You took your dog to the vet for a minor ear infection. The doctor did an exam, prescribed some ear drops, and sent you on your way. . . but you came home with a totally different dog. Now she’s hiding, whining, and refusing food. 

If you have an anxious pet, you know that visits to the doctor can trigger anxiety and even exacerbate the very health issue you brought them in for. Fear Free methods help curb the effects of stress during vet visits, making it safer for your pet as well as staff.

Developed in 2016 by Dr. Marty Becker, Free Free offers education in animal behavior to help people who love pets provide a more comfortable experience. Fear Free offers a variety of certifications tailored to doctors, treatment staff, owners, groomers, and boarders, shelters, and petsitters. In a hospital setting, the goal is to help vets and staff to understand the pets’ body language and make them more relaxed during an exam.

 

How does it help?

Fear Free techniques benefit the pets for reasons that may seem obvious – when a pet is more relaxed, they are going to have a better experience at the vet. In an urgent care environment such as Heart and Soul, many of the pets who come in are already sick, scared, and in a fight-or-flight state. Add to that a new environment, new people, and being poked and prodded without being able to communicate. . . well, you can imagine how terrifying that would be. With Fear Free methods, they experience less anxiety, resulting in higher quality care. Stress can raise blood pressure and respiratory rates, skewing test results and making the diagnosis process difficult. A relaxed patient is easier to diagnose.

The benefits for doctors and staff may be less obvious but just as important. Calmer patients mean less risk of getting scratched or bitten.It also means more efficient visits if the pet doesn’t need heavy sedation. Some sedation is sometimes necessary for particularly fractious patients and premedication (medication given before a visit) is also common. 

In a 2020 survey of 1,429 Fear Free professionals, 92% reported that patient care had improved since using Fear Free techniques and 93% reported an increase in workplace safety. 

 

What is involved in Fear-Free Care?

A few techniques used in a Fear-Free hospital include:

  • Walking slowly and using quiet voices. Most animals are sensitive to sudden movement and loud noises
  • Using towel wraps to help pets feel calmer
  • Mild sedatives
  • Minimizing smells in the environment
  • Offering treats
  • Playing calming music

 

The internet is chock full of misinformation about animal behavior, making it difficult to know what’s best. All of the education provided by Fear Free is reviewed by Board Certified Veterinarians, making it one of the most accurate resources available. 

 

The Old Way

Historically, the veterinary industry has had more of a “just-get-it-done” approach, with little to no regard for the emotional impact on the animals. Stress and anxiety was considered a necessary part of any visit, sometimes leaving pets with severe long-term trauma.

With Fear Free methodology, we can mitigate damage and make future vet visits easier for even the most anxious pets. To learn more about our approach here at Heart and Soul, check out this blog post about our philosophy.

Sources:

https://fearfreepets.com/

https://fearfreepets.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Fear-Free-The-Long-Term-Benefits-for-Pets-People-and-the-Profession-October-2021.pdf

https://www.mspca.org/angell_services/fear-free-concept/

https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/health/vet_trips/fear-free-veterinary-care/