ELK CITY – German Shepherds suffering from tooth decay in Beckham County share something in common with Siamese cats with infected paws or hamsters that suddenly quit eating. Their owners are likely to call Red Earth Animal Hospital when they need a veterinarian.

Located at 3503 S. Highway 6 in Elk City, the small animal practice of Dr. Howard Zent provides preventive health care, treatment for sick animals and a kennel for boarding pets.

“A large percentage of our work involves preventive care — vaccinations,annual exams, heart worm testing — measures to keep animals from getting sick,” Dr. Zent said. “We also treat a wide variety of sick animals and perform spays and neuters. We see many cases of periodontal disease and tooth decay so we spend a fair portion of our time treating and preventing tooth and gum disease.”

Dr. Zent and his wife, Jennifer, opened Red Earth Animal Hospital in 1997,relocating his practice from North Dakota because of Elk City’s proximity to Jennifer’s family in her hometown of Canute.

The Zents have four daughters, including two who work at the Red Earth Animal Hospital. Their youngest daughter, Dr. Caiti Zent, now practices with her father as a second veterinarian at Red Earth, while her sister, Kendall, is the hospital’s receptionist.

“It’s a great blessing for us,” Dr. Zent said of operating a family-run business. “All our girls live in town and we see our four grandkids almost daily. Our second daughter, Mackenzie, also has worked here as a receptionist but decided to start a family and hasn’t come back, yet.

“Our oldest daughter, Courtney, has three kids, so I can excuse her, at least for now,” he said with a laugh.

Red Earth also employs a groomer, Jodi Moler, and Faron Buttry, who maintains the hospital’s large kennel for boarding animals.

“We’re probably the largest boarding facility in this area,” Dr. Zent said. “We can accommodate about 60 dogs.”

Red Earth also has hospitalization facilities, digital X-ray equipment and an in-house lab so that most of the testing needed can be done on site with a short turnaround time and quicker diagnosis and treatment.

With high-speed Internet access provided by Dobson Technologies, the Red Earth staff can digitally transmit X-rays to have them assessed by remote specialists when needed.

Neither the speedy Internet access nor the reliable phone service that Dobson provides Red Earth Animal Hospital was available to the business until it switched telecommunication providers in 2013.

“Our biggest problem with our old telephone provider was reliability,” Dr. Zent said. “Our phones were down often and we would be waiting to get phone service back. We missed about 20 days of phone service one year, which we felt was inexcusable.”

Down time translated into substantial lost business when customers couldn’t reach the hospital staff because all they heard was a busy signal.

Today, Red Earth Animal Hospital operates with 10 phones provided by Dobson Technologies that are spread throughout its 6,500 square foot facility. Calls are routed either to the hospital receptionist or the groomer.

“Now, every call that comes in gets answered,” Dr. Zent said. “Before, people were frequently getting busy signals, giving up and going elsewhere for services.”

Dobson’s equipment and service has lived up to its promises.

“The people that Dobson has sent out here are just excellent,” Dr. Zent said. “Our monthly bill is basically the same as we had before. Now we have high speed Internet and a very good phone service with exceptional voice quality.

“We’ve made a big jump — it has made our work easier and more efficient and we will be able to provide improved service to our clients.”