To see Dr. Kristy Kyle now, you’d think being a veterinarian was her dream from the start. But her journey to becoming a vet was not a typical one. She actually started as an undergrad student with plans to become a physician. But while she was in school, she says, “I really enjoyed philosophy, and ended up majoring in philosophy and biology.”
After her undergraduate studies, she completed a master’s degree in philosophy and then began working as a content developer for what she describes as “the emerging world of computer-based job training.” But when her soon-to-be wife recognized how much Kyle was missing her connection with biology and medicine, she suggested that Kyle think about a career in veterinary medicine. And so her path to pet medicine began.
Kyle’s first job out of vet school was at a large practice here in Houston. “We had a great team of docs that worked a typical day practice, but we also shared after-hours, weekend, and emergency duties.” They saw a wide variety of cases and, as a young vet, Kyle says she often found herself drawing not only on her medical knowledge and training, “but also my creativity and problem-solving skills, and my ability to communicate with people and gain their trust in order to help the pets in my care.”
The practice allowed her a great deal of freedom that gave Kyle the confidence to ultimately start her own practice. In 2012, she and Dr. Brenda Flores took the leap and opened Bayou City Veterinary Hospital. Kyle says their intention was to provide “exceptional care for pets, establishing relationships of trust with our clients, and building a workplace where our staff could find security and professional fulfillment in their careers.”
Bayou City serves an incredibly wide range of animals—small animals and exotics with a focus on preventive care and wellness, as well as offering wellness care for dogs and cats of any age. Kyle explains that their goal is to create a wellness plan that draws on the best recommendations from the world of veterinary medicine, tailored to the unique needs and lifestyles of the individual pet.
Kyle and her practice also provide extensive dental care—a big focus in Kyle’s work, and something pet owners all too often overlook. “Oral health is exceptionally important,” Kyle explains. They also provide internal-medicine diagnoses and treatment, and they have digital radiography and ultrasonography on-site.
Their surgical suite is available for elective procedures like spays and neuters, as well as more extensive soft-tissue and orthopedic procedures. They even maintain a full in-house laboratory so that urgent lab-work results can be available to them without an overnight wait. Even in-house acupuncture therapy is offered for older patients struggling with arthritis and limited mobility. “We ensure that they are able to live pain-free,” Kyle says. Even the pharmacy is in-house at Bayou City so that they can provide medications immediately as needed. “But by far the most important thing we do, is to connect with people and work with them to keep their pets healthy and happy!”
Clients of Bayou City say they love the practice. What Kyle says she hears most often is that the people at the practice truly care about them and their pets. “Clients can tell instantly if you’re burned out, bored, or angry, and the pets can feel it, too. The people I work with every day do this work because they genuinely love animals and want the best for them. Clients can sense that genuine spirit of care and concern.”
Bayou City began as a simple two-doctor practice “squeezed into a tiny little space between Molina’s and T-Mobile on Washington Avenue.” But it wasn’t long before they realized that they needed a larger location to keep up with their growth and continue to provide the level of care that they expected of themselves. When Molina’s closed next door, they realized their opportunity had arrived. So they tripled their space and expanded their team.
Renovation began in the spring of 2018, and by August it was complete. They now have six vets and an extensive support staff. “It was a huge leap that enabled us to expand our services to our community and continue to grow, especially as our neighborhood continues its explosive growth and development.”
If Kyle could share just one thing with pet owners, she would say, “Anyone who has made the commitment to take care of a pet [knows] how quickly we humans can fall in love with furry paws or feathers or little twitchy noses or claws and scales. I wish that [everyone could remember] that the veterinary community is passionate about the health of all companion animals. We study and work and continue our education so that we can be advocates for companion animals, and so that we can be excellent teachers for our pet parents.”
Kyle also reminds us that vets are the best source of information for pet owners, not the internet. “We are deeply committed to helping your pet be as happy and healthy as possible!”
As for Kyle’s favorite part of the job, she says her days are neither predictable nor boring, and she loves having the opportunity to meet her neighbors and their pets and connect with them. “By building those relationships, I’m much better able to provide excellent veterinary care to my patients.” Without that kind of relationship, Kyle explains, it can be much more difficult to advocate on behalf of the pet.
“I’m a veterinarian, but I work primarily with people. Without that connection, my ability to help the pet is hindered.” Kyle says the worst part of the job is trying to gain the trust of someone whose previous veterinary experience has left them filled with skepticism.
Most people naturally assume that dealing with euthanasia and death is the worst part of a vet’s job. “Absolutely, losing a pet is difficult at best, and can be devastating, Kyle explains, “but when we are able to come alongside a grieving family and help them provide their pet with a dignified, painless, loving death, we provide that family with the foundation they need to start to heal from their grief.”
On the other hand, when a death is unexpected or tragic and they don’t have that chance, Kyle says she can still find ways to help them grieve. “I’m actually incredibly grateful to be in a career where I can be of help to people in these really difficult moments of loss.”
Kyle and her wife have been together for over seventeen years now. The pair has lived in the Heights since 2007, and Kyle says they love their neighborhood. They were married in central Texas in 2006. “We also had the amazing privilege of legally marrying in the San Francisco courthouse in June of 2008.” They have an eight-year-old son, three cats, and until very recently, two sixteen-year-old grandma chihuahuas. “One of our chis died this summer, and her absence has made our house a lot more empty.”
As for the future, Kyle hopes that Bayou City Veterinary Practice continues to be a trusted, engaged, and valued part of their neighborhood and the larger Houston community of pet lovers. “I want our employees to always find work that brings them satisfaction, knowing that they are part of a team dedicated to the health and welfare of pets, and the support and education of pet owners. I want Bayou City to be a place of warmth and joy and integrity, always.”
This article appears in the August 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.