"It's by no means a luxury for so many families," said Orsher, 60, who left the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine to start his private practice in 1990.
The American Veterinary Medical Association reported $19.1 billion in veterinary expenses for dogs in 2011, up from $16.1 billion in 2006, and $7.4 billion for cats in 2011 up from $7.1 billion in 2006.
Specialty care for pets is expensive. Orsher said the cost of knee surgery for a dog ranges from $2,800 to $4,500 for a large dog.
VSEC, which will have room for 65 dogs and 12 cats in its wards, depends on referrals from general veterinarians for business. One Center City veterinarian, Howard Wellens, medical director of the Queen Village Animal Hospital, said he encouraged Orsher to open in the city.
"We have none in Center City," Wellens said, referring to 24-hour emergency and specialty care for pets. "I guess the nearest one is the University of Pennsylvania," but he said he has not been happy with the service Penn has provided to his clients.
Orsher said he was not pitching his new clinic as competition to Penn. "I have tremendous respect for the University of Pennsylvania. They are a teaching hospital," he said. VSEC sends some cases to Penn for procedures it does not offer, such as the insertion of a stent in a dog's collapsed trachea.
"Everybody serves a different niche in the market. We provide comprehensive services at a very high level of care that you just can't find anywhere else," said Mark "Bo" Connell, executive director of Penn's Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital.
Asked about the new competition from VSEC, Connell said: "We're always proud to see our alumni succeed. Rob has been very successful."
Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or email@example.com.