At Puget Sound Veterinary Specialists, we strive to find compassionate, fun, life-long learners to join our close-knit team of doctors, veterinary technicians, assistants and client care representatives. But above all else, we look for candidates who will treat all people with respect, regardless of title or position. To meet our fantastic team please scroll down. If you are interested in joining a professional community that cares about your wellbeing, please contact Vanessa Rizzo at

Dr. Rizzo with patient Ella the dachshund dog
Fear Free Certified Professional

vanessa Rizzo, DVM, ACVIM (O)


Dr. Rizzo was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, but has fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest.   She loved animals from a very young age and used to beg her mother for a pet – any pet.  When she was 12 her mother gave in and bought her two newts.  Sadly, this did not work out well.  It wasn’t until she was 17 when her mother agreed to let her take home a grey tabby kitten who she named Simba. 

Simba stood by Dr. Rizzo’s side while she finished high school and attended undergraduate school.  He especially liked lying on her textbooks while she was taking notes.  When Dr. Rizzo’s soon-to-be husband, Jim, convinced her that she needed to go to veterinary school, Simba and their new addition Presley (an orange tabby), followed them to Southern California where she attended and graduated from Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine.

While she was in veterinary school, Dr. Rizzo became fascinated by cancer.  Several members of her family had suffered from cancer – some survived and some did not.  Sadly, one of those family members was Simba who, at the age of 13, passed away due to metastatic pancreatic cancer.

So while, she knew of cancer her whole life, she had no idea, until veterinary school, that cancer is an umbrella term for a spectrum of diseases.  Although they are all united by the commonality of cellular proliferation, they are also each characterized by unique behaviors, progressions and responses.  She was hooked instantly in her first quarter she decided she was going to be an oncologist.

Four years later, Dr. Rizzo, Jim, Presley and their two canine additions, Molly and Teddy traveled to Tinton Falls, New Jersey so that Dr. Rizzo could complete a 1-year rotating internship in veterinary internal medicine and surgery at Garden State Veterinary Specialists.   It was there that she developed a deep love and respect for the veterinary support team.  Veterinary technicians and assistants work tirelessly to care for animals, animal caregivers AND the veterinarian.  For Dr. Rizzo, they taught countless lessons.  For example they taught her how to read an ECG (better than any professor), how to stay calm when a patient is actively suffering from seizures and the neurologist hasn’t arrived yet, and they offered a tremendous amount of emotional support on long overnight shifts that threatened to never end.

Veterinary technicians and assistants are the beating heart of any veterinary clinic and it is impossible to thank them too often for their selflessness, technical skill, devotion, compassion and all around support.  The best veterinarians are only that with the support of the whole team and Dr. Rizzo is no exception.

Then it was on to Ithaca, NY where Dr. Rizzo completed a 3-year residency program in medical oncology at Cornell University and where she acquired, Digger the beagle.  As you can imagine, it was at Cornell where Dr. Rizzo started to learn about the complexities of cancer.  She conducted both bench side and bedside research and eventually used that research to complete three peer-reviewed articles.  Maybe equally as important though, she learned the critical nature of teamwork. 

Since then she has been working as a board certified veterinary medical oncologist in the Pacific Northwest where she has been honing her skills and knowledge and where she has truly come to understand the strength of the human animal bond.

Dr. Rizzo and Jim have since lost Molly to nasal cancer and Presley to renal failure.  Simba, Molly and Presley will forever hold a place in their hearts.  They still are honored to have Teddy and Digger as part of their family and have added a shih-tzu named Henry, a dachshund named Ella and a bunny named Guinevere. 

Dr. Rizzo is honored and grateful to be serving the needs of pets with cancer, their families and the veterinary support staff on the beautiful Kitsap Peninsula. 

Hume, KR, Rizzo VL, Cawley JR, Balkman CE. Effects of toceranib phosphate on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Thyroid Axis in Tumor-Bearing Dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 2018 Jan;32(1):377-383.

Rizzo VL, Levine CB, Wakshlag JJ.  The Effects of Sulforaphane on Canine Osteosarcoma Proliferation and Invasion. Veterinary and Comparative Oncology.  2017 Sep;15(3):718-730.

Priest HL, et al.  The use, publication and future directions of immunocytochemistry in veterinary medicine: a consensus of the Oncology-Pathology Working Group. Veterinary and Comparative Oncology.  2017 Sep;15(3):868-880.

Frazier JP, et al.  Multidrug Analyses in Patients Distinguish Efficacious Cancer Agents Based on Both Tumor Cell Killing and Immunomodulation.  Cancer Research. 2017Jun1;77(11):2869-2880.

Peralta, JM, Rizzo, V. The Use of Ice to Enrich the Environment of Pigs Housed Indoors. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 2015; 18(1):32-41.

Heather Knapp-Hoch, DVM, MS, DACVS


Originally from New Jersey, Dr. Knapp-Hoch is excited to return to her home on the West Coast, Washington State! She is honored and thrilled to head the surgical team at PSVS. Dr. Knapp-Hoch started her education at Long Island University in 2001 where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in biology. During her undergraduate education she had the amazing opportunity to work at Plum Island Animal Disease Center where she studied Foot and Mouth Disease. She developed a passion for animal wellness and a respect for the research that goes into keeping animals safe and healthy.

