New veterinary office’s viewing window takes mystery out of treatment

You take your dog or cat to the vet. The technician needs to draw some blood, clip some nails, check a temperature. Your animal is then taken to the mysterious back.

Your pet is returned to you minutes later. What just happened? You’ll never really know.

Or your dog needs a good dental cleaning or a minor surgery. That all happens out of view in that same mysterious back portion of the office.

A new vet office that opened this month is changing the notion that veterinarians’ offices should have a mysterious back. Firehouse Animal Health Center’s fifth Austin-area location, this one in Dripping Springs, is taking away the barrier between clients, their owners and “the back.” In its storefront location in the new Belterra Village shopping center, animals are seen in individual rooms with frosted-glass sliding doors. If they need to have lab work done or a surgery, they are taken to the back, but this back has a large viewing window that covers most of the wall.

Pets’ owners can watch what is happening through this window. “We like to be very, very open,” says Dr. Jed Rogers, co-founder of Firehouse Animal Health Center. When architect Mark Hafen, who specializes in designing veterinarian offices, came to him with this concept, it was about removing the barriers. “Let’s make the window work,” Rogers says. He thinks it’s the first veterinary office in the country to have such a window.

Some animals, though, might need to be taken to the back out of sight of their owners: the animal that feeds off their owners’ fear; the animal that feels the need to guard their owners from strange people; or the animal with injuries or undergoing a procedure not for the faint of heart. For those animals, the new Firehouse location has a column that blocks the view of one of its tables in the back.

The center also has a separate surgery room that is harder to see from the large window, though it is possible if you crane your neck and look through a couple of windows.

The hope is that the large window into the lab area will help increase communication between the owners and the medical staff. Doctors and vet techs can show owners what they are looking at in their microscopes or on the animal as they are treating it.

The new center is the first step in rethinking some other concepts. Right now, there’s a small entrance with a desk, but Rogers wonders what it would be like if owners checked in via iPad and were taken right to their room instead of waiting in the lobby.

Inside the exam rooms, the exam tables flip up out of the way for larger dogs to be examined on the floor. Vets or technicians getting down on their level tends to make animals more comfortable. Owners can sit with them on the floor or in a chair nearby.

The center also has a “cat-only space” where no dogs are allowed and special pheromones are pumped in to relax cats, which have a reputation of being difficult patients.

For dogs that are incredibly nervous or for animals that need to be euthanized, the center has a comfort room that looks like a living room. It has a separate exit to help owners leave after the loss of their pets without having to walk through a waiting room with other pets, or for skittish dogs to be able to come and go without seeing another animal.

Rogers says he wonders whether what’s next in veterinary office design is a center where all exam rooms are comfort rooms.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Lifestyle

Today’s horoscopes - Sunday, August 19

ARIES (March 21-April 19). People will find out who you are through your actions, your stories or because you share your preferences. So you really don’t have to worry about telling them who you are. You’re already showing them. TAURUS (April 20-May 20). You’re gutsy. You forget that sometimes. Or rather, you take it for granted,...
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, August 19
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, August 19

Today’s Birthdays: Actor L.Q. Jones is 91. Actress Debra Paget is 85. USTA Eastern Tennis Hall of Famer Renee Richards is 84. Former MLB All-Star Bobby Richardson is 83. Actress Diana Muldaur is 80. Rock musician Ginger Baker (Cream, Blind Faith) is 79. Singer Johnny Nash is 78. Actress Jill St. John is 78. Singer Billy J. Kramer is 75. Country...
Lyme disease is now in all 50 states
Lyme disease is now in all 50 states

If you thought you were safe from Lyme disease because you don’t live in New England, where the tick-borne illness first appeared, think again. Now, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have residents who have tested positive for Lyme, a bacterial infection that can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including joint aches, fatigue, facial...
UV ratings make a healthy difference in sunglasses
UV ratings make a healthy difference in sunglasses

Not only can the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays harm your skin, they can damage your eyes as well. For protection, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology, wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Retailers say that requires a rating of UV400 or higher. Over time, sun exposure can increase your chances of developing...
Electronic skin allows amputees to ‘feel’ pain and touch
Electronic skin allows amputees to ‘feel’ pain and touch

BALTIMORE — When Gyorgy Levay lost parts of all four extremities, including most of his left arm, to meningitis in 2010, he resolved to make the best of a bad situation. He mastered his state-of-the-art prosthetic replacements. He switched the focus of his graduate studies from electrical to biomedical engineering. The native Hungarian even found...
More Stories