Vet's Klinic, Swindon
Vet’s Klinic features a “revolutionary glass-fronted prep room, allowing you to see its vets and nurses at work caring for client’s pets”.

I recently discovered a veterinary practice in southern England that advertises the fact they have a glass wall looking into their prep room, as well as secure online access to their patient’s clinical records.

This sounds like a brilliant idea for openness and transparency, as well as enhancing the access owners have to their pet’s health records. It will probably increase the confidence people have in their vets and their treatment.

Take a look at the Vet’s Klinic website and, sure enough, the prep-room has a glass wall with what looks like a waiting area on the other side.

However, thinking about this, I must admit to a number of reservations (which I hope are purely born out of ignorance of the way it all works) – first and foremost of which is the obvious lack of privacy.

Zoo animals – particularly primates, canids and felids – are generally provided with a degree of privacy (covered areas within enclosures, etc) because being watched the whole time is tremendously stressful. It is inherent in our behaviour and biology that this is the same for us (you don’t need to be trying to hide anything to know this).

You are being watched, graphic
“Being watched the whole time is tremendously stressful” – image © Babii

Like it or not, some of our working day has to be private: some misbehaving animals are far better behaved away from their owner, while blood and severely wounded animals (occasionally with grotesque injuries) really should not be on display. The sensitivity of these consultations should also be borne in mind, as well as common confidentiality.

I hope and expect there is a second “private” prep room – although that could then prompt the question: “Why were you doing whatever-it-is in there? Were you trying to hide something?”

Another neat thing I see they do is to make webcam images and videos available alongside the online medical records of hospitalised patients. This is great because, in my experience, hospital visits for animals are rarely a good thing.

Obviously there are exceptions, and some animals will only eat with the owner there, but most patients get very unsettled when their owners arrive (some dogs know their owners are there as soon as their vehicle enters in the car park; I suspect it’s the sound of the car engine, but could be smell) and when they leave. Sometimes they can start pining again for hours, whereas most animals settle within about 10-30 minutes when first admitted.

Openness and earning (not assuming) trust is a noble cause, and one we should embrace as much as possible, but not without thinking about whether it’s truly a good thing for everyone.

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