It’s been shown that dogs recognize the route to their veterinarian’s office and can show signs of stress before they even arrive. Similarly, cats may be affected by stress hours after a car ride – no matter their final destination. Pet parents have the option of taking their pets to hospitals and clinics that specialize in minimizing stress and anxiety in animals during exams.

Even if your dog is scared of the vet, this should never get in the way of caring for their health. That’s where Fear Free Vet Clinics come in.

Fear-Free Veterinary Certification

Veterinarians and their animal-loving colleagues are always looking for ways to keep their pet patients fear-free.  Although veterinary practices strive to make their clinics comfortable and accessible, others go one step further and get a fear-free certification.

Fear Free is an organization that provides online and in-person fear-free education and certification to veterinary professionals and the pet community. Fear Free was founded by Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian”, who works toward better health for animals and their humans. Fear Free’s mission is to “take the pet out of petrified” and “put the treat into treatment.”

Since 2016, Fear Free has helped educate veterinary professionals, the pet professional community, and pet owners. Fear Free certified professionals are trained on emotional wellbeing and reduction of fear, anxiety, and stress in pets. 

Veterinarian fear free logo

About Fear-Free Veterinary Clinics

Fear-free clinics are veterinary hospitals that have been specially trained to handle high-anxiety animals. Pets who are overly anxious or have a history of being fearful of their vet pose obstacles in the exam room. To ensure every animal receives proper care, fear-free vet clinics train their staff on handling pets who require extra attention.

Going to the vet shouldn’t be stressful. These are measures fear-free practices take to help make the experience less traumatic for both pets and their humans:

  1. Lobby Design

A clinic’s lobby can help minimize Fear Anxiety Stress (FAS) with separate dog and cat entrances and waiting areas. Isolated waiting areas reduce anxiety in cats or dogs who aren’t familiar with the other species. 

  1. Minimizing Stimuli

Separating cats and dogs can also help ease the stress of pets unfamiliar with the sounds and smells of other species. Similarly, loud lab equipment is often kept away from treatment areas to avoid the unnecessary auditory stimulus. 

  1. Music Selection

In a study on how music affects canines, classical music was proven to be more relaxing for dogs compared to silence. Felines prefer songs within the frequency range they use to communicate, but classical music is still the most soothing genre. Some fear-free animal hospitals play soothing classical music throughout the clinic to create a more peaceful environment. 

  1. Non-slip Surfaces

It’s hard for animals to relax while slipping and sliding across tile surfaces. Clinics will often lay out non-slip surfaces in treatment areas to help pets get their footing during exams.

  1. Neutralizing Scents

Alert pheromones, or scents left behind from other animals, can be stressful for dogs and cats. Fear-free clinics neutralize these scents by cleaning between each exam and regularly in the entryway and lobby.

The above practices are just a few ways clinics help make a trip to the vet as easy and painless as possible. What truly makes fear-free clinics unique is their ability to give specialized attention to each patient’s needs.  

Man petting his cat on sofa

Cats and Fear-Free Clinics

There’s a reason the phrase “scaredy cat” has become a colloquialism. Cats are very in tune with their surroundings, which can put them on high alert in new environments.

Fear-free veterinary clinics understand the importance of making their feline patients comfortable during an exam or treatment. An unnerved cat is hard to examine, so you need to make sure your cat receives the best possible care during the visit.

Fear-free clinics often suggest using these common methods:

  • Do not force a cat out of their carrier. Instead, open the carrier and allow the cat ample time to emerge on their own. The doctor may suggest placing a treat nearby to entice the cat.
  • Work with the cat’s insecurities, not against them. If your kitty refuses to emerge, veterinarians will often perform the exam to the best of their ability while the cat is still in the carrier.

Cat petting in white blanket

Dogs and Fear-Free Clinics

While there is no common saying for a frightened pup, dogs still require care and attention in stressful situations.

Fear-free technicians and veterinarians recommend these methods:

  • Large dogs should stay on the floor throughout the visit to lessen stress. If needed, a non-slip mat should be placed on the ground to help dogs keep traction.
  • Allow dogs to stay in their preferred position. If a pup is in their human’s arms, curled up, or in another odd position, let them stay! So long as your vet can still properly examine them, let your dog be comfortable.
  • Be gentle when touching your dog. Use touch gradient as you handle your pet and start with gentle pressure in the shoulders. Maintain pressure on your pup throughout the interaction to avoid startling them by keeping your hands on their body. Slide your hands across your dog’s body if you need to reposition holding them.

Stress-free Exams for Cats and Dogs

Although dogs and cats can have varying needs, there are ways fear-free clinics ease the stress that works for both our canine and feline friends.

One of the best ways to keep a pet happy during a veterinary exam is to distract them with high-value food rewards. However, a tasty treat isn’t always a miracle worker, and most fear-free clinics will help keep a cat or dog calm by:

  • Supplying a steady stream of treats during the exam
  • Asking the owner to dispense treats so the doctor can perform a proper examination
  • Spreading treats around the exam area if the animal has become too enthusiastic about them

Woman holds her dog in her arms

Help Your Pet Be Fear-Free

Fear-free veterinary visits help ease stress and anxiety in animals during their examinations. Keep in mind the more stressed a pet is upon arrival, the harder it will be to calm them down.

So what can pet owners do to minimize stress before and after a vet visit?

  1. Bring your pet to the vet hungry

An empty stomach will help mitigate the risk of vomiting. It also makes treats an even better incentive during the exam.

    1. Make your pet comfortable with their carrier

Avoid keeping your carrier stored away all the time. Most pet owners only bring a carrier out when going to the vet, so many animals have aversions to them. Make the carrier part of your pet’s environment by placing a blanket, toys, and water inside. This way, your pet will feel comfortable inside the carrier. 

  1. Try holistic treatment to treat anxiety

Holistic medicines, like CBD oil, can be beneficial in reducing anxiety in pets before vet visits. Many pet owners turn to CBD oil to help relieve stress in their cats and dogs. There are other products, like VetriScience Composure cat treats, that aid in easing your pet’s nerves.

The future is bright for anxious pets, as fear-free practices become more commonplace in the veterinary community. It’s important to be patient with your pet during stressful situations. With your love and the support of a fear-free certified professional, vet visits will no longer be a stressful endeavor.

Search Fear Free’s directory to find a certified clinic near you.