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Client Profile - DentalVets

10 June 2013

DentalVets is a specialist referral veterinary practice located in the pretty, coastal town of North Berwick.  As the name suggests, it’s a vets practice that specialises in animal dentistry – indeed, it’s the only one of its kind north of Yorkshire, so cases come to the practice from the north of England and the whole of Scotland.

The company was founded in 1998 when Norman Johnston left general practice in Edinburgh to undertake a part time residency, based in Dallas Texas, leading to a specialist qualification in maxillofacial surgery and veterinary dentistry.   Norman is currently the only vet in the world with specialist status in the UK, Europe and America so he is unique!   His wife Fiona, also a vet, works within the business too so it’s truly a family affair.

Norman and Fiona get their business from referrals from other vets in practices up and down the country so they only see cases that are considered complex – a maximum of two per day usually.  Their database of vets that have referred cases, and those that might, is therefore fundamental to their  PR and they have embraced social media as a way of communicating with their existing and potential referrer base.

Norman says “ With the growth in popularity of social media, we have taken a huge leap forward in communicating with our flock of referring vets. With Facebook and Twitter we can keep in contact on a daily basis posting a two way flow of interesting cases, images and x-rays. Generally we can answer their case questions very quickly and we make an effort to be available for practitioners at all times. For cases of head trauma and some cancers this can be on an emergency basis. For busy practitioners in far-flung parts this free service has provided a great help to them and, in turn, generates cases for us”

Although dogs and cats are their bread and butter, they also provide dental expertise to various zoos, animal collections and charities in the UK and abroad – an interesting  job indeed!.  Norman says ” This has allowed us the privilege to work on tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, chimps, gorillas, various monkeys, wild boars and hippos. The challenge of zoo animals is considerable. Large cats and bears can weigh many times more than the largest dog. The largest patient for us so far is a toss-up between an adult male polar bear and a gorilla – both nearly 500kg in weight!  Working beside a man with a pump-action shotgun there for “health and safety” sharpens up your act considerably. Who is he there to shoot if the patient wakes up? When asked,  he replies “it depends”! Our most memorable trip was to Chengdu, China as guests of the charity Animals Asia. They rescue Moonbears (Asiatic Black Bears) from the horrific cruelty of bile farms in China and Vietnam. Rescued bears have often had their teeth smashed by the farmer to prevent them biting, resulting in multiple dental abscesses. Helping even a few bears was a wonderful experience”

Norman and Fiona started the business working out of host practices in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Surrey.  Apart from the travel involved, they had to move their equipment in and out of the premises each day  – tiring and inefficient. By 2006 they had identified premises in North Berwick, where they now live, and that has allowed them to put down roots and create a clinic like no other in the UK. Indeed, despite the recession and their location out of a major city they have grown year on year, so much so, that last year they expanded into the neighbouring property allowing them the space to consider offering a clinical residency or perhaps bring in a specialist in another discipline. Springfords look forward to continuing to support Norman and Fiona as they grow and develop their business.

For more information about DentalVets , visit their website at

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