Laguna Beach Veterinary Medical Center offers cutting edge technology, comprehensive care and compassion

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

“Veterinarians don’t just treat animals; they treat the people who love them,” an anonymous quote that couldn’t be more accurate – if you have the right vet. Owners who have lived through their pets’ ailments and aging look to their veterinarians for both medical guidance and comfort. While handling pets is an integral part of a vet’s job, a significant amount of time also involves catering to the pet owners and their needs.

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Co-owners Dr. Roxanne Kruger and Dr. Mathew Cohen opened Laguna Beach Veterinary Medical Center in August 2023

Dr. Roxanne Kruger and Dr. Mathew Cohen, who co-own the Laguna Beach Veterinary Medical Center, possess a remarkable combination of competence and caring. Their veterinary medical skills encompass state-of-the-art cardiology, dentistry and gas anesthesia, dermatology, orthopedics, ultrasound and laser surgery. Each has an area of expertise – Cohen in surgery and Kruger in emergency medicine.

As described by Dr. Kruger, “At Laguna Beach Veterinary Medical Center, our mission is to foster a harmonious bond between clients and their beloved pets by prioritizing client education, providing compassionate care, and delivering excellence in both traditional and holistic veterinary medicine. We believe in treating every patient as a cherished member of the family, while ensuring their well-being through a holistic approach that combines the best of conventional and alternative care. Our commitment extends beyond treating illnesses. We strive to empower our clients with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their pet’s health, promoting a lifetime of well-rounded care and companionship.”

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Sierra Gramme at the front desk and Cassie Juncaj (in background) greet clients and pets as they arrive

However, their partnership extends well beyond their professional lives. Cohen and Kruger complement each other in their personal lives as well. A married couple, Kruger and Cohen have a 10-month-old daughter Blake, a rag doll cat named Riley and Maze, a Shepherd mix. As one might imagine, it’s a delicate balance. Cohen is on-site on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. And Kruger, who takes care of the administrative side of the business from home, is in the office Wednesday and Thursday.

Given their dedication to animal care, one wonders if each knew from an early age that they wanted to be veterinarians?

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State-of-the-art laser equipment in the operating room. Dr. Cohen performs all the surgeries.

“He knew from the time he was about 8 years old that he wanted to be a vet,” Kruger said. “I knew I wanted to be some type of doctor and was going to pursue a specialty in OB/GYN, but then I decided to switch to veterinary medicine.”

As if fated, they finally found the office space they had been looking for. “We searched for two years for the right location for the best client experience,” Dr. Kruger said. “The owner was selling this building, and the previous vet was leaving, so the two (separate) elements fell into place.” It had ample parking in the rear and sufficient interior space, and they started revamping it to fit their needs. “We replaced the gravel with asphalt, and in the interior, we painted everything white, put in lighting and installed state-of-the-art equipment.” Whimsical dog paintings by local artist Debby Carman brighten up the walls. For client ease, there’s a handicapped spot right in front of the entrance.

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Eight-year-old Spudd, adopted from Unconditional, recuperates after surgery

The space houses multiple rooms – for larger dogs there’s an examination room with a hydraulic lift for the table. The office also has a built-in scale, a cat examination room, a small dog (under 20 lbs.) room, and an isolation room for pets with contagious diseases such as Parvo or kennel cough. There are also separate spaces designated for boarding cats (cat condos) and dogs.

The surgical suite offers the latest technology. “The CO2 surgical laser helps reduce bleeding, infection, pain and inflammation at the surgery site along with quick recovery,” Kruger said. A cardiologist comes in every two weeks.

The center also provides other benefits: walk-in emergency care, open on Saturdays, rattlesnake anti-venom onsite (and upcoming rattlesnake aversion training), grooming, boarding and most of all, the confidence in knowing that it’s a family-owned business.

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Some of the staff members: (L-R) Cassie Juncaj, Jack Gabus (Veterinary Assistant), Katherine (it was only her third day), Chelie Kolano (Office Manager and Registered Veterinary Technician, Irene Sainz (Registered Veterinary Technician and Salina Bahn (Veterinary Assistant). Not pictured: Devyn (Veterinary Receptionist) and Liz Iniguez (Lead Technician).

“We don’t usually handle animals other than dogs and cats, but we were called to dehorn and castrate a 400 lb. tortoise,” said Cohen.

Of course, dogs are notorious for swallowing foreign objects.

“One of the strangest objects I’ve removed from a dog’s stomach was a rubber toy that was made to look like a poop emoji,” Cohen said.

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Dental room with leading-edge equipment

How Kruger and Cohen met was just as serendipitous as how they found the location for their business.

Cohen is a native of Southern California and graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and a Master’s Degree in Animal Biology. He is Certified in Veterinary Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, integrating Eastern and Western medicine for optimal patient care. He received his DO of Vet Medicine from Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona.

Kruger is also a native of Southern California with roots in Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel. After earning her BS from the University of San Diego, she pursued her passion for veterinary medicine, attaining a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Western University of Health Sciences.

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Spudd with Dr. Cohen and Dr. Kruger

It was at Western University of Health Sciences that they met.

“It was the first week of a class of 110 students and we were divided into groups of 10,” Kruger said. “He was in my group.”

“I had heard about her, that she was beautiful and super smart,” Cohen said. “I invited her to Seder at my parents’ house, and we found out that our mothers were raised a street apart in South Africa. Later, my mom told me, ‘Don’t mess this up.’”

Kruger’s stint at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, where she immersed herself in a rotating medicine and surgery internship alongside specialists, sparked her love for emergency medicine in a fast-paced environment. She then returned to her Orange County in the role of an emergency doctor at VCA West Coast Specialty and Emergency Hospital, where she spent five years.

As for Kruger’s Laguna connection, her mother, an entrepreneur, owned African Nails in South Laguna, helped Mozambique with liquor importation and operated an African Food Store that expanded to Laguna Hills.

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Dog kennels for boarding

The center gives back to the community in many ways. They offer their services to several local nonprofits, Unconditional, a senior and special needs dog rescue; Blue Bell Foundation for Cats, a cat retirement sanctuary, and Nancy Goodwin at the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter.

They also work with animal advocate Ann Marie McKay and a local veterinary hospital for low-cost spay and neutering.

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Visit their facility for a tour. It’s across from Act IV parking lot on Laguna Canyon Road.

Laguna Beach Veterinary Medical Center is truly an animal medical center, with everything from the newest medications to the cutting-edge surgical suite – and much more.

Currently, the center has 10 staff members, but Cohen and Kruger are looking to grow that number and to hire more doctors.

As they state on their website – and back it up with skill and compassion, “Like you, there’s nothing we aren’t willing to try to do for your pets.”

Laguna Beach Veterinary Medical Center is located at 1855 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Call 949.464.1000. They are open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (Ample parking in the rear.)

For more information, go to https://lagunabeachvet.com/laguna-beach/.


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