Learn a little more about the veterinarians and staff at VCA SFVS in our staff spotlight series!

Name: Melissa Bucknoff, DVM

Your position: Criticalist

dr. bucknoff with a courageous feline friend

dr. bucknoff with a courageous feline friend

When did you join VCA SFVS? October 2014

Favorite part of your job? I love working with people who love animals.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was born and raised on the East Coast, and I’m enjoying exploring SF, my new home. I love to travel and read. An afternoon on the beach with my dogs and a book is my favorite place to be.

What does your work day entail? My days are spent working with critically ill patients that are hospitalized at SFVS, as well as those that come in through the ER. (Learn more about emergency/critical care at SFVS.)

I’m also here to support sicker patients that undergo anesthetic procedures; I assist with pre- and post-procedure monitoring and care. I work closely with the other specialists at SFVS in a collaborative manner to provide the optimal diagnostic and treatment plans for our patients. The days can be unpredictable, which means there is never a dull moment, and always more to learn!

The patient you’ll never forget? The patients I never forget are the ones that teach lessons you can’t find in books and have changed the way I approach the next patient that may have a similar problem. These patients teach me things I can’t hear with just my stethoscope. Often, these are the same patients that have beaten the odds and have a good outcome.

Favorite patient success story? One of the most memorable cases I’ve managed since I’ve been at SFVS was a young cat, who had a string stuck under her tongue. That string had torn through several segments of intestine, causing her to have a grim prognosis and require intensive management for almost two weeks in the hospital. Against the odds, she went on to make a complete recovery, which is a testament to what the right amount of dedication from owners and medical caregivers can accomplish. On paper, this cat shouldn’t have survived. This case also brought every one of her doctors, nurses and support staff together as a team.

Your work-related super power? I’m told I am able to maintain focus in a crisis, and I do enjoy multitasking in the midst of a busy work environment. But I don’t wear a cape or anything 😉

Any animal companions of your own? Tessa, the one-eyed Shih Tzu, and Tramp, my Carolina hound dog mix. Having pets makes us better caregivers because we have all been on the other side of the medicine at some point.

tessa and tramp!

tessa and tramp!

What do you enjoy doing outside work? I love going to the beach with my dogs and reading rock biographies. I also enjoy attending both veterinary and human medical conferences to network and keep up with emerging research and technology. There is so much we have in common with our human medical counterparts, and it is an exciting time for this type of collaboration. (Read more about the One Health initiative.)



What are you currently reading? Wild Tales, a biography on Graham Nash

What’s in your music rotation right now? I like a variety of music … classic rock, British rock, folk rock and Broadway show stoppers, whatever the mood calls for.

Favorite TV show? The Mindy Project (which I feel may be loosely based on my life); The West Wing, a classic favorite. I saw the Puppy Bowl this year, which is apparently a Super Bowl for dogs, but instead of footballs they take squeaky toys into the end zone!


Dermatology Is Back!

We are excited to welcome the return of dermatology services at VCA SFVS with the arrival of Laura Wilson, DVM, DACVD. Starting May 5, Dr. Wilson will be at our hospital Tuesdays to Fridays. She looks forward to working with the primary care veterinarians in our community and meeting patients and clients!

dr. laura wilson with her pooches, bailey and talulah

dr. laura wilson with her pooches, bailey and talulah

Read more about Dr. Wilson:

A native Californian, Dr. Laura Wilson received her veterinary degree from the University of California, Davis in 2006, where she developed a love for dermatology. She completed her dermatology residency in the high-paced private practice atmosphere of the Animal Dermatology Clinic in Tustin, California. Dr. Wilson is passionate about all things dermatology, especially getting to know her clients and working with them to provide the best short- and long-term plans to remedy their pets’ dermatologic diseases. She loves the challenge of tailoring treatment plans that a pet will tolerate at home, keeping in mind any emotional, financial or physical limitations of the client. Dr. Wilson is a team player, both with her veterinary colleagues … and on the volleyball court! She was a Division I varsity volleyball player and track team member at the College of William & Mary, and continues to be as active as she can. When not treating dermatologic diseases, she loves to mountain bike cross country, practice Pilates and yoga, stand-up paddle board, and restore her 1965 Volvo.

Patient Story: CheChe

Today’s patient story features CheChe, a little guy with big courage and a huge heart. CheChe has IMHA, short for immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. Below, his human companion Tricia shares his story.

From Tricia:

CheChe came into our life over nine years ago. He’s a smart little buddy who enjoys eating, first and foremost. He’s fiercely loyal to his family and feels strongly about order and will give you a loud bark to remind you if you’re breaking one of his house rules.

don't break any of cheche's house rules!

don’t break any of cheche’s house rules!

Over three years ago, CheChe was diagnosed with IMHA, a difficult-to-treat blood disease. Miraculously our little guy survived a difficult round of blood transfusions, numerous drug combinations and many nights in the hospital.

