Meet Our Avian & Exotic Veterinarians & Staff

Meet Our Avian & Exotic Veterinarians & Staff

Our team in Grapevine is a group of people whose veterinary medicine is fueled by a love of animals. We have extensive experience in exotic animal care and we thoroughly enjoy the diversity and complexity of these amazing animals. You can meet our team of exotic veterinarians and support staff below, but we’d love to see you! Give us a call to schedule an appointment and meet us in person!

Medical Director - Natalie Antinoff, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian)

Dr. Antinoff obtained her DVM from the University of Wisconsin in 1992 and continued to do an internship in small animal medicine and surgery, followed by a residency in avian and exotic pet medicine and surgery. Following ABVP board certification in 1997, she established the first specialty exotics practice operating as part of a referral center in the country. She has authored chapters and articles in veterinary texts and journals, and has spoken locally, nationally, and internationally to veterinarians and pet owners. She served as a consultant for online veterinary groups, providing interactive information to veterinarians nationwide, and has served on the editorial boards of several veterinary journals. She has also mentored over 25 veterinary interns in exotic pet medicine.

In her spare time, Dr. Antinoff enjoys travel, rollerblading, and bicycling, often combining all of these in a trip! She also loves spending time at home with her pets – Mojo, a terrier mix; Louie, a Miniature Dachshund, two cats Zephyr and Zuzu, and Gracie, the African grey and Big, the macaw.

Exotic Veterinarian in Grapevine: Dr. Hoppes

Sharman Hoppes, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian)

Dr. Hoppes is a Clinical Professor in the zoological medicine service at Texas A&M University (TAMU). Dr. Hoppes earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Oklahoma State University in 1993. Prior to that, she worked as a registered nurse for 10 years caring for human patients. She completed an avian medicine and surgery residency in 1999 at North Carolina State University and became a Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in avian practice in 2000.

She is a past-President (2012-2013) of the Association of Avian Veterinarians and is also an active member of the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians. Dr. Hoppes joined TAMU in 2006 and her research interests include avian analgesia, avian behavior, and enrichment and Avian Bornavirus in parrots through her work at the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center.

Katie Dowling, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Exotic Companion Mammal)

Dr. Dowling graduated from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2019. As a veterinary student, she worked with the Nashville Zoo, Vancouver Aquarium, Toledo Zoo, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, and the Wildlife Center of Virginia to gain more experience working with exotic species. After veterinary school, Dr. Dowling completed a Small Animal Medicine and Surgery Internship at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, prior to starting an internship position with Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital. Dr. Dowling then went on to complete a residency at Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital. Since then, she has passed her boards and become a Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.

When working with exotic species, Dr. Dowling has interests in population medicine, preventative medicine, and nutrition. In her free time, Dr. Dowling enjoys hiking, trivia night, baking, and spending time with her cat, Captain.


Dr. Sydney Jones, Resident (ABVP - Avian)

Dr. Jones graduated from Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2020. While in vet school, she gained experience in multiple areas of exotic animal medicine by working with the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital Zoological Service, the Houston Zoo, the San Antonio Zoo, Tufts Wildlife Center, and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. She also completed two externships at exotic animal veterinary practices including our own Texas Avian and Exotic Hospital. She traveled to Peru on a study abroad program to work with macaws in the amazon rainforest alongside Dr. Hoppes and did a two-month veterinary internship at a wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica. Following veterinary school, she completed a 1-year small animal internship at Neel Veterinary Hospital, a 24-hour emergency hospital in Oklahoma City.

Dr. Jones enjoys working with all exotic species but has a special interest in birds (of all types!). In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling, reading, and spending time with her family in Houston along with her pets (lab mix, Pixie; two cats, Toad and Charlie Boy; and Black-headed Caique, Little Foot).

Dr. Meryl Schimek, Resident (ABVP- Exotic Companion Mammal)

Mid-2023, Dr. Schimek will begin her residency program with us full-time. Dr. Schimek actually created an avian/exotic service at a referral hospital in Wisconsin and comes to us desiring to become a board-certified specialist. She will be seeing patients here at Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital as well as seeing avian/exotic patients at the Animal Emergency Hospital of North Texas next door until her residency formally begins.

