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Ask the Vet: What is Fear-Free Care?
Written Dr. Brian J. Bourquin,
Founder, Boston Veterinary Clinic www.bostonveterinary.com
Over the last year, the phrase “fear free” has become more prevalent in veterinary medicine. What is fear free? Fear free is a campaign focusing on the prevention and alleviation of fear, anxiety, and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them. Initially Fear Free accreditation included training veterinary staff to utilize an improved way to make trips more enjoyable for the pet and the pet guardian. The education included mandatory workshops, training, and computer modules to learn techniques in handling, proper environment, and preparation for the veterinary appointment. The campaign has been so successful, that now an entire clinic can be designated Fear Free!
Now that we have a definition for fear free, we can discuss why it is important! Did you know that the number one reason pet guardians give for not taking their furry friends to the veterinarian is due to their fear of stressing their pet? As our pets cannot speak, is it more important that they receive regular care and that there not be delays in treatment when they are sick or ill. A stressed dog or cat may hide, pant, tremble, pace, vocalize, or any number of recognizable actions that may signal they are afraid or anxious. Sadly in the past, these signs were often ignored, and pets were forced into submission using leather gloves, muzzles, or taking them into the “back.”
The days of fear are over! Instead of force, trained staff members now rely on patience, positive reinforcement, and individual assessments are used to determine a plan of action for each dog and cat. Examples include: using a pre-visit questionnaire to help staff prepare for anxious pets, flexibility in where the pet will be seen (waiting room, hallway, or even in the parking lot); ample treats of many different flavors, separate areas for kitty cats, recognizing when the pet needs a break or even delaying for another day, or the use of pharmaceuticals. The use of happy visits, where pet comes in just to visit the practice, get weighed or maybe just have a tasty treat help mix things up and teach the pet that a trip to the vet can be good!
I am proud to say, that Boston Veterinary Clinic recently became the first clinic in Boston and the second in Massachusetts to become a Fear Free accredited clinic. This recognition demonstrates the time and focus we have dedicated to making sure our patients are safe, comfortable, and stress free, which means stress free for clients as well! Check out www.fearfreepets.com to learn more and to find a fear free accredited clinic near you!
This has been Ask Dr. B. Remember to wag more and bark less!