Designing a Veterinary Hospital – What went into designing Ohana Animal Hospital

Since opening up, numerous people have asked us why we opened our own veterinary hospital, and why we chose to build it they way we did. The simple answer is it has always been a dream of ours to own a hospital and provide high-quality pet care. We want to elevate the level of care that our patients receive, while staying a family-oriented practice at the core. When we started to make a list of things that we would like to have in our own practice, we quickly realized that the best way to make it a reality, was to build our own hospital. So we shifted our focus from looking at for-sale ads, and started looking into real estate options and different locations.

We found the perfect location off Las Positas Road in Livermore, CA and we began designing our dream practice. We started off with a completely empty space. It was a blank slate, with the only constraints being the four walls and one weight-bearing pillar in the back half of the space. We had a little less than 3000 square feet to play with, and the sky was the limit. You would be amazed how hard it was to design a hospital! It was on our 9th revision that we finally got the floorplan you see today.

We wanted a hospital that was state-of-the-art, but also welcoming and warm. As you enter the hospital, the first area you see is our large and welcoming reception area. To the left is where our receptionist will greet you, weigh your pet, and help you fill out your forms.  To the right you will find comfortable couches and chairs to sit in, as well as a fully stocked coffee bar for your enjoyment while you wait to be seen.  While deciding on what floor to use for our reception area and exam rooms, we went away from what “traditional” veterinary offices do. We first wanted something that resembled hardwood that gave off a warm, homey vibe. However, we needed something durable but  easy to clean, because accidents are frequent! The furniture was carefully selected based on the knowledge that our patients would likely be on them too – after all we want them to feel at home! We wanted furniture that could withstand normal pet wear and that could be easily cleaned and sanitized. So pets, feel free to jump on up!

To maximize efficiency, we wanted a hospital that flowed well and was patient focused.  We wanted to make sure that no matter where we were in the hospital, our patients were always in sight. The heart of the hospital is our treatment room. We have two treatment tables where we perform pet dental cleanings, minor laceration repair, and we can collect blood and other diagnostic samples when needed. The tables are connected by a large column in the center that is hiding the one supporting pillar that was present at the start of construction.  Surrounding the main treatment room are the surgery suite, the ultrasound suite, the radiology (or X-Ray) suite, the ICU (intensive care unit), the exotics ward and the cat-only ward. Everything (except our imaging rooms) has glass windows and doors, or are completely encased in glass (like our ICU). This allows our doctors and technicians to see all of our critical patients at all times, while also providing a quiet area for them away from the hustle of the treatment room.


The ICU is completely encased with glass so that it is visible to the doctors from the office, as well as to the technicians at most places in the treatment room. We designed an enclosed ICU, as opposed to the usual open cage bank seen in this area of your average veterinary hospital. This makes sure that our sick patients would not be bothered by the healthy rambunctious dogs that are coming into the treatment area for things like vaccinations.

Our Cat-Only Ward features fabulous Cat Condos. While no animal loves being in the hospital in a kennel, cats need a place to hide and feel secure, especially away from barking dogs! These condos allow separate partitions of the condo so there can be a litterbox only space, a sleeping space and an eating space. We can grant them as much or as little space as they need! We also made sure that their ward in the hospital is away from the other wards, so it stays quieter for them.


In our Dog-Only Ward, we have three spacious dog runs, as well as a larger bank of cages. They are towards the back of the hospital, so these are for our non-critical patients. The dog runs have glass doors, which allow us to easily check in on our patients to make sure they are as comfortable as possible during their stay. With the glass doors, we get full visibility. And without the metal grate doors, those excitable dogs that love to jump on the doors when we peek in, won’t risk catching their nails on the grate! As owners of big dogs ourselves, we love these!

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In our Exotics Ward, we have cages with small grated doors to keep our small patients securely inside their cage (if you have ever owned a snake, you understand how important this is!) We also have heated floors and ceilings that allow us to heat up their entire cage, providing warmth to our exotic friends. We also have an ICU cage inside the exotics-only ward, which is fully stocked with a temperature controlled oxygen cage, and a nebulization chamber which is very important for the critical exotic patient. It was important for us to have a designated ward specifically for these animals since the sight, smell and sound of our dog and cat patients causes them significant stress.  Many of our exotic animals see dogs and cats as potential predators, so we wanted to make sure they could feel safe during their stay with us.


Our state-of-the-art surgical suite has a heated surgical table, which is great for all of our patients to allow them to stay warm while undergoing surgery. We designed a sterile, clean suite that is well lit. There is a swinging door that allow us to easily wheel patients in and out of surgery. The suite has its own temperature control which is nice when we need to warm it for our exotic patients, or cool it down for our doctors.  It is spacious enough to allow us to have all of our surgical equipment close by, including our suction, blood pressure monitoring devices, ECG, syringe and fluid pumps, endoscopy unit, and electrocautery unit. There is a clear pass through window area where we can find our sterile sutures, surgical packs, and surgical instruments, as well as be able to get the attention of the rest of the staff if assistance is needed.

We even made an ultrasound suite to allow us to have a designated dark area where our patients can be scanned.  We have an oxygen port in the room so we can bring an anesthetized patient into the suite if needed. The room has a folding table mounted on the wall, so small patients can be on the table, and large patients can be scanned on a soft mat if needed.

Everything we chose has a particular function. There is not an inch of space that is unused here! From our built-in oxygen system that has accessible ports throughout our entire treatment area, to our lab tower that was built vertically to efficiently fit our lab equipment without wasting counter space. Even our exam rooms were designed with our doctor’s preference in mind. We chose folding exam tables, since both Dr. Steffes and Dr. Hacker prefer to do their physical exams on the floor with the patient! The folding exam table gives us more floor space to do that, while allowing us to have an exam table at the ready if needed.

We hope you enjoyed the behind the scenes look at our hospital! If you ever would like a tour, please let us know! We would be happy to show you around!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Dr. Hacker and the team at Ohana Animal Hospital