Dr. Schimek
Dr. Welle

Ken Welle, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian)

Dr. Welle is a board-certified avian veterinarian. He has long been captivated by the feathered dinosaurs that are birds and enjoys the unique challenges of keeping them and other unusual creatures healthy and well-adjusted. Four macaws and six chickens haunt his farm along with one dog and four goats.

After graduating from the University of Illinois with his DVM, Dr. Ken Welle was in general practice for seven years before gaining board certification in Avian Practice from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. For the next 15 years his private practice was limited to birds and other non-traditional pets and he worked with a local zoo. His passion for this field led him to return as faculty to the University of Illinois in 2011 so he could share his knowledge and experience with veterinary students. In addition, Dr. Welle has been very active in the Association of Avian Veterinarians serving as a board member, treasurer, and president, and has been on the residency committee of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners for over a decade. He has also lectured at local, national, and international conferences.

Cameron Ratliff, DVM, DACZM

Dr. Cameron Ratliff studied veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University - College of Veterinary Medicine. He completed internships in Exotic Medicine and Zoo Medicine at Iowa State University and Texas A&M University, respectively. Cameron then went on to work with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Milwaukee County Zoo as he finished his residency in Zoo Medicine. He also provides veterinary care for the Dallas Zoo and InSync Exotics. Some of Cameron's favorite hobbies include movies, basketball, paintball, and escape rooms. He has an orange tabby cat named Mr. Maui.

Exotic Veterinarians in Grapevine: Dr. Thielen

Lauren Thielen, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian)

Dr. Thielen graduated from Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. From there, she completed an internship at Broward Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital in Florida and then a 2-year avian residency at the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in New York. Dr. Thielen became a Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in avian practice in 2020.

Dr. Thielen was the founding Medical Director of Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital. She is currently a Clinical Professor at Cornell University in New York. She remains an owner of our hospital and continues to see patients here when her University position allows.

Nikki, Technical Director

Nikki has been a veterinary technician since 1998. Nikki knew she wanted to be in the veterinary field since 1994. She became certified in veterinary technology and specifically studied and trained in reptile husbandry and medicine while pursuing her bachelor's degree in criminal justice. She has owned and worked with exotics for most of her adult life. Nikki has worked in the zoological field for almost 10 years and has hand-reared primates, otters, and little blue penguins. Nikki owns horses, mini cows, hedgehogs, sugar gliders, a viper gecko, two veiled chameleons, sulcatas, and dogs. Nikki enjoys spending time with her husband and two boys, as well as horseback riding.


Liz, Licensed Veterinary Technician

Liz was born and raised in scenic Hudson Valley, New York. While harboring a love for all animals for as long as she can remember, she has always had an extra special place in her heart for birds. What started as a love for them quickly grew into a life-long obsession, leading her to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. She graduated in 2016 from the State University of New York Ulster with her associate's in veterinary technology and became a licensed veterinary technician in 2017. She’s worked in the vet field since 2014 and spent the last 3 years working with exotics in New York. She relocated to Texas in April 2022.

When not working, Liz likes to spend her time with her 3 pigeons (Cashew, Cheerio, and Cannoli) as well as her quaker parrot Blu and Indian ringneck parakeet Henry. Her hobbies include cooking, baking, drawing, writing, and hiking.

Katlyn, Veterinary Technician Assistant

Katlyn grew up with many kinds of animals and has lived many places along the East Coast. From the time she still had baby teeth, she knew she wanted to work with animals and has been since the age of fifteen. It was right after high school when she realized that she wanted to work with the exotic animals. Outside of work and attending college, Katlyn enjoys traveling, music, doing art, and of course, spending time with her tarantula, 8ball, and two cats, Moose Goose and Miss Kitty.


Jacob, Veterinary Technician

Jacob grew up here in Dallas with multiple pet bearded dragons and an interest in reptile wildlife. After graduating high school a year early, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served four years, being stationed in Japan, Guam, and North Carolina, respectively. With his enlistment over, he realized a career without animals is no career at all, so he broke into the veterinary field as soon as possible. He has since worked in wildlife rehabilitation, a dog and cat day practice, and is now with our family here! Outside of work, Jacob enjoys playing music, cooking, and taking care of his pets. He currently has his childhood bearded dragon, Falaffel, his cat, Kara, and snakes, Kuni and Mr. Banana.