Helping pets live happy, healthy, full lives
We all love our pets and want what’s best for them throughout their lives – including the best medical care, keeping them fear-free. Unfortunately, for many pets (and pet parents), visits to veterinary practice evoke feelings of fear and stress. If this is true for your pet, what if veterinary visits could be something that they looked forward to?
This is where Fear Free comes in. This nationally-recognized professional certification focuses on alleviating fear, anxiety and stress in pets. Fear Free focuses on both the physical and emotional well-being of your pets. The initiative’s goal is to “take the pet out of petrified.” More information about this industry-wide initiative is available online at www.fearfreepets.com
Fear Free at TCVH
As a first step in TCVH’s Fear Free transition, ten team members completed specialized training and became Fear Free Certified Professionals. Then, these certified team members shared their knowledge and training with the rest of our staff. Finally, after careful deliberation and preparation, we implemented a wide range of changes in how we handle and interact with our patients and guests. We’ve always strived to offer a fear-free environment at TCVH, but now we‘ve taken extra steps to ensure that our whole team uses the best gentle handling and caring techniques.
What does a Fear Free visit look like?
- Before your pet’s appointment, we’ll ask if you have any concerns about transporting your pet. We want to make sure that their experience starts well before you even leave home.
- If possible, we will address these concerns ahead of your appointment. Other times, we may discuss those concerns during your visit instead.
- We may ask that you bring your pet hungry, as well as bring any favorite treats or toys.
- We will remind you to give any prescribed calming medication.
Arriving at TCVH
- When you arrive, we’ll do our best to place you into an exam room quickly.
- If your pet would do better outside, you can call us upon arrival and let us know that you’ll be waiting outside.
- Cats receive a blue towel with Feliway – a calming spray – placed on it. Feliway helps relieve stress and many cats enjoy their Feliway towel.
Working with Your Pet
- With your permission, we’ll use a wide variety of treats during your pet’s exam and any necessary procedures. These special treats will help your pet feel more at ease and will provide a welcome distraction from anything that may have caused them anxiety in the past. Over time, as your pet repeatedly has positive experiences at TCVH, we hope that they become so comfortable here that they’re excited to visit us!
- We’ll examine your pet wherever they’re most comfortable. Sometimes this is on an exam table, but it may even be on the floor, in a chair, or in your lap.
- There are both Feliway (for cats) and Adaptil (for dogs) plug-in diffusers in each room. These release calming scents that help your pet feel more at ease.
- There may be calming music or white noise playing to block out the sounds of other patients.
When Things Aren’t Going Well
- If your pets stress and anxiety level is rising during their visit, we may ask you for permission to give them some calming medication. This helps your pet ensure that they have a fear-free and positive experience with us. Well trained staff monitor your pet while they are sedated.
- We may prescribe medication for you to give before your next visit. Like with sedation, this medication will help your pet have a positive experience with us. Many pets feel much better when they receive these medications. The risk of untreated stress is much greater than any side effect of these medications.
- We may ask that you reschedule a procedure if it does not need completed that day and sedation is not possible. We will not push your pet to “get it done.”
How you can help your pet have a Fear Free visit?
- Try to ensure that your pet is hungry when you arrive for their appointment (unless otherwise advised by a staff member). For instance, if their appointment is scheduled in the morning, wait to feed them their breakfast until afterwards. If they have an appointment later in the day, you could feed them half of their normal breakfast and save the rest for a later meal. This will help make the food rewards that we offer seem very enticing. Just like with people, food often tastes best when your pet is hungry.
- Consider bringing some of your pet’s favorite treats and/or toys from home. The higher the value to your pet the better. If your pet likes dry pet biscuits but loves _________ (ex. shredded chicken breast, canned food, carrots, etc.) – bring what your pet loves.
- When you schedule your pet’s appointment, please let us know if you have any concerns about their upcoming visit. This could include challenges posed while getting to TCVH (ex. car sickness, “capturing” your cat in it’s carrier, etc.) or how they typically react when they enter our lobby. We’re eager to help however we can to ensure that your pet has a positive experience during their appointment – from the time they leave home until they’re back home again.
- Based on your pet’s stress level during previous visits, we may prescribe calming medication. This medication will help your pet relax and enjoy their visit. Please be sure to give this medication as prescribed. We see great results with medication. Pets that were very fearful feel much better about their visit! Some pets that could not tolerate procedures do much better!
- Work with your pet on the things that make them nervous. For example, if your pet is nervous with car rides, it may help to take some short, positive trips around the block. Or, it may help to have a “happy visit” to us in which you bring your pet in to receive treats. We are fortunate to have a certified trainer on staff that can help you with the best techniques.