Dr. Jay McDonnell, DACVIM (Neurology)

After earning his veterinary (DVM) and master’s (MS) degree from the University of Missouri, Dr. McDonnell spent four years in general practice in Missouri and Oregon. Knowing he wanted to do more, he undertook a three-year neurology-neurosurgery residency at Tufts University in Massachusetts, and in 1998 was board-certified in neurology by the American College of Veterinary Medicine.

Since then, Dr. McDonnell has been on a dual path of academia and private practice, first joining the faculty of University of Georgia where he taught in the hospital and classroom. From 2000 to 2004, he was chief of neurology-neurosurgery at Tufts University. There, he helped established the in-house magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suite, a brain surgery unit, and minimally-invasive CT-guided biopsy program.

Since moving to Maryland, Dr. McDonnell has become well-known for his work in the definitive treatment of brain tumors and spinal cord tumors, foramen magnum decompression/dorsal laminectomies, Wobbler’s disease, and the use of pituitary surgery to treat canine Cushing’s disease. In 2012, seeing the need for veterinary MRIs, he opened Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake.

Teaching continues to be important to Dr. McDonnell. Believing that a balance of the academia and private practice enables him to keep at the forefront of veterinary neurology, he is an assistant clinical professor at Tufts University and a consultant in neurology at the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. McDonnell has lectured nationally, internationally, and regionally, and has published more than 20 journal articles, reviews, and book chapters. He is a founding member of the Veterinary Neurosurgery Society, and the exhibit coordinator for its biennial symposium.

Dr. McDonnell and his wife, Leigh, who is Vice President of Animal Health and Welfare at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, have three dogs: two Boston terriers, Cece and Spice, and a golden retriever named Omya.

Dr. Laura Harvey, DACVIM (Neurology)

Veterinary neurologist Laura Harvey, DVM, joined VNIOC in September 2016. When announcing that her appointment to the VNIOC staff, Dr. McDonnell said, “I’m so pleased to be able to bring on such a superbly qualified neurologist out of the outstanding program at Tufts.”

Dr. Harvey received a B.S. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University, graduating cum laude, with distinction in research. She then went on to attend veterinary school at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Harvey completed her internship in small animal medicine and surgery at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, and returned to Tufts to do her residency in neurology and neurosurgery. There she received the Resident Award for Excellence in Teaching, and was selected as Resident of the Year for routinely going above and beyond for her patients and her students.  Dr. Harvey achieved board certification in neurology and neurosurgery in 2016.

“I met Dr. McDonnell at Tufts when I was a student. He was teaching as an adjunct professor in neuroanatomy,” Dr. Harvey said. “I was excited to learn about the opportunity to join VNIOC and work with him and his fantastic team. Plus, my family is on the eastern shore; I love being closer to them!

“Neurology is a fascinating field. It’s on the cutting edge with new surgeries and treatments being developed all the time. VNIOC is a unique practice because we have a veterinarian overseeing anesthesia for all of our MRIs.  This ensures that we are providing a high standard of care for our patients during every step of the process.”

Relationships with pets and their people are important to Dr. Harvey. “We develop both short- and long-term relationships. We might see a pet with a back issue over a month or two for diagnosis, surgery, and follow-up, while we’ll likely continue to see a pet with seizures over the course of her lifetime.”

Dr. Harvey knows what it’s like to have a pet with a chronic, long-term disease. “My cat, Sage, developed myasthenia gravis, a rare neuromuscular disease, after I’d had her for six years. I’ve managed it for four years, and know that it’s not easy. The key to dealing with these types of medical conditions is recognizing that you can only do your best; no one is perfect. As veterinarians and pet owners, we need to know what are reasonable expectations of care on all fronts. It’s all about compassion and understanding.”

In addition to Sage, Dr. Harvey has another cat, Wolfie, and a Labrador retriever named Magnolia. She spends much of her free time with her husband outdoors; they particularly enjoy hiking and kayaking.

Dr. Hannah Evans

Veterinarian Hannah Evans, DVM, joined the VNIOC in September 2016, where she oversees anesthesia and the veterinary care of patients undergoing imaging.

Dr. Evans grew up in Pasadena, Maryland, and is happy to be returning to the area after receiving her DVM at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville School of Veterinary Medicine and completing her internship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I fell in love with anesthesia at vet school when I was part of the anesthesia crew. I collaborated with other students and anesthesiologists to develop anesthetic protocols for each patient,” she explains. “I got to pre-medicate, induce, and intubate 1-2 animals daily, and monitored their vitals while they were undergoing the procedure. I found I wasn’t interested in doing surgery so I knew I didn’t want to do general practice. The opportunity here seemed ideal.”

Her family is equally happy with the move. “My parents live in Severna Park, and my two older brothers live in Annapolis and Jessup. We’re all big Ravens football fans, and we try to have Sunday get-togethers each week,” she adds.

Dr. Evans’ family includes her dog, Ellie, a golden retriever.

In her free time, Dr. Evans, who is a certified writing tutor, likes to write and read, and for stress relief, bake—something the staff appreciates.

Dr. Todd Skeen, DACVIM (Neurology)

Dr. Skeen graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1998. He completed a small animal rotating internship there in 1999, followed by a three-year residency in neurology and neurosurgery at NC State University. He achieved diplomate status in the ACVIM upon completion of his residency in 2002.

Dr. Skeen started the neurology service at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in 2002. He remained there over the next dozen years, serving as owner, medical director, and chief of neurology. He left the practice in late 2014 to spend more time with his family and currently works on a limited basis at select hospitals across the country.

Dr. Skeen has extensive clinical experience, having treated thousands of patients both medically and surgically during his busy career in private practice. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen papers in scientific journals and lectured extensively in his home state of North Carolina. His professional areas of interest include treatment for intervertebral disc disease, atlantoaxial instability, and CNS inflammatory diseases (MUE, GME).


  • American Veterinary Medical Association
  • American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Neurology)
  • Certificate of Training in Neurosurgery

Dr. Avril Arendse, DACVIM (Neurology)

After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from George Mason University, she received her DVM at Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. She served her internship and neurology residency at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

After completing her residency, she became a staff neurologist, then primary neurologist at practices in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, before joining VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine as a clinical instructor in neurology/neurosurgery in 2016. Dr. Arendse has a special interest in inflammatory/immune-mediated central nervous system disease.

Dr. Peter Early, DACVIM (Neurology)

Dr. Early is a long-time friend and colleague of Dr. McDonnell. “I’ve known Jay for years,” he says. “I’ve gotten to know him better in the past five or more years through UPenn, where we were locum clinical professors. I am primarily an academic person but up to a quarter of my time is spent working in specialty practice. I appreciate the opportunity to practice at VNIOC. My goal is to provide excellent neurosurgery.”

After graduating from the University Of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Early interned at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and continued with a residency at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Early, who started at VNIOC in August 2014, has been a locum clinical professor at both Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, and a clinical neurologist at practices in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.