After years as practicing veterinarians, Canal Winchester residents Rona Shapiro and Alec Land recognized the need for after-hours care for critically ill or injured pets.

After years as practicing veterinarians, Canal Winchester residents Rona Shapiro and Alec Land recognized the need for after-hours care for critically ill or injured pets.

As a result, Shapiro and Land, a married couple, opened the Diley Hill Animal Emergency Center June 28 at 9695 Basil Western Road in Canal Winchester.

Co-owners are Luis Aquino, a veterinary technician, and Lovette Aquino, who is office manager. The staff also includes veterinarians Michael Washkevich and Amy Schnipke.

Land and Shapiro maintain separate veterinary practices elsewhere in the greater Columbus area - she in Groveport and he at Easton - but also fill in when needed at the emergency center.

"My husband and I each owned a veterinarian practice in the southeast part of Columbus for the last 25 years," Shapiro said. "We have both seen our fair share of after-hours emergencies."

"As a single practitioner working in a small practice, it is very difficult to have an enjoyable family life," she said. "We are busy working during the day and many times a week, (were) coming in late at night to see emergency (patients)."

Shapiro said the team felt an obligation to their clients to offer a late-night vet care facility because a 45-minute drive can make a big difference in the outcome of an emergency.

On July 21, for instance, the ER facility treated a dog who had ingested xylitol, an ingredient in many sugar-free gums.

"Many people don't know it's toxic to dogs," she said. "The animal had crucial low blood sugar, the result of eating a couple pieces of sugar-free gum."

Another emergency case involved a Great Dane that had attacked a much smaller dog. The smaller dog was bitten in the abdomen and needed x-rays to determine the extent of its internal injuries, Shapiro said.

The Diley Hill Animal Emergency Center treats all small animals, including birds, but the majority of patients are cats and dogs. Animals come from Canal Winchester, Logan, Pickerington, Lancaster and Carroll, Shapiro said.

The clinic is open from, 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 1 a.m. weekends and holidays.

Working as a veterinarian is a dream come true for Washkevich, who earned his veterinary degree in 2002 after many years of working as a CPA.

"I always wanted to be a vet," he said. I had to take care of my mother when I was younger. I fell into the business field."

He said he enjoys emergency veterinary service because his work changes daily. One late evening brought a dog that had been hit by a car, a dog with congestive heart failure and a dog with an abscessed anal gland.

"The ability to juggle those three cases - that is why I like emergency and critical care," he said. "It kind of pushes you to your limits. In one case, you are a cardiologist, next a dermatologist and next an internist."

The biggest challenge of the new practice has been the workload, Shapiro said. The hospital sees up to seven emergency patients per evening. Learning all the technology has been challenging, too, Shapiro said. The facility offers both ultrasound and radiological services.

"It's all brand new, state-of-the-art equipment," she said.

The goal of the Diley Hill Emergency Animal Care Center is to continue to provide after-hours care for patients and to provide a service for local veterinarians, Shapiro said. All patients are returned to the referring veterinarians as soon as possible, she said.