Sadly CheChe was hit with another hemolytic episode in the summer of 2014. Our regular vet told us that this time we should see a specialist and was very concerned that CheChe could not beat the odds, not this time.

Luckily we met Dr. Winnie Ybarra at VCA SFVS. Dr. Ybarra immediately changed Chech’s drug treatment and we started the long process.

Dr. Ybarra’s instincts, experience and ability to communicate the various options clearly to us no doubt saved CheChe’s life. We learned how to check his heart rate from home and became pros at detecting a possible turn of events. She was sensitive to CheChe’s 6-pound size, managing drugs amounts to fit his tiny frame.

cheche with hiro, his loyal partner in crime

cheche with hiro, his loyal partner in crime

Today Chech is still on drugs and may continue for the rest of his life, but he’s strong and happy, eating as fiercely as ever and showing no signs of drug reactions.

IMHA is a difficult disease, but VCA SFVS has given us the best shot possible.


cutest reindeer

Many thanks to Tricia for sharing these photos and CheChe’s story with us. Dr. Ybarra and the staff here are honored to be on sweet CheChe’s care team!

Related resource:

Would you like your dog or cat to be featured in our Patient Stories series? Please email us for information. We look forward to hearing from you.

Learn a little more about the veterinarians and staff at VCA SFVS in our staff spotlight series!

Name: Naomi Mansfield

Your position and department: Service coordinator for the surgery department

When did you join VCA SFVS? January 2007

Favorite part of your job? My favorite part of my job is getting to cuddle with adorable dogs and cats all day, and getting to decorate their casts.

naomi with a guide dogs puppy who came in for an orthopedic exam

naomi with a guide dogs puppy who came in for an orthopedic exam

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I grew up in Arizona. We always had a lot of animals growing up. When I was very young we had a farm, and when we gave up our farm we still had 11 animals around the house — dogs, chinchillas, birds, a rabbit, a hamster and a ferret. I have always loved animals more than anything and knew from a very young age that I wanted to work with them.

Aside from my passion for animals, I love to draw. I spend most of my free time using the program MS Paint to create what I call Bitcats, in which I draw the beloved pets of my friends interacting in whimsical environments. They can be seen at http://www.bitcats.tumblr.com/

What does your work day entail? Most of my job revolves around preparing people for what to expect before, during and after a pet’s surgery. I create all of the instructions for at-home care and act as the go-to person for any questions that pet parents have during the process.

The patient you’ll never forget? Mojo, a very sweet boxer who comes in to see us

Favorite patient success story? There is a dog name Maya that was going to have to have an amputation due to a very large wound on her leg. Dr. Phil Watt was amazingly able to repair the wound with a skin graft, and after extensive bandaging to protect the wound, it completely healed and she did not have to have an amputation!

Your work-related super power? Bandage art. I love creating little cartoons on the casts of dogs and cats who have surgery.


naomi created this cast for a kitty named alice! (“oh my ears and whiskers …”)


more "naomi originals," shared by dr. hammer

more “naomi originals,” shared by dr. hammer

Any animal companions of your own? I have an 8-year-old grey cat named Banjo that I’ve had since he was a kitten. He is very sassy and always wears a little bandana around his neck.

What do you enjoy doing outside work? Drawing and spending time with my wonderful friends. I also volunteer with the penguins at the Academy of Sciences.

What are you currently reading? The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

What’s in your music rotation right now? I really love old Jamaican ska and rocksteady.

Favorite TV show? Once Upon A Time

Learn a little more about the veterinarians and staff at VCA SFVS in our staff spotlight series! This week we feature emergency veterinarian Elyse Hammer, DVM

Name: Elyse Hammer, DVM

Position: Staff doctor on the emergency service as well as intern program director

dr. hammer with dave, one of the er tech's cats

dr. hammer with dave, one of the er tech’s cats

When did you join VCA SFVS? I joined VCA SFVS first as an intern in 2011 and developed such a love for emergency medicine that I stayed on as a staff doctor immediately following my internship here. 

Favorite part of your job? Coming in every day with absolutely no idea what will come my way. I love the spontaneity of emergency medicine, having to think quickly and adapt to anything the day may bring. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am originally from Meadow Vista, a small Sierra foothills town in Northern California. I am one of those cliches – I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian from the earliest moment I can remember. I started working as a technician at a local GP practice at 16. From there I moved to Davis and spent eight years there for both my undergraduate and veterinary education. I originally planned to pursue a residency in internal medicine until I fell in love with all things ER and never looked back.

Favorite patient success story? One of my favorite patient success stories is Phyllo. Phyllo is a super-sweet domestic shorthair who was found by a friend after his owner suddenly passed away.

The Super-Sweet Phyllo

dr. hammer with the super-sweet phyllo

He was brought to us and treated for dehydration and mild kidney dysfunction after being without food and water for several days. During his stay with us, we incidentally found a bladder stone. As Phyllo didn’t currently have a family, we decided to cover his care, and one of our interns, with the help of staff doctors, performed a cystotomy surgery to remove his bladder stone. Phyllo made a full recovery and was adopted out to a new, loving forever home. 