Following her passion for research she entered graduate school at Washington State University (GO COUGS!!!!) where she obtained a Master’s degree in Genetics and Cell and Molecular Biology.

She fell in love with Washington State and decided to combine her love of research and clinical medicine. She spent the next 4 years at WSU and earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2007. During her time on the clinic floor as a fourth year student she witnessed first-hand the strength and beauty of the human animal bond and developed a passion for both surgery and oncology.

Following her desire to combine her love of surgery and oncology Dr.Knapp-Hoch moved across the country to Ithaca NY. There she completed a small animal rotating internship at Cornell University in 2008 followed by a three-year surgical residency at Cornell University from 2009-2011. She obtained board certification (DACVS) in 2012 and practiced as a small animal clinical instructor at Cornell University from 2011-2014. During this time, she met Dr. Rizzo and they worked together to develop a strong surgical oncology presence at Cornell.

After starting a family, she moved closer to home and practiced as a small animal surgeon at Northstar VETS in NJ from 2014-2020. Here she helped to develop a strong program in minimally invasive surgery and interventional radiology. During her last few years in private practice she has developed a vision of a specialty practice that provides state of the art medicine and surgery centered around collaboration and commitment to both patients and clients to provide the best care possible while fostering the human animal bond.

Dr. Knapp-Hoch’s special areas of interest include surgical oncology and minimally invasive surgery including laser ablation of ectopic ureters. She is proficient in advanced wound management and has a special interest in the use of negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) to treat difficult surgical and traumatic wounds. She is proficient in arthroscopy and general orthopedic surgery as well being trained in tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) and other surgical procedures for cranial cruciate ligament disease.

In her down time Dr. Knapp-Hoch loves spending time outdoors with her family. She loves to hike, swim, snowboard and boat with her husband and their 2 little girls. She also loves to cuddle at home by the fire with her fur babies Tallulah who is a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and Sammie the best orange cat in the world.

Dr. Heather Knapp-Hoch
Boyd Pic
Fear Free Certified Professional

Danielle Boyd, DVM, MPH, DACVO


I grew up in sunny Arizona but have been dreaming of the breathtakingly beautiful landscape of the Pacific Northwest since I was child. Being a member of the Kitsap Peninsula community is a dream come true for me.    

Becoming a veterinarian to help the voiceless and give back to the creatures that make my life complete was another dream of mine so I earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine and master’s in public health at St. George’s University and North Carolina State University. After witnessing a previously blind pup see his family from across the room after cataract surgery, I knew ophthalmology was my calling – restoring eyesight is indescribable.

That calling required me to complete a one year rotating small animal internship, a one-year specialty ophthalmology internship and three-year ophthalmology residency. All of that education helped me to reach my goal of restoring eyesight for as many animals as possible. My other goal is to help my clients feel as if they are part of my family. I will outline and thoroughly discuss all options available for your pets’ ophthalmic issues. Together we will come up with a plan that fits everyone’s needs to give your pet the absolute best care possible. Finding someone you trust to care for you beloved furry, feathered, scaled family member can be a stressful task especially during an emergency. I am passionate about relieving that stress and will treat your pet with the same love and compassion I have for my own.

I believe in doing my small part in this big world by making it better than the day I arrived. I am involved in both animal and human related community outreach and service. When those two worlds collide, we can make an even bigger impact with the human animal connection.

When I’m not at work, volunteering, or reading about eyeballs you will find me outdoors with my pups. We plan on visiting as many state parks as possible where we can camp, kayak and hike. I have two pups – Squish, a 3.5 year-old previously abused rescued pup from a shelter in Ohio and Weasel, a 3 year-old, previously scared street pup rescued from a shelter in Houston during hurricane Harvey. They are never alone though. I constantly have a foster pup or cat roaming around with us until we find them their perfect forever home.

I am so grateful to be a part of this community and I look forward to serving the ophthalmic needs of the animals on the Kitsap Peninsula.

A Pup Named Squish Puget Sound Veterinary Specialists



Meet Squish! He’s our newest employee. He started out answering the phones, but we found he makes a much better Pawspitality Administrator. So good in fact, he was promoted to Senior Pawspitality Administrator in under an hour.

Squish is a three-year-old cheeky mutt living a spoiled life in the beautiful State of Washington. Squish’s favorite activities include chasing bubbles and butterflies, hiking, sniffing flowers, finding the biggest stick possible, breaking the record for faster zoomies, and splashing in muddy puddles.

Squish was rescued after he was abused and sustained trauma to the right side of his head and jaw as a four-month old puppy. While his injuries left him with a unique face, they could not alter his unbelievable zest for life and only made him stronger.

Squish is a proud ambassador of #adoptdontshop, special needs animals, a fighter of animal cruelty, and is here to remind everyone that being perfectly imperfect is absolutely beautiful.

Facebook: A Pup Named Squish

Instagram: @apupnamedsuish

Coming soon.

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1730 Pottery Ave, Suite #120 Port Orchard, WA 98366



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