Firehouse Animal Health Center’s philosophy for what exactly good veterinary work is focuses on preventive medical care. If preventive medical care is administered well, owners will be able to care for their pets more independently and animals will need fewer visits to the vet, according to Dr. Robert Calabrese, Firehouse Animal Health Center-Belterra’s medical director.

“It’s sort of counterintuitive to want to see them less, but that’s really what I want. I don’t want to micromanage my patients,” Calabrese said. “I want to give the tools to the owners so that they can keep their dog happy and healthy at the house. It doesn’t make me any more money, but that’s my philosophy. That’s how I would want to be treated.”

Calabrese and his colleagues instill those tools by focusing on diet, dental care and meticulous annual testing.

“All of these things ... are preventative maintenance. It’s way easier to give a monthly heartworm pill than it is to treat for heartworm disease,” he said.

Firehouse Animal Health Center opened its first location in a former fire station in Denver, Colorado, in 2004. Firehouse Belterra, the newest location having opened in 2018, is a much different facility than the original, but it still features similar airy, open architecture to the original Firehouse.

“A big part of all of our clinics [is] the architecture and how people experience it when they first come in,” Calabrese said. The space’s easily cleaned concrete floors and tall ceilings help create a cleaner look and smell than is typically  associated with many vet offices, according to Calabrese.

A key piece of Firehouse’s architectural strategy is visibility: pet owners are able to see through a glass wall into the treatment area, giving them a firsthand look at their pet’s treatment. Calabrese, who has been involved in veterinary medicine since junior high school when he started volunteering at clinics, said this sets Firehouse apart from many veterinary offices, which tend to take pets “in the back.”

“Historically, people get really nervous about bringing their dog to the vet because they don’t know what the heck goes on back there. ... It can be nerve-racking,” Calabrese said. “I want to make sure that they’re put at ease that we’re doing good work on their pet.”

Firehouse Animal Health Center Belterra

166 Hargraves Drive, Ste. C100, Austin
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-noon, closed Sun.