DR. STEVE HORVATH is the new vet in town. Except he isn’t. A native of Ohio, Dr. Horvath may have only recently joined Elemental Veterinary Center + Pet Spa in the Short North, but as a gay man, Steve has been involved in the neighborhood for most of his adult life. And he is thrilled to begin a new chapter serving the community he loves so much.
This small animal vet has always loved animals, but a career in veterinary medicine was a later aspirational development. He grew up around animals and says, “I was always out catching snakes in the backyard and in the woods behind my house.” His family had dogs growing up, but this hobby meant he also had fox snakes and garter snakes and reptiles around.
When he was in high school, Steve worked in the herpetology lab at Bowling Green State University as a volunteer (herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians). What he learned there eventually led him and a friend to start a small side-business called Cap City Reptiles. They bred leopard geckos and corn snakes, along with other small amphibians and reptiles. He pursued this for a few years until he started vet school. He just didn’t have the time anymore, although his friend still does this work.
Steve thought he wanted to work at a zoo and went to undergrad at Ohio Wesleyan from 2001-2005 for zoology, but wasn’t really sure what avenue he wanted to take and wasn’t quite ready to head to vet school. After undergrad he had various jobs, including one at the vet school in their autopsy lab. After about five years he made up his mind and went to veterinary school at OSU.
Steve chose small animal veterinary medicine because he wanted to be in the city, and because he is truly a dog person who also loves bunnies, ferrets, and reptiles. Of course he likes large animals and farms, but working as a farm vet is a round-the-clock venture—the work is 24-hours a day on call—so you really need to live in the country. Steve wanted to be close to the city center.
After graduating from vet school in 2014, Steve practiced in Hilliard for a year before joining Elemental in July of this year. He loves being in the Short North. Sometimes he’ll even bring his greyhound, Cali, into work with him. Steve and his partner have three other dogs, too—Bosco, a boxer; Cody, a Sheltie; and their old girl, Whisper, a 13-year-old German shepherd mix.
Steve’s long-standing love of animals carries over into his practice. His primary concern is making the animals comfortable. In the office or in client’s home (Elemental makes house calls), he uses positive reinforcement with treats. He will get down on the ground with the animals when he first meets them so they can get familiar with him and be more comfortable. He strives to make introductions as smooth as possible.
Steve also puts pet owners at ease. He is an easy-going extrovert and loves connecting with animals and pet owners. He enjoys meeting new people, finding out what they need from him, and talking through the options for caring for the pets he gets to meet. Pet owners are his clients and determining what is best for them and for their pets is a team effort.
Sometimes that teamwork is figuring out the right diet requirements for a pet and sometimes that teamwork is making the tougher calls. Steve says, “I know when I have to do it with my own pets, I’m gonna be a wreck. I spend more time with them than most people in my life.” He recognizes what an emotional process making that decision can be. He ensures that his clients have everything they need. “I feel myself to be more of a steward to walk them through the process.” Steve and Elemental provide pet owners a calm environment to make the choices and make sure they think about things they might not otherwise think about.
In addition to the tough choices, there are a lot of delightful surprises that come with being a vet. Steve likes learning, and veterinary medicine provides many opportunities to continue learning. New situations are always arising, and vets dedicate a lot of time to expanding their knowledge. The other lovely surprise is the gratitude of pet owners. Clients send thank you cards, pictures, and gifts—oftentimes for years. He enjoys building and maintaining relationships with people, and with animals.
Another benefit of being an animal lover? Puppy and kitten videos every day! People share them with him all the time, and he passes them along on Facebook. “It’s awesome.” Steve firmly believes that animals soothe and calm us, whether on video or in person. Therapy dogs make their way into retirement communities and onto campuses at exam time. He says, “I smile every day because of my pets.” They make warm memories, and companionship is comforting. “People can do that too, but pets are another addition.”
But Steve’s biggest advice for cat and dog owners is to be diligent about heartworm prevention medicine—pets need medicine every month year round, year in and year out. He passionately talks about the life cycle of heartworm disease because it can be deadly. All you cat and dog owners should talk to your own vet about the disease!
Steve is passionate about a lot, but especially giving back to his community. He is involved with both animal activism and human community involvement. When he was in veterinary school, Steve started Buckeyes 4 Greyhounds. Now he is involved with a good friend’s organization, Central Ohio Greyhound Adoption. He is looking forward to volunteering with Ohio House Rabbit Rescue—they are located in Clintonville where he lives. Last year, he spoke at the organization’s Bun Fest about basic nutrition and medicine for bunnies. For a long time he volunteered as a soccer coach with Columbus Youth Guild and continues to help part time and goes to their charities events.
Being a part of the business community in the Short North means he can give back more there, too. Steve is looking forward to a long career in the neighborhood and to meeting lots of neighborhood pets and owners. If you are in the area walking your dog you should stop in and say hi!