June 21, 2021

Grant County Herald

Community news from the prairie to the lakes

Hoffman vet has seen big changes

Dr. Sonstegard with Cisco on the examination table.

Dr. Gregg Sonstegard has been a veterinarian for 46 years. The Alexandria native went to collage at the University of Minnesota and graduated from the U of M School of Veterinary Science in 1975. After working at vet clinics in Minneapolis and Pelican Rapids, he was approached by Dr. Greiner from Lake Region Veterinary Center in Elbow Lake. Dr. Greiner was planning to purchase the veterinary practice of Dr. Diel in Hoffman and wondered if Dr. Sonstegard would be interested in running it.

He was, and soon the young vet was working for Lake Region Veterinary Center. 

“We met most mornings in Elbow Lake and then I would head out for Hoffman, usually making several house calls along the way,” Dr. Sonstegard recalls.

In the mid-70s, there were many dairy operations in Grant County, especially around Hoffman.

“West of Hoffman, there were five or six dairy operations all in a row, we called it Dairy Row.”

Vets find lots of work around dairy farms where calving can be precarious, even for experienced cows. Dr. Sonstegard was kept busy on Dairy Row.

In 1978, Sonstegard purchased the Hoffman clinic and set up shop for himself. In 1980, he moved the clinic from across from the creamery to its present location along Highway 55 in Hoffman.

While there are only a few family dairy farms left in the area, the long-time Hoffman vet is plenty busy with horses, dogs, and cats.

“I vaccinate a lot of horses if they are going to travel across state lines. And I test for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).”

Dogs and cats are no longer just farm dogs and cats, but often members of the family and have regular checkups and vaccinations as well. He is also busy with spaying, neutering, taking care of injuries, deworming, and checking for Lyme disease.

“I see a number of cats and dogs daily.”

The cattle he deals with are mostly beef cattle who also have to keep up on vaccinations and general health. Although beef cows can also have trouble during calving, Dr. Sonstegard said selective breeding is developing smaller, thereby safer, calves for delivery.

He has worked at sales barns, checking animal health and vaccination records before the animals are sold, preventing an outbreak of something serious.

Some of the more interesting veterinarian experiences Dr. Sonstegard has had are at dog sled races. He was a veterinarian at the John Beargrease race on the North Shore several times, and even worked the Iditarod in Alaska once. Dog sled races require a lot of veterinarians to not only check out each and every dog before the race, but at many checkpoints in case a dog is injured along the way.

“It is a lot of fun,” he said.

He has also treated llamas, trimming their bangs when they interfere in their vision, and trimming the hair on their feet.

“But they can be a nasty animal, and like to kick.”

Dr. Sonstegard, and his wife Mary, who is the bookkeeper for the business, have three children, all of whom are in the medial field. One is an oral surgeon, one a nurse practitioner, and one a physical therapist.

The Nordic Veterinary Service is open 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. until noon on Saturday. They sell a full line of medications and treatments for pets and pet supplies. You will be greeted by Jenny Stormo who has been Office Manager for 23 years.