Dr. Joseph D. Szanto, DVM

Founder/Medical Director

Dr. Szanto graduated from the University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine in 1985. His father was a veterinarian, and as long as he can remember, Dr. Szanto wanted to be one too. The thing he likes best about Veterinary Medicine is that it is never boring; he enjoys the challenges and rewards that come with the job. Dr. Szanto is adventurous and good natured. His activities outside of work include spending time with family, camping and traveling. Apart from being an excellent Veterinarian, Dr. Szanto is unusually mechanically inclined, he can fix just about anything! As of now, Dr. Szanto is only working intermittently, so he can focus on being an outstanding Medical Director!


Dr. Alexis Cox, DVM

Associate Veterinarian

Dr. Cox grew up in Atlanta, GA. As a child, she was always interested in animals. She was always coming home with frogs, beetles, kittens and puppies. She even asked Santa for a Capybara for Christmas! By early childhood she had decided that she would be an animal doctor. Dr. Cox is a graduate of The University of Georgia. She attended UGA as undergraduate, majoring in Biology and Entomology and graduating Phi Beta Kappa. She stayed on at UGA to complete her Veterinary degree, graduating Cum Laude in 2004. After graduation, she spent two years in emergency medicine at a large, 24 hour hospital in Baltimore, MD. Never the night owl, the overnight shifts became tiresome, and a change of direction landed her here in Los Angeles, practicing at The Pet Doctors, where she has been since 2006. Dr. Cox lives with her husband, her two cats (Toonces and Blanket), and two rats (Marsha and Jan). She also has two cats that live at the office, Timmy and Rupert. In her free time, she likes to paint, travel, hike and work in the garden.


Dr. Missy Achenbach, VMD

Associate Veterinarian

Dr. Achenbach has been at The Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks since March of 2016. Dr. Achenbach was born in Princeton, New Jersey and raised outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She grew up with many dogs and cats and rode horses competitively since the age of 3. At the age of 8, she began accompanying a large animal veterinarian on his calls. It was at this time that she knew she had found her calling!

Dr. Achenbach attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania graduating in 2003. She completed an internship in Charlottesville, Virginia. She has since worked in many practices across the country and around the world (even in Hong Kong!). She now calls Southern California her home. Dr. Achenbach is married with two young boys and has two energetic dogs named “Lester” (a Jack Russel Terrier) and “Shea” (an Australian Shepherd). She spends her free time either chasing the boys around or running with her Aussie. Recently Dr. Achenbach became Fear Free Certified. She is committted to making veterinary visits less stressfull and making her patients comfortable. Her goal is to make veterinary visits easier by preventing and alleviating fear, anxiety, and stress in her patients, ultimately making visits more enjoyable for everyone. She looks forward to working as a team with you and your pets!


Dr. Steven Brookenthal, DVM

Associate Veterinarian

Dr. Brookenthal’s path to the Pet Doctors was a bit unconventional. Born and raised near Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Brookenthal earned a computer science bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. He quickly escaped the cold midwest weather and moved to sunny Los Angeles, where he enjoyed an exciting career in video game development. Eventually, his lifelong love of animals led him to pursue his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at University of California, Davis. He became certified by the Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians program at the OneHealth Scientific Integrative Medicine (SIM), and now practices acupuncture on dogs and cats. Dr. Brookenthal shares his home with a big, brindle mutt named Krueger. In his free time, he enjoys photography, travel, comedy, and hiking with Krue.


Dr. Kolleen Nellett, DVM

Associate Veterinarian

​Dr. Nellett is a graduate of the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts and has known since she was a child that she wanted to be a vet. She grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA and followed her father into military service after graduating from veterinary school. She completed her internship with the US Army at the Ft. Bragg Veterinary Center in North Carolina, one of the largest medical centers for military working dogs in the country. After fulfilling her military obligation, Dr. Nellett was drawn to the great weather, delicious food (and wine!), and friendly people of California and found herself at the Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks. Dr. Nellett has particular interest in nutrition and sports medicine and has a soft spot for difficult cats since her childhood cat was one of them! She lives with her boyfriend and their two cats, Merlyn and Raina. Her hobbies include travel, wine tasting, gaming, and reading. Dr. Nellett looks forward to helping you provide the best preventative and sick care possible for your pets!


Jessica Spellacy

Practice Administrator

Jessica joined the team at The Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks in August of 2016. Jessica has been in the Veterinary field for over 25 years with 20 years exclusive to veterinary practice management. She acquired her certification in Veterinary Practice Administration in 2011from the AAHA/VMI Institute at Purdue University. Jessica is very passionate when it comes to client service and patient care. As the practice administrator she strives to build strong relationships and provide excellent service to our clients as well as ensure the highest standard in our patient care. Her favorite part of being practice administrator is providing leadership and support to the team here at the Pet Doctors and watching them grow and succeed in their various roles. Jessica is a California native and grew up in the South Bay/Beach Cities area. She shares her home with her husband Mark, their 3 children Logun, Fischer, and Irish, and an 8 year old Pug “Roscoe”. In her free time she loves spending time with her family and friends. She also loves crocheting, knitting, watching movies, and cooking! When she has the opportunity she likes traveling and enjoying the outdoors.


