Many pets and their owners dread going to veterinarian. Whether the visit is for a simple check up or a more involved procedure, we cannot communicate to our pets that everything will be OK. New smells, sights, and sounds from other animal patients understandably make pets anxious and reluctant to participate. Fortunately, tools are available to help alleviate the stress and anxiety associated with a veterinary visit. Since 2012, Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital has been certified as a Cat Friendly Practice, which means that we implement special techniques to ensure your feline friends have a purrfect veterinary experience. When the Fear Free certification became available in 2016 for all veterinary professionals, our team was ready to work toward ensuring all our patients had the best, least stressful experience. Now celebrating two years as a certified Fear Free hospital, we strive to ensure that your best friend is always relaxed and comfortable during their veterinary visit.
What is a Fear Free certification for veterinary hospitals?
The Fear Free program was founded in 2016 by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, to reinvent the concept of a successful veterinary visit—forcing a pet who was exhibiting a high stress level to participate in an exam or procedure was no longer acceptable. The Free Free program’s mission is to “prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them.” This unique, transformative initiative provides resources to small animal practices to ensure the emotional well-being of our four-legged companions. To obtain this certification, our team completed extensive training and education as individuals and as a practice to institute the following:
- Helping pet owners deliver calm pets for their veterinary visit
- Improved safety for all patients and veterinary team members
- Providing an increased quality of medicine to pets
- Low-stress handling methods
- Removing stressful triggers before, during, and after veterinary visits
- Increasing pet owner comfort levels with all aspects of their veterinary visits
- Promoting an overall calm hospital atmosphere
- Reacting to pets calmly to not cause stress
Our Fear Free methods for your pet
As soon as your furry pal enters our doors, they will be welcomed into a calming environment. Since becoming Fear Free certified, our practice has implemented the following:
- Soft music to soothe your pet’s anxiety
- Calming lights and wall colors
- Exam rooms filled with toys and treats
- Dog and cat calming pheromone sprays in each exam area, to remind your pet of their mother’s warmth and comforting paws
- Examination on the pet’s terms, whether on the floor, their pet parent’s lap, or outdoors
- Moving slowly, gently, and calmly throughout the pet’s exam
- Examinations at the pet’s pace
- Explaining each step of the exam or procedure to the owner in a low, gentle voice that will not alarm the pet
Rest assured, we will never force your pet to participate in any aspect of a veterinary exam, especially if their stress and anxiety is high. For example, if we complete some of the exam, but your pet has vetoed a nail trim, we will reschedule that portion of the visit.
Recognizing fear and anxiety in pets
Fear, anxiety, and stress in pets can present in many ways, often not obvious to their owners. Animals are masters at masking pain and fear, so recognizing the subtle, and not-so-subtle, stress signs will help you and our team to remove the triggers at home and in our hospital. You know your furry friend better than anyone, and together we can ensure the best, low stress experience for you and your pet. Common pet anxiety signs include:
- Barking, growling, howling, meowing, or hissing
- Excessive panting or drooling
- Excessive shedding during a exam or other stressful situation
- Pacing or hyperactivity
- Changes in eyes and ears position
- Changes in body posture, such as tail tucking or cowering
- Hiding or avoidance behavior
- Inappropriate urination or defecation
- Avoidance or escaping
If you notice any anxiety signs in your pet before or after your veterinary visit, or other situations, ask us about Fear Free methods that will help your best friend.
Our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team is dedicated to ensuring your pet has the best, low stress experience with every veterinary visit. If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s stress and anxiety, or would like to learn about becoming a Fear Free Happy Home, call our office––we are always available to help.