Nothing to Be Afraid Of: Understanding The Fear Free Veterinary Movement

Fear free veterinary care can have a positive impact on pet health.

In 2016, Dr. Marty Becker coined the phrase “Taking the Pet out of Petrified” as he took up the mantle of the Fear Free veterinary movement. We are happy to announce that Berkeley Veterinary Center has become the first Fear Free certified practice in the state of New Jersey! We’re so excited to share this veterinary approach with everyone.  

What is a Fear Free Veterinary Practice?

The fear free movement began when surveys of pet owners showed that pets weren’t getting the care they need at their veterinarian largely because pets were afraid of going there. Pet owners want to do the very best they can for their pets, but when your cat yowls in the car all the way to the vet’s office, or your dog shakes like a leaf (or bites!) during the entire visit, it becomes difficult to even come in once a year.

Enter: the fear free movement, which endeavors to help practice teams, veterinarians, and pet owners come together to help pets be less stressed before, during, and after their veterinary visits, and thus get the regular preventive care they need to lead healthier and longer lives.

Fear Free Practices Now and in the Future

Fear free certification has historically been an individual certification, with veterinarians and team members taking specific courses and action in their practices. There is now also a practice certification, which is new for 2018.

Fear free professionals adopt the following measures to reduce pet fear and anxiety:

  • Provide education for clients on less stressful techniques for getting pets to the veterinary office from home.
  • Separate waiting areas for different species to eliminate fear and anxiety before exams
  • Non-slip surfaces to stand on during exams, such as yoga mats or towels
  • Pheromone use at home and in the office to reduce anxiety
  • Avoid eye contact with pets, giving them a chance to get comfortable with new surroundings
  • Give lots and lots of treats!
  • Use toys and other gentle techniques to distract your pet
  • Perform exams and procedures with you in the room (unless you prefer otherwise)
  • Take note of your pet’s emotional response, and what techniques and treats worked best for them

What Makes a Fear Free Practice Different

Fear free practices make your pet’s emotional well being front and center. And to do that, we are required to establish certain procedures, practices, and standards. We passed an in-person evaluation by the Fear Free organization with flying colors. And although every visit won’t be completely fear free for all pets, it’s our goal to make veterinary visits more enjoyable for you and for your pet.

How You Can Help

Let us know if you think your pet might suffer from anxiety during the trip here, or while visiting the hospital. We can tell you what to look for, and we can come up with ways to help your pet be more comfortable. If your veterinary team doesn’t know about a problem, we can’t help you fix it!

We always try to win over our furry friends with snacks- so when coming in for an appointment please bring your pet hungry, and if your pet is picky you can bring their favorite snack from home. If your pet isn’t crazy for food, but is obsessed with a particular toy- bring that with you too.

Give us a call if you have any questions about Fear Free or how our practice is implementing this important program.  

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