Many pets find a veterinary hospital, with its strange smells and unfamiliar people, extremely stressful. The fact that they are usually sick, hurt, or getting shots when they visit does not help matters. Our team at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital is proud of our new certification as a  Fear Free certified practice. 

In addition to having individual Fear Free-certified professionals on staff, Fear Free practice certification requires a practice to meet 27 mandatory standards and earn a minimum of 1,070 points, out of a possible 2,060, from another 28 standards. Developed by “America’s Veterinarian,” Dr. Marty Becker, the Fear Free initiative aims to “take the ‘pet’ out of ‘petrified’” and get pets back to veterinary visits by promoting a more considerate approach and gentle control techniques used in calming environments. Utilization of Fear Free methods and protocols reduces or removes anxiety triggers, which creates an experience that is rewarding and safer for all involved, including pets, their owners, and veterinary health care teams. You can learn more about this initiative here.

To help you understand the difference a Fear Free visit can make for your pet, Debbie the Doberman recently paid a visit to Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital, and wants to relay her serene experience.

Pets start on the right paw during Happy Visits

Debbie the Doberman’s take: “My superhero owner took me to Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital twice in the last month. We had a wonderful time! I got treats and scratches and met so many new people.”

Happy Visits are designed to introduce your pet to the Fear Free facility and the staff when they are not sick or hurt, and will not have to undergo any distressing procedures. Arrive at the hospital when your pet has an empty stomach, and bring along an abundance of your pet’s favorite treats. Let your pet explore the waiting room and an exam room, if available. Allow the staff members to give your pet the treats, and to scratch their favorite spots. Your pet will quickly get the idea that the veterinary clinic is a great place to visit.

The Fear Free team meets your pet on their level

Debbie’s take: “The team at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital let me bring in my favorite snuggle blanket for my wellness visit. They let me lie on my comfy blanket during the exam, and the nice veterinarian knew my favorite itchy spot exactly.”

Pet owners are asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire before bringing in their pet for a visit. This allows our Fear Free team to know what situations upset your pet, what preferences your pet has when being handled, and what circumstances your pet finds enjoyable. You will be asked to wait in your car until a team member comes and gets your pet, to prevent them from becoming stressed in a waiting room full of other anxious pets. Your pet will be taken to a quiet exam room containing interesting toys and comfortable bedding, and they will not be pressured or forced to do anything that makes them uncomfortable.

The Fear Free team are experts at reading your pet

Debbie’s take: “I think the Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital team may be mind readers. Anytime I was beginning to feel nervous, they immediately changed their approach, and ensured I was relaxed before continuing.”

Fear Free team members are trained to interpret your pet’s body language to ensure they never cause your pet unnecessary stress or anxiety. They follow this Fear Free scoring system (FAS = Fear, Anxiety, Stress):

  • FAS 0-1 — Your pet is excited and interested but not upset. Their attention will be focused, their pupils dilated, their tail up, and their ears pricked forward.
  • FAS 1 — Your pet is expectant but unsure about what’s happening. Their eyes are intent, and their brow is tense. The hair may be slightly up on their back and tail.
  • FAS 2 — Your pet is nervous and becoming a little anxious. Their ears will be to the side or slightly back, and their tail down, but not between their legs. They will likely be panting slightly, and may seek attention from their owner.
  • FAS 3 — Your pet is extremely anxious. Their behavior will escalate from the signs seen in FAS 2 to turning their head away, and they likely will not accept treats.
  • FAS 4 — Your pet wants to run, but may be frozen in place. They may try to run or slink away with their tail between their legs, or they may be frozen and completely immobile, and trembling or hunching their body.
  • FAS 5 — Your pet is ready to fight. Their ears and tail will be up and the hair on their shoulders and back raised, and they will make direct eye contact and pull their lips back from their teeth.

Victory Visits make veterinary trips easier for your pet

Debbie’s take: “I used to hate needles, but the smart veterinary professionals at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital showed me that shots are not so bad after all.”

Victory Visits use desensitization and counterconditioning techniques to assist pets in participating in their veterinary care. These visits are typically employed for pets who score FAS 2 or higher. Your pet dictates the visit’s pace, and treats are used liberally. You may be given some homework to reinforce the idea that the necessary procedure is safe and not scary.

If your pet finds visits to the veterinarian scary, you may consider trying Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital’s Fear Free facility. Debbie can testify that their team kept her at ease throughout the entire process, and her owner is thrilled that she is getting the veterinary care she requires without unnecessary drama. If you would like to schedule a Happy Visit or a Victory Visit, do not hesitate to contact our Fear Free team.