What do you enjoy doing outside work? My favorite (and most therapeutic) thing to do is run run run as much as possible. I love traveling with my husband, Brett. We particularly love to explore California wine country and the Pacific Northwest in search of the best wines we can find. And of course I love spending time with my crazy rescue jungle cat Nube, who makes me laugh absolutely every day. 

The One and Only NUBE :)

the one and only NUBE 🙂

dr. hammer with one of her best friend's dogs

dr. hammer with one of her best friend’s dogs

Patient Story: Oscar

For #Caturday, we have a very special patient story featuring Oscar the Cat! Late last year, this fearless 17 year old escaped from his home and was gone for nearly two weeks. Thankfully, Oscar eventually returned, and his human companion, Billy, brought him to our hospital. Under the care of Drs. Emily Wong and Erika Beck, Oscar received fluids, a blood transfusion and antibiotics.

oscar and billy

oscar and billy

Here, Billy shares a little more about Oscar:

I adopted Oscar as a rescue kitty. Despite his size, he is a type A kitty. Any other kitty I had at the same time always was/is aware where Oscar is. In addition to being a tough old man, he is fearless. I have seen him challenge dogs. My brother had a 110-pound dog. Oscar was on the back steps looking down at Frosty, who was jumping up and down, growling, etc. Oscar started moving back and forth, getting ready to pounce and scratch the nose. I yanked him away, reminding him that he was 16 and if he missed, well …

At age 17, Oscar escaped back in November/December at the height of the rains. After 13 days, I opened the back door and there he was – a huddled black ball. Somehow he managed to make it back home. Probably to die.

I brought him to VCA SFVS and the doctors saved him. A beautiful thing because he did not have much more time. Thank you, VCA SFVS. Oscar has bounced back and is his old self. He is ready for another 17 years!!!

Many thanks to Billy and Oscar for sharing this story and photo. Drs. Wong and Beck and all of us here wish Oscar all the best. We are so happy he is home and back to his old self again!

Today on the blog, we’re excited to feature … Charley! We met this sweet Chihuahua mix under some scary circumstances: He had just been hit by a car. Charley made fast friends with a few of our veterinarians. Dr. Allegra Roth was his receiving emergency services doctor, Dr. Laura West managed his case when he was transferred to internal medicine for further observation, and Dr. Margo Mehl removed a tooth that was damaged during the accident.

The wonderful news is that Charley was a very lucky little dog and was able to return home after three days. Below, his human companion Rachel shares a little more about Charley and his story. Many thanks to Charley and Rachel – we were so honored to be on this Miracle Mutt’s veterinary care team!

From Rachel:

I arrived at Peninsula Humane Society in early October 2011 very excited: I was finally about to adopt a dog of my own. My family loves dogs, always maintaining a pack of 2 or 3 while I was growing up. I had been living in San Francisco for a few years and was finally in the ideal situation for a small rescue dog. I strolled around the shelter looking at lots of wonderful dogs of all sizes, but there was one in particular that caught my eye: a small, tan Chihuahua mix puppy who looked to me like a little fox.

like a little fox!

like a little fox!

It took all of five seconds to decide he was “The One.” I loved his beautiful auburn coat, pretty doe eyes and one of the cutest little noses I’ve ever seen. I especially was struck by his little feet and tail that look as though they were tip dipped in white paint. It was love at first sight for Charley and me, like something out of a movie. He put his cute little nose on the glass up to my hand. I knew we were friends for life.

charley and rachel

charley and rachel

Charley the dog, affectionately known as “Cheese,” is a friend to all. His favorite activities include fetching socks, catching/eating flies, and running with his Sunny Day Dog Walks pack at McLaren Park. He is the ultimate snuggle buddy. When he hasn’t seen you in a while, he will greet you by dancing on his back two legs, high-fiving you with both paws. Most of all, he is a sweet little guy with a big heart and a curious spirit.

Last October, that curious spirit got the better of him. He chased a bird from the grass in Dolores Park on to 20th Street and got hit by a car. As a dog mom, that was my worst nightmare come true. Luckily the driver of the car was able to rush us to VCA. I cannot say enough about the excellent care we received from the team at VCA. Everyone was so kind, knowledgeable, and empathetic. They were extremely patient with all of my questions.

I feel so fortunate that they were there for Charley and me. It’s truly a miracle that he was home within three days and back running with the pack within a month, considering the severity of his injuries.

back in action!

back in action!

Over the years my family and I have given Charley several nicknames: Charlie Tuna, Carlitos, Cheesey, El Queso … but the one that’s going to stick for years to come is Miracle Mutt. And thanks to the stellar veterinarians and staff at VCA, he is just that.

curious charley stays updated on current events

curious charley stays updated on current events

Would you like your dog or cat to be featured in our Patient Stories series? Please email us for information. We look forward to hearing from you.

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