Fear Free is a set of training protocols for veterinary professionals, trainers, and pet owners to help them reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in their pets. Our Eastham veterinarians explain the Fear-Free certified animal hospital philosophy and what it means, to you and your pet.
Fear-Free Practice Certification
Fear-Free Practice certification necessitates that the practice meets 27 mandatory standards and earn a minimum of 1,070 points out of a possible 2,060 from the remaining 28 standards. Following the implementation of Fear-Free protocols, an onsite visit and inspection by a Fear-Free veterinarian are required before certification. The hospital must be reviewed each year before it can be renewed.
Our Fear-Free Animal Hospital
Eastham Veterinary Hospital is dedicated to decreasing stress, anxiety, and fear in our patients while offering the best medical care possible.
You may have noticed the large and small changes in the practice that led to our Fear-Free Practice certification. Offering treats, KONGS, mats, hiding spaces, allowing cats to stay in their carriers or dogs to stay in their family's lap, pre-visit medications, and changes in handling techniques, as well as larger factors like the design of the practice to include separate cat and dog areas, have all made a significant difference in our patient care delivery.
Our staff has worked very hard on not only becoming Fear-Free certified as well as implementing and practicing low-stress and Fear-Free techniques when working with our patients.
How We Implement Fear Free
At our veterinary clinic, the Fear-Free approach pervades the entire facility and is prioritized second only to our patients' medical care. We collaborate with our patients and their caregivers to complete the following steps before and during each appointment.
- Good Communication Between Pets & People
We start by understanding and identifying how pets communicate signs of stress to us.
These signs can include several subtle and obvious signals, from a tense expression or dilated pupils to growling, hissing, or a tucked tail to name a few.
We also discuss the pet's known stressors with the owner, which can include sounds, scents, discomfort, disease processes, and unfamiliar people.
Getting to know our canine and feline clients, and understanding what stresses them out, and how they communicate that stress, helps us better manage it during their visits.
We ask the family to speak up if there is something that causes fear, stress or anxiety let us know. We can help!
- Planning Ahead
A stress-free veterinary appointment begins at home. Please let us know if your pet becomes anxious when going to the vet. We can make recommendations for things to do at home before the visit. There may be options to send supplements or medication home before the visit to help with car sickness or to reduce stress at the vet.
Please let us know if your pet becomes anxious when entering the lobby, meeting new people, or being around other animals. We can have you wait in your car or our outside waiting area before entering the exam room. We have several entrances to assist you.
Please let us know whether your pet prefers male or female veterinarians.
Cats and small to medium-sized dogs should become acquainted with their carriers. This can be accomplished by placing the carrier in an area of the house where the pet enjoys spending time. To help create a safe environment with familiar scents, drape a towel over the top of the carrier.
Toys, soft, comfortable bedding, or a non-slip mat should be included, and the carrier should have a top-off option to make it more accessible.
Spray cat or dog pheromones into the carrier or onto a bandana for larger dogs.
Use an approved restraint device in the car when transporting a medium to large dog. Keep the drive to the vet as stress-free as possible by listening to soothing music or driving silently, and by avoiding abrupt stops or starts.
Bring their favorite treats or toys to the visit.
- A Calm, Quiet Environment
At our veterinary office, we do our best to keep the atmosphere calm and quiet.
Keep cats and dogs as separate as possible in the waiting area to help reduce your pet's stress. Cat carriers should be elevated off the floor and placed on a sturdy table or chair. Keep your dog on a leash and close to you to avoid interaction with other waiting pets.
Because dogs and cats are often sensitive to loud noises and quick movements, our veterinary team will remain calm, speak in quiet voices, and approach the pet slowly and carefully during the appointment.
- Treats & Toys
Rewards such as treats, toys, or petting/brushing can be used during an exam or when obtaining diagnostics to encourage a positive experience and reduce fear, stress, and anxiety during the visit, as long as it is not contraindicated based on why the pet is at the hospital.
We have treats throughout the hospital. If your cat or dog is on a special diet, we encourage you to bring their treats or food with you to the visit.
- Sedation & Restraint Options
Our employees have been trained in low-stress handling techniques and a considerate demeanor. As distractions, we use treats, petting, and toys. During procedures, families are permitted to accompany their pets (excluding sedation, anesthesia, X-rays, and while the hospital is closed). The staff will instruct families on how they can participate in their pet's treatment, reducing stress for your pet and keeping staff and family safe during the procedure.
If the pet is stressed, we may reschedule the procedure. This enables us to send medications home before performing procedures.
If restraint is necessary during a procedure, our trained staff may employ a towel wrap, a muzzle, or an Elizabethan collar to keep the patient safe and comfortable. A mild sedative may be prescribed to ensure that the procedure is performed safely and in a less stressful manner for the patient.
If you already know that your pet gets anxious or stressed when he or she goes to the vet, the veterinarian may be able to provide you with a mild sedative to give to your pet at home before an appointment.
- Fear-Free Overnight Stays
Our veterinary team has guidelines in place to minimize stress during overnight stays.
We work to minimize smells and loud noises, and we place calming pheromone diffusers around the hospital.
We also use soft music or white noise machines to drown out any sudden noises. To make pets more comfortable, lights are kept low and soft bedding and hiding places are provided.
If we need to move the pet in the hospital for an exam, procedure, or a walk outside, we do so slowly and calmly, avoiding interactions with other patients. To reduce stress during the hospital stay, mild sedatives or anti-anxiety medications may be administered.