What if your dog loved going to the vet? What if your cat didn’t hate the carrier and was calm for a vet visit? This is what a Fear Free approach to veterinary care is all about, with the goal of making the experience more pleasant for everyone. The Fear Free movement wants to “Take the Pet out of Petrified”.
At Wise & Wonderful Integrative Veterinary Center we use Fear Free techniques to help gain the trust and affection of each pet who comes into our office. Our team members have taken the Fear Free Certification course and pay close attention to signs that indicate fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS). The Fear Free approach allows for a more thorough examination, diagnostic testing, and appropriate treatment. We strive to provide the best pet care in Santa Rosa.
The essence of a Fear Free approach is communication. This includes understanding a pet’s body language when it is fearful, anxious, and stressed – and to behave accordingly. It also includes good communication with you, the owner, so that we are all on the same team.
FAS scores range from 0 (relaxed) to 5 (growling, lunging, and hissing). Our goal in using Fear Free techniques is to keep your pet at the lowest possible score through good planning, handling, and follow up.
What are the components of a Fear Free veterinary visit?
- Making the appointment
When you make an appointment, you will be asked what could trigger FAS behaviors in your pet. Is it the car ride, entering the hospital, other pets in the reception area, being weighed, or being touched? We can make suggestions to help, as well as provide special attention to those areas during the visit.
- Transporting your pet to the appointment
A positive travel experience sets the stage for a good veterinary visit. Getting your cat easily into a carrier can be a big problem. Leave their carrier out in an area that your cat prefers for a few days before their visit. You can make the carrier more appealing by putting toys, treats, catnip, and food in it. When the time comes for your appointment, try to lure your cat into the carrier with treats rather than pull it out of a comfortable spot.
Most dogs like car rides but are safer and more relaxed in a transport carrier or seat-belt restraint. You help them get comfortable while safely contained by taking them for car rides prior to their appointment. If your dog balks at entering a veterinary clinic, feel free to stop by just for treats and then leave the reception area to go back home.
Play quiet music in your car and have a comfortable temperature level to help keep your pet calm. Pheromone sprays such as Adaptil (for dogs) or Feliway (for cats) can also lessen their stress level during a car ride.
- Waiting in the reception area
Our reception area is designed to be peaceful and have minimal distractions from other animals. If your pet has a history of becoming stressed in a waiting area, please let us know and we can arrange for you to stay with them in your car until they are ready to be seen.
- A Fear Free exam
Our exam room is a quiet environment that includes background music, soothing pheromone diffusers and comfortable surfaces to examine your pet. Sometimes that comfortable surface is your lap, so don’t be surprised if your pet chooses to be examined there!
A Fear Free exam includes LOTS of treats. We have a large array of treats with different flavors, textures, and sizes. If your pet has a favorite treat or toy, feel free to bring it with you. And, please let us know in advance if your pet has a food allergy.
Most pets want to feel secure in their surroundings before being touched by someone they don’t know. We provide extra time for them to become acclimated to the exam room and then handle them slowly and gently – while providing treats as a distraction and reward.
We also use the exam room for most diagnostic procedures rather than “taking them to the back”, which is regularly done in other veterinary settings. This avoids exposing them to new stressors during the visit.
- Planning for the future
We keep track of what your pet likes and does not like for their next visit. If your pet showed a high level of FAS behaviors, we may suggest a prescription for a mild anti-anxiety medication or natural calming product to help make their future experiences more positive.