Pet renovations

(First published in the October 24, 2019 issue of City Pages)

Wausau Animal Hospital not only renovated and grew their business — they revamped the experience for pets and people.


Veterinarian Jaime Gifford and her husband Jeff Gorr in their new Wausau Animal Hospital building, located on the same site.

A quick glance at the new, larger Wausau Animal Hospital at the corner of Town Line Road and 10th Street provides no real clue to the amount of thought that went into its design.

Veterinarian Jaime Gifford and her husband Jeff Gorr, the office manager, nearly tripled the square footage — from 1,600 square feet to 4,500 — and overhauled the experience for patients and their owners. For starters, it’s no accident there are two entrance doors in front: Cats enter left, dogs right.

It doesn’t stop there. Using a design premise called “fear-free,” they have nearly done away with the waiting room, the scene of much anxiety for both pets and their owners. After checking in at the reception desk, owners of cats and other small mammals are directed to one of two exam rooms on the left. Dog-owners go to one of four exam rooms to the right.

Two of those four dog rooms are triple the size of the old exam rooms. A customer who brought in a Newfoundland — typically 100 to 150 pounds — that normally fretted in one of the old exam rooms reported that the animal sprawled out on the floor and nearly dozed off, a sign the stress was gone.

There’s also new, roomy space for massage and physical therapy. It’s mostly for dogs that are seeing Morgan Dums, a certified therapist, getting help for recovery from injuries or other needs. Every room has a pheromone dispenser, an effort to calm the patient.

Going down the hall to the exam rooms, wooden trim on the walls sets off each room in the outline of a house, giving the impression of entering a comfortable cottage. When the veterinarian has seen the dog, dog and owner can exit the end of the building, reducing the chance of passing another animal.

In the exam rooms for dogs, the classic stainless-steel-topped tall exam table is gone. Now the veterinarian and assistant either sits or kneels on the floor with the dog. The exam rooms for cats, because cats don’t mind a bit of altitude, have small exam tables.

They’ve even found ways to make the toughest visit to the vet’s office somewhat easier by designating a euthanasia room at the end of one wing. Pet owners can spend the time they need with their pets before exiting through a separate area that’s not visible from the rest of the facility. That’s so if a client visits again with another pet, he or she won’t have to walk past “that room.”

Gifford says her favorite thing about the new building is the spaciousness. “The (old) space was very, very small,” she says. “It was limiting the number of cases we can see.” Gorr says. They both say pets are more likely in recent years to be regarded as family members, so veterinary care has had to adjust.

They are the third owners of the facility. Veterinarian Norb Arnoldi opened it in 1967. He ran it for 29 years before selling to Jeff Hinueber in 1996, who sold it to Gifford and Gorr in 2014.

Construction was a bit tricky. They continued to work in the old facility as the new one was constructed behind it. When the new space was ready, they knocked the old one down to become a larger parking lot. They’re hosting new, monthly “puppy parties” on Saturday afternoons for all canine patients under six months.