For many pets the act of getting in the car and going to the veterinary office induces fear, anxiety, and stress. They are taken from a place of safety and comfort to a place where there are strange and scary sounds, smells, and other animals. While at this strange place they may also have alien and potentially uncomfortable things done to them. Unfortunately, it is important for pets to be seen by a veterinarian at least yearly. For this reason our hospitals have decided to learn about and enroll our team members in the Fear Free movement.
The Fear Free initiative was started by Dr. Marty Becker in 2016. The mission of Fear Free is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them. It is voluntary program. Our hospitals believe so strongly that it will transform the veterinary experience for our patients, our pet owners, and our staff that we opened enrollment to all of our team members interested in taking the training. There are 8 on-line modules with a test at the end of each module which must be completed in order to become Fear Free certified. To date, we have 9 staff members who have given their free time to go through the training, and 2 more who are in the process. Falconbridge Animal Hospital and Village Vet are very proud of this fact.
Fear Free uses an understanding of animal behavior and fear to transform the visit. Recognizing that certain smells and sounds are frightening to animals, we avoid them or reduce them as much as possible. For example, we have white noise in our cat boarding room to help reduce sounds from the hallway, and we use cleaners that do not smell offensive to pets throughout our hospitals. We also use natural pheromones to calm the pets. Food is a great way to decrease stress and direct attention away from a worrisome procedure. We use a variety of food rewards and distractions, including using toys for those pets who are not as food motivated.
The final part of alleviating fear and anxiety is recognizing that some patients require medical help in order to accept what we are doing to them. By medicating patients at home with a very safe combination of anti-anxiety medications, patients can come to the hospital more relaxed and be more open to being handled and fed. This makes the patient happier and helps prevent a worse response in the future. Anxiety is a learned response, and once a patient panics at the veterinary hospital, they remember and become more fearful for future visits. Our goal for all patients is to avoid the panic response completely if at all possible and try to make their visits as happy and relaxed as possible.
The concepts of Fear Free are not difficult but they are time consuming. We believe that by taking more time with nervous pets, we are helping the pet, the pet’s owner and our team to bond and create an environment of trust and comfort. Please call to inquire how we can make a Fear Free visit possible for your pet.