Fear Free: A Compassionate Approach

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Bethany Animal Hospital

So, what is Fear Free? Have you heard about this new initiative?

Fear Free is a new concept that is focused on your pet’s well-being at the veterinary clinic. Their motto, “Take the pet out of petrified,” puts the focus on our furry family member’s emotional reaction to the veterinary hospital visit.

I was the first official Fear Free Professional at Bethany Animal Hospital, with doctors and management team soon after. I am also excited to share we have a designated technician, Monica, and receptionist, Deisy, who were recently certified. In honor of celebrating September as Fear Free Professional Month, Bethany will be working toward certifying another 12 team members with this specialized training!

All this being said, I really haven’t explained Fear Free yet, so let’s get on with it….

When the veterinary profession first started the career was primarily in food safety. While there are still a great number of amazing veterinarians working to keep our food safe, a lot has changed in our treatment of our companion animals. This is directly due to the change in our society’s view and understanding of the human animal bond.

If you haven’t heard of the human animal bond, I am sure you have a basic grasp of what it means. Just in case, the Human Animal Bond Institute defines it as “The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.”

All in all, it’s the sappy, sweet feelings you get when you look at your pet and just can’t help but want them to be happy.

As part of veterinary medicine took a path toward taking care of our companion animals we started to recognize that pets were becoming more than just beneficial critters who help with hunting, guarding, or mouse control. They became part of the family!

Over the past few years research has advanced so much in the companion animal world. We have advanced in areas like prevention of common disease through parasite control and vaccination, in areas like treatment of chronic illness, nutrition, and even the emotional awareness we now recognize these animal share with us.

Emotions—that’s where Fear Free comes in. As a Fear Free Professional, I learned that dogs and cats as well as other pets experience Fear, Anxiety, and Stress (we will say FAS for short). FAS is a huge factor when they visit the veterinary clinic. For the most part in my original training at tech school, it was not really addressed and the best way we were taught to deal with it was to get the patient in and out as quickly as possible so they were not stressed as much.

Now through this training we are exploring ways to desensitize pets to this experience so they no longer have to deal with the FAS at such a high level. This way of practice is not the easy way out; that is for sure! We spend significantly more time and effort to help the pet in the long run instead of just getting them through the current visit now.

If you are currently a client at Bethany maybe you have already experienced some of the changes. Here are some of the things we are doing to improve the long-term well-being of our patients.

  1. We have pheromones all over the hospital. Adaptil is the dog pheromone. We have bandanas at the front door sprayed with Adaptil and diffusers throughout the hospital. Adaptil mimics the pheromones that puppies get from their mothers during nursing that help them relax.Feliway is a cat pheromone. We have towels to put over the carrier that have the pheromones as well as diffusers. Feliway’s pheromone is a synthetic version of the cheek pheromone that tells a cat it is in a familiar area.
  2. We are taking our time. Although that may sound like the boring part, it is really one of the best parts about this. We schedule our appointment slots for 30 minutes. This may sound like a no brainer, but a lot of clinics/hospitals schedule 10-15 minute appointment slots. We dedicated to 30-minute appointment slots years ago before the concept of Fear Free was available to us, knowing the importance of time spent with you and your pet. What has changed is that we now are scheduling pets that need that extra attention for 60-minute slots.
  3. Notice the music the last time you were in? In the front lobby we use an I-Calm Dog. This nifty little device plays music that is proven to be calming to dogs.
  4. We are focused on continued education in this field as well as others. This idea of Fear Free Visits is developing and we are learning. It is our goal to have a significant number of staff with this specialized training.
  5. Happy Visits. We are very excited to offer Happy Visits. Happy Visits offer an opportunity to bring your pet in for treats and pets. During these visits we may work on specific training like learning how to wear a muzzle comfortably and with little stress, or train your dog how to be okay with nail trims. These visits are completely customizable.
  6. We are trained in the use of both nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals to add in this training. The truth is we can’t explain to our furry family that this is for their best interest, but we can help them with medications that help to reduce anxiety so they can start the process of training in a calmer state of mind. We use both natural and pharmaceutical methods dependent on the case. All of these options are evaluated and determined based on the individual needs.

All of these changes that we have implemented over the past couple years are to reduce your pet’s FAS symptoms. To be honest, there is so much more information that an entire website could be devoted to preventing Fear, Anxiety, and Stress. Oh, wait a minute, the awesome folks at Fear Free Pets already did that! Please take some time to explore what it means to be Fear Free at the veterinary clinic as well as at home.

One of the things I didn’t mention before, was the impact this movement has had on me and other veterinary professionals. We have an amazing job, but every great thing has its hard side. As a veterinary technician I want so badly to be able to provide pets with the care that my training and education has taught me is so important. Some of the toughest moments in this job are moments when having to treat a patient causes emotional scars, or worse the inability to treat the patient due to the level of stress. This movement helps fix those scars and allows for better treatment. This video captures the difference Fear Free can make in a single pet’s life.

As usual, we are here for you.

Coral Ware

If you have any questions regarding Fear Free or anything else please call us at (815) 756-8925 or contact me directly at coralw@bethanyvet.com.

As usual, we are here for you.

Coral Ware

If you have any questions regarding Fear Free or anything else please call us at (815) 756-8925 or contact me directly at coralw@bethanyvet.com.