Fear Free Veterinary Visits

Does your cat or dog hate going to the vet? We want to change that. We need to change that. For most of our patients, it’s nothing personal – they’re just afraid. It’s our job to work with you to help reduce the fear, anxiety and stress (FAS) that some pets experience surrounding veterinary visits. Veterinarians and team members want to look after both the physical and emotional well being of your pet.

To help my patients reduce the stress associated with clinic visits, I have completed a Fear Free Certification Program. It is an online course developed by experts in the behaviour field, among others. It’s a major movement in the veterinary world and a change for the better. I am currently working on my third level of certification and it has been a game changer.

The main idea is that we want to PREVENT fear associated with veterinary visits and procedures. We do this by early recognition and intervention of the signs of fear, anxiety and stress in our patients. It is crucial to know the body language of both dogs and cats. How do you know if a cat is calm? If a dog is nervous? Or if either is about to reach their limit? These infographics can help.

Once we can recognize how patients are feeling we need to monitor carefully and if their stress levels are increasing, we know it’s time to back off. We try to minimize stress through handling the patients slowly and gently, speaking softly and LOTS of treats. It’s best if you can bring your pet to the clinic hungry, so he or she is more food motivated. Bring their absolute favourite treats – something they go wild for will work best.

What if treats don’t work and they are too fearful to manage? Don’t worry. The days of tackling your dog for a nail trim like a team of rugby players is over. We do NOT want patients struggling or becoming aggressive because what happens next time they come in? They are MORE afraid and it’s even more difficult to handle them. Sedation is the answer. We have a variety of medications that we can dispense to be given a couple hours before the appointment to make it a bit easier on everyone. These are not heavy tranquillizers but medications that help to take the edge off a bit.

If you have any questions, concerns, hesitations or reservations about bringing your pet to the vet, please phone ahead and discuss what the best strategy is for a Fear Free visit.

Written by: Dr. Jaime Lawless, DVM