Freaked out pets? Try outdoor examinations

November 16, 2018
Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB
Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB

Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, is a partner at Animal Arts, an architecture firm in Boulder, Colorado and frequent HospitalDesign360 conference speaker. She's a lighting geek and a (seriously) devoted advocate of minimizing pets' stress and anxiety during their veterinary visits. She has designed practices and shelters that range in size from 1,200 square feet to 110,000 square feet. During grad school (as a break from architorture) she trained miniature horses to pull carts!

Assessing veterinary patients doesn't have to mean taking them into a 'scary' exam room.

As Fear Free medicine and low-stress handling techniques have become the norm, the associated ways of thinking have taken root in all areas of the veterinary field. Veterinary architects, like HospitalDesign360 speaker Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, for example, have embraced the concepts and incorporated them into the planning process.

And that doesn't just mean using pet-friendly materials and lighting. Lewis says it's an entire approach that may include designing outdoor areas for multipurpose use that includes examinations. Designated exterior locations, whether in front of the clinic or near the back door (but accessible from the parking lot), bring many benefits.

"These outdoor spaces are really flexible and really wonderful and they help create that Fear Free environment," she says.

Fear Free meets hospital design

How is Fear Free affecting veterinary hospital design?

Exam tables in the age of Fear Free veterinary care.

Clinic design with Fear-Free in mind.

A welcoming, sunlit outdoor exam spot can be a viable alternative for dogs who are afraid of going into the veterinary clinic by essentially eliminating the clinic itself from the equation, she says.

But, what about cats who can raise a major ruckus in the hospital, you ask?

"It would have to be completely fenced and completely roofed, of course, but a screened porch might be an interesting idea to try," she says.

What's more, a "backyard" can also be used for euthanasia, Lewis adds, provided it retains a warm, welcoming atmosphere suitable for other functions.

Watch the video for more.

You. Can. Do. This!

At Fetch dvm360 conference, we're the support system you need. With every conference this year, we intend to nurture your mind (meaning quality CE for days) while also encouraging you to take stock of your physical and emotional health. Register now.