No mission is impossible for Oceanside hospital
by CLAIRE HARLIN | San Diego Pets
10:57 PM, Tuesday, January 01
Owner and doctor Bob Cartin has been practicing veterinary medicine for more than 30 years. 	Photo by Claire Harlin
Owner and doctor Bob Cartin has been practicing veterinary medicine for more than 30 years. Photo by Claire Harlin
A colorful, luxury boarding facility called "Bark Avenue" and a multipurpose room that serves as meeting space for Boy Scout Troops and homeowners associations are only a couple features of Mission Animal & Bird Hospital that earned it the designation of "Veterinary Hospital of the Year" in the national Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition.

Owner and doctor Bob Cartin has been practicing veterinary medicine for more than 30 years and has seen numerous hospitals, so when he designed his new 11,000-square-foot facility at 655 Benet Road in Oceanside, he said he combined all the things he's learned over the years and rolled it into the perfect facility.

"I take other people's ideas I like and I expand on them," he said, adding that the hospital was judged on its efficiency, cutting-edge qualities and good use of space.

Cartin has not only invented some devices — such as a "lazy Susan" style shelf for treatment room utensils — but he has also bucked the trend and incorporated elements that challenge the norm.

For example, he doesn't use the word "isolation," as most hospitals do, when referring to the area where contagious animals are hospitalized.

"In most hospitals, the isolation room is far away," he said. "But those are the sickest animals in the hospital. They shouldn't be isolated."

Instead, Cartin has created a system that allows his facility's hospitalization room to be kept close to the treatment area, where doctors and technicians can constantly monitor the sick animals. To prevent spread of illnesses to other animals, the room features a ventilation system that uses negative pressure to keep air in.

Cartin also refers to the room where euthanasia procedures take place as the "comfort room," as he feels that's where one of the most crucial moments for pet owners takes place.

"It can be one of the most bonding experiences for a hospital, or it can be something that can break the bond if not treated correctly," he said.

Another priority for Cartin is to minimize smell. Let's face it — By virtue of being animal hospitals, animal hospitals have the potential to house unpleasant smells, and he's taken steps (such as epoxy flooring) in his design to minimize that.

And his efforts are more about catering to the animals than the clients.

"If we smell it, animals smell it a thousand times better than us," Cartin said. "They come in here and they are nervous and they are also smelling a thousand other animals. What we hear and see is just a fraction of their senses."

That's also the reason the hospital utilizes solar tubes to provide light in the facility.

"Studies show that people are less stressed with natural light, and we have to assume the same goes for animals," Cartin said.

With animals being Cartin's No. 1 priority, kids come in a close second. Upon entering the spacious, bright hospital one will notice a large glass window that reveals cats playing or sleeping in the feline room. Several birds, who are part of the hospital family, are also in the waiting room and outside to greet clients.

Cartin said he really wants the kids to see the animals and remember coming to the animal hospital as being a positive experience.

"We really focus on the kids because in 15 years they are going to be pet parents," Cartin said.

Mission Animal Hospital also offers a Junior Vet Academy that is free for kids ages 8 to 18, and Cartin said more than 70 volunteers ages 16 and over work at the hospital from time to time.

With 50 staff members and eight doctors, Mission Animal & Bird Hospital is the biggest animal practice in North County, and it's truly state of the art.

The exam rooms are all designed to be educational centers in which the clients can learn about their pets condition or animal medicine in general. Cartin stresses that "a picture is worth a thousand words" and that's why the rooms are equipped with video odoscopes, so the animal owner can see on a screen what the doctor is seeing in their pet's ear. The screens can also display their pet's x-rays or ultrasounds, so clients get more than just verbal explanations of often complicated medical conditions. He can also easily email a patients X-ray to a client directly from the exam room.

Of all the features of the hospital, Cartin said his favorite part is the multipurpose room, that's used not only for community events, but for movie nights for boarding dogs. Dogs are also treated like royalty at at day camp, where they can enjoy "yappy hours" fit with Frosty Paws doggie ice cream. The room is also used for dog training and educational events for the hospital's staff.

The multipurpose room is available for any group to use at any time, Cartin said.

"It used to be that schools were places to meet," he said. "But since schools are being stretched so thin, we think it's good to offer a meeting place to the community … I love that we can do so much in this room."

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