Elvia Palomares, RVT

Registered Veterinary Nurse Supervisor

Elvia has been at The Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks since June of 2012. She has been in the Veterinary field for over 5 years now. She has her Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology and took the State Board Exam and earned her RVT License. She has two adorable dogs, “Puffy” who is a Terrier Mix and “Mickey” who is a Labrador Mix. Elvia has always had a passion for animals and really loves what she does. Being around and helping animals is her favorite part about working at the practice. Elvia is one of 3 children; she has a younger brother and an older sister. She also has a beautiful 10 year old niece. Aside from spending time with her fur babies, she loves nature, dancing, eating at restaurants, reading, watching movies, and hanging out with friends. One thing you may not know about Elvia is that she an aspiring traveler.


Deija Lighon, RVT

Registered Veterinary Nurse

Deija has been at the Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks since June 2017. Deija is a Registered Veterinary Technician and has been working with animals for over ten years. She was born and raised Los Angeles and has two cats, Rhymes and Tyrone. It is no secret that Deija loves and cares for animals immensely and treats every patient like her own. Deija also enjoys connecting with pet owners and bonding over her love for animals. In her free time, Deija makes her own music and enjoys any activity outdoors.


Marina Luna

Veterinary Nurse

Marina has been at The Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks since August of 2012. She has two cute doggies, “Deco” a.k.a. “Prancy Pants” who is a Chihuahua Mix and ‘Schnitzel” who is a Dapple Dachshund. Her favorite part about working here is that it’s a fun, friendly and professional work environment and she loves working with all the doctors and her co-workers. Marina is one of three children; she has a younger and older brother that she loves more than anything. Working with animals has always been a major passion in her life. From a young age she realized that connecting with domestic pets came very easy to her, she sees herself being a part of this field for the rest of her life. Outside of work she loves all motor sports, loves to ride her motorcycle, and she loves to travel. Marina is a very adventurous person, her Mom calls her the “Traveling Gypsy” because any time she can see a new part of the world, she’ll do it.


Kennia Escobar

Veterinary Nurse

Kennia has been working at The Pet Doctors for her 4th summer now. She currently has her BA in Biology from the University of Redlands. Kennia has a Chihuahua Mix named Nicky. One of her favorite parts about working here is having a great team to work with and being able to work with great patients! In her free time she loves spending time with her two younger sisters, lounging with Nicky at home watching Netflix and reading books. She has also plans to Skydive to scratch that off her bucket list!


Frank Saldana

Veterinary Nurse

Frank has been at The Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks since March of 2016. Frank graduated from Mt. San Antonio College in June 2017 and will become a Registered Veterinary Technician in March 2018. Frank was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and has three dogs – Benny, Oreo, and Skittles, a tortoise named Frankie and a bearded dragon named Igor II. Frank loves the diversity of cases we see at The Pet Doctors since he loves to help the doctors work up each case and see the outcome of each patient reach optimal health. He values each individual pet like his own since our patients are considered part of the family. In his free time, he loves photography, volunteers at the zoo, and enjoys anything related to science and medicine. Frank eventually would like to become a 4th grade science teacher and help shape and guide new RVTs.


Yesenia Valladares

Veterinary Nurse

​Yesenia has been at The Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks since June 2017. She has worked with animals for over 8 years. She graduated from Pierce College in June 2017 and will become a Registered Veterinary Nurse in April 2018. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and has two dogs Estralla and Cookie, one cat Cheeto, and two mice. She enjoys assisting doctors in surgery and taking care of more emergency cases and nursing them back to health. She also works at Heaven on Earth Society of Animals Cat Sanctuary as a caretaker. In her free time, she likes to go hiking, swimming, and baking.


Zahara Almendarez

Veterinary Nurse


Kimberly Smith

Veterinary Nurse


Terri Strum

Veterinary Nurse


Rosie Figueroa – Supervisor

Client Service Representative


Ginger Freibrun

Client Service Representative

Ginger has been at The Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks since May of 2010. She has her B.A. in Radio/Television/Film from Cal State Northridge. Ginger has been to sky diving school and studied Business at Glendale Community College. She has a handsome cat named Max; he is all black with one white spot. Her favorite part about working here is greeting and helping the clients. She has gotten to know all of the pets and it’s a very rewarding experience. Ginger grew up in West L.A. with her father, who looked after her and her brother. She also has two half-brothers about 10 years younger than her. In her free time she has always enjoyed anything to do with the paranormal; she has attended many events and retreats associated with that. She also loves to travel to exotic places, hike, explore new places, eat healthy organic food and watch movies. A few things you would not know about Ginger is that she went to a Jewish private school and studied Hebrew for 8 years, her Hebrew name is Chanah.


Jos Ortiz

Client Service Representative


Jocelyn Chavarria

Client Service Representative


Ana Ramirez

Client Service Representative


Amber Brito

Kennel Assistant


Christie Bauer

Kennel Assistant


We have FEAR FREE CERTIFIED professionals on staff.