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What is Fear Free Certification and Why is it Important?

By June 4, 2019 Uncategorized

Bringing your pet to the veterinarian can be stressful, for your pet and also for yourself.
Whether your pet is sick or just fearful in general, the whole experience can be
overwhelming. Recently in veterinary medicine, there has been a shift in focus to the
management of animal stress and as a result, most of the staff at Kimball Animal Hospital
has become Fear Free certified by completing the certification training program. Fear
Free is an important program that has been developed to focus on reducing the amount of
fear, anxiety and stress that your pets may face coming to see us. Fear Free is a motive
and pledge by the clinic staff and doctor to ensure your pet has the best clinic experience
as possible. Lowered stress levels for our patients allow us to perform good physical
exams, help us complete procedures properly and help create a bond with your pet –
which is what we love the most! Fear, anxiety and stress are also proven to enhance pain
in animals and delay healing time, which can be a major concern when we are treating
our sick patients.

With the help of the Fear Free program, we have developed new ways to determine
factors that induce stress for your pet and new approaches that may help alleviate anxiety
while performing procedures in the hospital. From offering special snacks (yummy treats,
“kong” squeeze cheese and peanut butter) to incorporating classical music and calming
pheromones, every little bit helps to improve you and your pet’s experience.
The veterinary visit really starts at home – before your pet even gets into the car to come
to their appointment. If you can reduce any amount of anxiety and over-excitement
before coming into the hospital, your pet will be more likely to have a Fear Free
experience. There are many ways you can help reduce anxiety at home before your pet’s
veterinary appointment. Some of these options may include using calming pheromones,
playing classical music in the car, using the “Thundershirt” and exploring other anxiety
reducing training techniques. There are also many safe/over-the-counter calming
supplements that your veterinarian can recommend for your pet to start taking before they
come to their actual appointment.

For cats, it can be stressful (and difficult) to get them into the carrier before their
appointment. There are many techniques that we can discuss prior to your cat’s departure,
one example: keeping their carrier out in a safe/comfortable place for several days to
weeks and implementing positive reinforcement training like feeding and petting your cat
in the carrier. If your cat can see and view the carrier as a safe place, they are less likely
to resist going inside when they need to take a trip out of the house. There is also a
pheromone available for cats, called “Feliway”, which is incredibly useful to help cats
feel calmer and less stressed.

Once your pet comes through the door at our clinic for their scheduled appointment, we
do our best to get them into an exam room and allow time for your pet to acclimate to the
environment. It is best to bring your pet to the hospital hungry, so they will be more
likely to get excited about the snacks we provide them. Feel free to bring your own
snacks if there is a special treat that they enjoy as well!

There may be a time that your pet is too stressed or anxious for us to safely and properly
perform a procedure. In these cases, we may talk to you about returning with your pet for
a “victory visit”. A victory visit is a scheduled visit (for no charge) to our hospital to help
encourage a positive experience. We will not always perform procedures while your pet
is here for a victory visit, but we will likely focus on getting your pet acclimated to the
environment and staff while trying to establish positive interactions. These visits really
help us establish a bond with your pet. We use a lot of positive reinforcement at victory
visits, either verbal or in treat form. Keep in mind, some pets may require multiple visits
to become properly acclimated. If we reach a point where the desired procedure cannot
be performed safely or without an enhanced degree of anxiety, your veterinarian may
prescribe a medication to help reduce anxiety that can be given at home, several hours
before the appointment. We also have several trainers and veterinary behaviorists in the
area that we can recommend so that we can choose an appropriate plan for your pet’s

Fear Free has become an integral part of our daily practice at Kimball Animal Hospital
and we are committed to having your pet leave our hospital in better shape than they
came. Please let us know if there are any techniques that you think may help with your
pet’s stress and anxiety during their veterinary visit and we would be happy to implement
them. If we can make a trip to our clinic a good experience for your family and fur
babies, than we have done our job…. and if we happen to get a few tail wags, kisses, or
purrs along the way than you have made our day! We love your pets, and it makes us
happy to see them come in to the clinic happy and relaxed. Feel free to reach out if you
have any questions about the Fear Free program and how we are implementing it within
our practice. You can also read more about it at

Lindsey P. Ramus, DVM

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