Meet a Veterinarian
Dr. Holly Knor decided to become a veterinarian when she was just five years old. Her parents bought her a toy poodle, which she named Pepi. From that point on she was an animal lover. “Having my own dog nourished my love of animals,” she says. “I didn’t even know what veterinarians were until I got Pepi. But after one trip to the vet’s office, I was hooked. I knew I would become a veterinarian someday. Actually, I believe that was God’s plan for me.”4 Today, Dr. Knor works for Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, Colorado, where she has been since 1995. She is a well-known veterinarian —not only in Denver, but throughout the country—because she is also a television star. Dr. Knor is one of the veterinarians featured on the Animal Planet series, Emergency Vets.
An Early Start
When Dr. Knor was a young teenager in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, she started working part-time for Dr. L.W. George, her family veterinarian. She was so eager to be around the animals that she begged him to let her work at his clinic. “I spent all my spare time there,” she says, “including after school, holidays, and weekends. I loved the work so much, I just couldn’t get enough of it. I cleaned cages and kennels, washed syringes, and did anything else Dr. George needed me to do. Every once in a while, if I was really lucky, he would let me assist him with a patient. That’s when I learned a lot about animal behaviors. When animals pin their ears back, wag their tails, or have their backs up in the air, they’re sending messages. If you observe them enough, and pay attention, you will begin to see what they are trying to tell you.”
Dr. Knor worked at the clinic until she was sixteen, and then she went to New Zealand to be an exchange student. She says she gained even more knowledge about animals from that experience: “I spent some time on a sheep ranch, which was neat because it gave me a chance to observe larger animals. One day I was out running and found a lamb with its neck caught under a fence. There was no one to help me so I picked it up—it weighed about forty pounds—and I ran two miles back to the farmhouse with the lamb in my arms. Unfortunately the little thing didn’t survive because its injuries were too severe. But that experience was valuable to me. The people did their best to help the lamb, and it showed me how farmers took care of their own animals.”
College and Beyond
Dr. Knor returned to Fort Lauderdale, and after graduating from high school, she enrolled in a community college. She attended for two years and also worked for Dr. George as a veterinary assistant and receptionist. After earning her associate’s degree she transferred to Colorado State University, where she earned her bachelor of science in microbiology. She applied to Colorado State’s veterinary school and was accepted.
In 1995, during Dr. Knor’s last year of veterinary school, she applied for an internship at Alameda East. She got the position and spent the next year working long hours for minimal pay. But she says the valuable experience she gained was well worth it. When the year was up she was asked to stay as a staff veterinarian, and she took the job.
Never a Dull Moment
Dr. Knor is a general practitioner, so most of her patients are household pets such as dogs and cats. But she says she has also seen some unusual animals: “I was once on emergency duty, and a woman brought in her pet hedgehog that had just delivered three babies. She would not nurse the babies, so the owner was concerned that the hedgehog might have an infection in her mammary glands. For anyone who isn’t familiar with hedgehogs, they are tiny animals that fit in the palm of your hand, and they have poky spines all over their bodies. Whenever you handle them, they curl up in a ball to protect themselves. The only way I could examine the mama was to give her anesthesia so she would open up. And the only way I could check her mammary glands was to see if they produced milk. Now, lots of people can say they’ve milked a cow but I can truthfully say that I have milked a hedgehog! Incidentally, everything turned out okay, and Mrs. Hedgehog nursed her babies just fine.”
Another of Dr. Knor’s unusual cases also involved a small pet. “A lady brought her hamster in because it had a tumor. I had to do surgery to remove the tumor, and then send it to the lab for testing. By the time we were done, the lady’s bill was something like $350 for the hamster’s emergency care. Some people would balk at spending that kind of money on such a tiny animal, but the lady told me, ‘This is my pet and I love it. I have to give it the care it needs.’ Things like that make me realize that people love their pets unconditionally, and that love is not dependent on whether the pets are small or large.”
When asked if she has ever been bitten by one of her patients, Dr. Knor says yes—and it was a dangerous experience. “A stray cat was brought in that had been hit by a car. It wasn’t responsive at all, and in cases like that one of the first things we assume is that the animal is in shock. We test for that by looking at its gums, so I lifted up the cat’s lip—and suddenly she came alive! She clamped down on the middle finger of my right hand and bit through my fingernail. The nurses had to pry her jaws apart to get her teeth off my finger. Cats have very dirty mouths so I immediately started taking antibiotics, but thirty-six hours later my finger was obviously infected and the pain was unbearable—even pain medication didn’t help. I went to the emergency room and the doctor told me, ‘You need surgery now!’ The infection was so severe he said he would be lucky to save my hand. Fortunately, I only lost the tip of my finger, but I was out of work for a month. Most people don’t realize that when they are bitten by an animal, they must get emergency treatment immediately. Being bitten can be a life-threatening situation.”
Life as a TV Star
When Dr. Knor decided to become a veterinarian, she had no idea she would someday end up on television. “I went to school to become a vet, and never dreamed I’d be on a successful TV show! It’s a privilege to be able to do that.” She has traveled all over the country with Animal Planet and has even appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She says people often recognize her and sometimes ask for her autograph.
Dr. Knor says that being on Emergency Vets has given her opportunities to educate the public about veterinary medicine. “There is a misconception that veterinarians just give vaccines and shoot animals when they have broken legs. Some people have no idea what we really do, and this show allows us to increase awareness about animals and things that pet owners should know. For instance, I once did a show that featured a particular kind of treatment. Later I was at an Animal Planet expo in Indianapolis and a lady came up to me and said, ‘You have to meet my dog; she’s alive because of you.’ She wanted to personally thank me, and it was heartwarming.”
Message to Aspiring Vets
Dr. Knor says that being a veterinarian is both rewarding and fulfilling, and she recommends it for the right person. “It requires an amazing amount of patience, dedication, and hard work… but if it is in your heart to do this, I would definitely encourage you to give it all you’ve got. I’ve known I would be a veterinarian since I was very young. And I wouldn’t change one thing about what I have done with my life.”
4 All quotes in "Meet A Veterinarian". Holly Knor, interview with author, October 2, 2003.