Keeping Our Pets Safe

by Tim Froberg

Chris Snyder operated on the big cats from Madison-area zoos, working inside their huge jaws to perform daunting dental surgeries.

So, it’s safe to say that nothing fazes the unflappable veterinary doctor.

That calm, cool demeanor will serve Snyder well as the new director and associate dean of clinical affairs at UW Veterinary Care in Madison.

Snyder, who started his new job earlier this month, has been a veterinary dentist and oral surgeon at UW Veterinary Care since 2005.

The well-respected facility on the University of Wisconsin campus provides primary care veterinary services to the public and is considered the next-level option for large and small animals in need of advanced care and surgery. The veterinary hospital has a wide variety of services, and its board-certified veterinarians perform surgeries and offer treatment for issues involving orthopedics, neurology, cardiology, dentistry, radiology, internal medicine, oncology and cancer care, dermatology, ophthalmology and eye care, acupuncture, and physical rehabilitation. 

Most of the cases involve dogs and cats, but exotic pets and special species are treated as well. Snyder has performed dental work on everything from bats, otters, and small non-human primates to large zoo cats.

“Everything we do here is team related,” said Snyder. “There’s always an involvement of students, interns, and of course, residents who are doing their specialty training under the supervision of board-certified specialists. So, for every patient that comes through, it’s always a team effort with a variety of people helping to provide and support that patient’s visit and provide their care.”

As the hospital’s new director, Snyder set his top priorities as continued first-rate veterinary care and nurturing the passion that students and employees have for veterinary science. He’s arriving at an ideal time for the organization which recently broke ground on a new hospital.

“I want to continue to grow the culture of trying to give employees the opportunity to identify what they enjoy the most about their job,” Snyder said. “And we want to figure out what we can do to help them enjoy their job even more. Once you have that positive culture, people look forward to coming to work. They want to be there and do their very best. That’s an area where there’s always opportunities to grow.”

UW Veterinary Care is known for offering the latest in cutting-edge technology and providing services that usually aren’t available at most general care veterinary offices.

“We have two big ones,” Snyder said. “There is a radiation oncology service, where we’re able to provide radiation treatments to cancer patients in a very focused way where there are less side effects. That’s a technology we’re very proud of. 

“Also, on the large animal side, we have a CT scanner for horses, primarily for their head, but you can also CT parts of their legs as well.”

Snyder grew up in the New Hampshire area in a medical family. His father was an anesthesiologist, and his mother was a nurse.

“I’ve always been around medicine, but I found I couldn’t handle human medicine very well,” Snyder said. “However, I didn’t have any trouble translating it to the veterinary patient’s population. I’ve always been a science person and veterinary dentistry has always been a natural fit.”

Improving the health of people’s pets and giving them a longer, healthier life has been perhaps the most rewarding part of Snyder’s career. He’s proud to be directing an organization dedicated to that cause.

“The person that got me interested in this when I was a student told me that he liked taking 10-to-12-year-old dogs who had never had a dental cleaning, getting them under anesthesia and treating them,” Snyder said. “And then at the recheck appointment two weeks later, the client would say, ‘Doc, I don’t know what you did, but you gave me a puppy again.’ We hear that quite a bit from dental patients.”

Snyder and his wife Lindsey, who is also a veterinarian at UW Veterinary Care, have made a smooth transition to the Badger State. When he’s not taking care of animals at work, he’s doing it at home. 

“We have four birds, two dogs, and some reptiles as well,” Snyder said. “I love Wisconsin. There’s a lot of New England-type aspects to the Madison area. I’m a big hockey guy. I hate to admit it, but I’ve only been to Lambeau (Field) once, and it was for a hockey game.”