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Patton's Fear Free Veterinary Plan

The Fear Free Veterinary Plan

     The Fear Free Veterinary Initiative is a new way of reducing Fear, Anxiety and Stress (FAS) at the vet.  When formulating a fear free plan, we consider the primary reason for the visit.  During a wellness examination, we will usually have the veterinarian perform his or her exam before taking any blood samples or administering vaccinations.  During sick examinations, problematic areas such as injuries, ear infections, or possible dental issues are generally addressed last, even though they are the primary concern.  This is simply to make the experience more pleasurable and focus on these areas last since they might elicit discomfort or even pain.  Pain medications may sometimes be necessary to perform a more comfortable examination for your pet. 

     While taking your pet’s history and trying to let your pet acclimate to the exam room, we are reading your pet’s body language as well.  Body language speaks volumes, and your pet will generally give a lot of subtle cues when they are showing signs of FAS.  Is your pet panting, hiding, or climbing on top of you (height-seeking)? Is she yawning, avoiding eye contact, cowering, or shaking?  These are all very clear signs that your pet is uncomfortable with the situation she is facing.  By evaluating your pet’s current FAS level we can try to formulate a plan for her veterinary visit. 

     Each visit, we update FAS scores and keep track of your pet’s preferences in an Emotional Health Record. This includes where pets prefer to be examined), treats they enjoy, any specific areas where they do not like to be touched, and any specific handling instructions for a successful visit.  Examples include: floor examination, does better with men or women, doesn’t like feet touched, loves cheese.  Even the smallest details can be most helpful in making your pet feel more comfortable.  Please feel free to give your input on what you think might work best for your pet.    

     A noticeable change that Patton is making is keeping your pet in the exam room with you whenever possible.  We will try to do technician appointments in rooms with you as well whenever there is a room available.  This change is emotionally best for your pets as they are more comfortable with you.  This allows you to see how your pet is handling various situations throughout the visit so we can all try to reduce any signs of FAS.  A small number of pets tend to do better without their owners present, generally if they are “protecting” you or if you are uncomfortable with blood samples etc.  If this is the case, we may ask you to step out of the room so that your pet doesn’t have to go to a strange/new area of the hospital.  

     The veterinary plan also includes “no-no zones” such as rectal temperatures, touching feet, or palpating certain areas of the body.  You know your pets better than we do, so we need to know what areas of the body that they do not like having touched.  We will try to avoid these areas unless medically necessary to the exam.  With some patients we will dispense medication in a Glad Pack in dogs or Calm Kit in cats.  Our doctors have selected specific supplements and anti-anxiety medications to help alleviate the FAS a pet may be exhibiting for exams, nail trims or specific medical treatments.  These are helpful tools, but your pet may not need them for every procedure or even at every exam.  If they are utilized it is easier to reduce the FAS and reset your pets expectations for future visits.    

     Hopefully, you are looking forward to the changes we are making just as much as we are.  Keep an eye out for more blogs with Patton’s Fear Free commitment.  

By Krista Harbold, CVT

This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.