxed atmosphere.”
Silverthorn Animal Clinic caters to all breeds of dogs and cats but even works on birds. Johnston told a story of three separate incidents of wild birds finding their way into the clinic; a warbler, a homing pigeon, and a hawk, each with a different need that the staff treated and released.
They’ve worked on exotic pet birds as well.
Penny Berger, a resident of Silverthorn Golf & Country Club, took her lab, Gator, to Dr. Johnson after discovering the clinic was so close to her home. Gator, she said, doesn’t like to travel. After receiving his shots at a cost cheaper than she was paying at her previous clinic, Berger switched.
“They are amazing,” Berger said, “and the prices are reasonable.” She also praised the staff who she described as very friendly.
On a recent visit, Dr. Johnson gave her some all natural ear wash and suggested Happy Traveler to offset Gator’s discomfort with traveling. “We’re leaving for 3 months,” Berger said, “and we’re taking him with us.”
“We have a wide spectrum of clientele,” Dr. Johnson said. Many clients have followed him, traveling sometimes more than two hours for chiropractic, acupuncture and massage therapies. Others find him because their older or sick pets that were given no hope. “They are the old geriatric pets that are basically dying. They come to me for an alternative approach. We believe the clientele would like more quality time with their pets.”
Alternative medicine is not necessarily more expensive. “I have so many optional treatments to choose from,” Dr. Johnson said. “I can work with nearly any budget.”
Silverthorn Animal Clinic is open Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Biz at a Glance
Name: Silverthorn Animal Clinic
Location: 14263 Powell Road, Spring Hill
Telephone: (352) 345-4830
Kim Dame is a correspondent for Hernando Today. She can be reached at [email protected]