When designing a veterinary practice, it is important to keep the comfort of patients in mind. Design choices that appeal to humans aren’t always the best for our four-legged friends, who can be very sensitive to sounds, temperature fluctuations, textures and colors. Use these design tips to make your pet patients feel more at home and reduce their anxiety over visiting the vet.
Some animals feel nervous in enclosed spaces. According to veterinary architect Wendy Wheeler Martinez, using light colors inside your practice can make spaces look bigger, which could help soothe pets’ anxiety. Light colors are a particularly good choice for ceilings, as they can visually push the ceiling away to make the room feel less claustrophobic.
Ideally, the floor of a veterinary practice will be easy to clean and maintain. Even house-trained pets can have accidents when they feel nervous about being in a new environment, so it’s important to choose a flooring type that wipes clean and doesn’t hold onto smells. Vinyl and rubber are both good choices, whereas installing carpet is likely to be a decision you regret. Other types of hard flooring, such as concrete or tiles, are also easy to clean, although pets might not find them as comfortable to walk on.
Background noise can be a big problem in some veterinary practices. Soften the noises of barking dogs and mewling cats by installing absorbent panels in noisy parts of your practice, such as the kennel area. Soundproofing your practice in this way can help to keep stress levels as low as possible among your patients.
Some veterinary practices choose to play music to cover background sounds and create a welcoming atmosphere for both humans and pets. Studies have shown that dogs in rescue shelters get more rest when they listen to classical music, reflecting human studies that show classical music reduces stress by relieving pain, lowering blood pressure, and slowing heart and breathing rates. Try using gentle classical music in your practice to put pet patients at their ease, but steer clear of noisy pop or rock music that could set four-legged visitors on edge.
Animals are very sensitive to heat. Unlike humans, who have a huge number of sweat glands covering their bodies, cats can only sweat through their paws, and dogs cool down by panting and sweating through their paws, which leaves them vulnerable to overheating. If the temperature in your veterinary practice is too high, you may notice your pet patients leaving wet footprints on the floor. During summer, use air conditioning and fans to create a cooling breeze and prevent overheating in your pet patients.
In general, it is a good idea to design your veterinary practice to be as homely as possible. Be sure to provide areas for dogs to sit or lie down in the waiting room, with drinking water available. By making design choices that turn a sterile building into a welcoming environment for your pet patients, you may be able to reduce their stress levels and help them cope more easily with the unfamiliar experience of visiting the vet. Of course, you also need to consider the practicality of your design choices; soft furnishings and carpets may not be the best choice, as you need the space to be easy to clean.
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