Live from CVC! Design a veterinary hospital pets will love


Here's how to get dog tails wagging and cats purring in your new veterinary hospital.

The time has come for pet-centric veterinary hospitals, says Heather Lewis, AIA, a partner at Animal Arts, a veterinary design firm based in Boulder, Colo. She says that architects talk to veterinarians about a multitude of topics—but the pet’s experience usually isn’t one of them.

“We rarely talk about how animals should be cared for and treated in veterinary hospitals,” Lewis says. “Designing for a pet’s perspective is good for the animal—and your business.”

When it comes to housing, she says dog wards are typically long and thin, which is the perfect recipe for anxiety in pets. Instead, Lewis suggests building runs like the one shown above at PetCare Veterinary Hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif., with lots of natural light and room for the animals to breath.

She says in PetCare’s old facility, the team had to sedate 80 percent of dogs that came out of anesthesia. However, in the new hospital, they rarely have to use sedation at all.

“The outcome from the pets is dramatically different in the new facility,” Lewis says.

But what about the cats? Lewis says cats view every situation as potentially hostile and they can really suffer from stress in a veterinary setting.

“Think about sitting on an airplane and what that does to you,” Lewis says. “Animals don’t have the perspective to know that they’re in that uncomfortable situation for a reason.”

That said, here are two ways to make cats less stressed at your practice, according to Lewis.

1. Keep out the dogs. Don’t house cats adjacent to the dogs wards—try to keep these two areas as separated as possible, Lewis says.

2. Give cats some space. Traditional cat enclosures are 30 inches by 30 inches and while Lewis says this area may be easily cleanable, it’s simply not a good environment for a cat. She says cat condos should be at least 9.5 square feet total. (See cat housing done right—complete with glass windows in the front and back of the the condo—in the photo above at Olde Towne Pet Resort in Dulles, Va.)

“Cats need at least three feet between where they eat and where they poop,” Lewis says.

It’s also important to take a second and listen to the sounds of your hospital. Lewis says to recognize noises that could be alarming to cats, such as the sound of the cage latch opening and closing.

“It doesn’t cost a lot of money to put a quiet latch on a cage,” Lewis says. “Think about what stresses out the animal and eliminate it.”

Click here for more photos of housing that dogs and cats will love.

Top photo by Tim Murphy, Foto Imagery Ltd., bottom photo courtesy of Animal Arts

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