Blog – Fear Free Pets https://fearfreepets.com Taking the "pet" out of "petrified" Fri, 16 Feb 2018 21:20:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 https://fearfreepets.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/cropped-fearfreelogo-32x32.png Blog – Fear Free Pets https://fearfreepets.com 32 32 Stressful Stats: Findings of Veterinary Wellbeing Study Spark Hope, Worry https://fearfreepets.com/stressful-stats-findings-veterinary-wellbeing-study-spark-hope-worry/ Fri, 09 Feb 2018 15:00:22 +0000 https://fearfreepets.com/?p=244442 Veterinarians 45 years old and younger were more likely to experience serious psychological distress, and only 27 percent of those would recommend the veterinary profession to others. Those were among the notable findings of a comprehensive veterinary wellbeing study presented at the 2018 Veterinary Meeting & Expo (VMX) in Orlando, Fla., on February 6, 2018. The online survey of 3,540 veterinarians, designed to measure the prevalence of mental illness and stress in the veterinary field and compare the findings to those of prior studies and the U.S. public, was a collaboration between Merck Animal Health and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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By Ramona Marek

Veterinarians 45 years old and younger were more likely to experience serious psychological distress, and only 27 percent of those would recommend the veterinary profession to others. Those were among the notable findings of a comprehensive veterinary wellbeing study presented at the 2018 Veterinary Meeting & Expo (VMX) in Orlando, Fla., on February 6, 2018. The online survey of 3,540 veterinarians, designed to measure the prevalence of mental illness and stress in the veterinary field and compare the findings to those of prior studies and the U.S. public, was a collaboration between Merck Animal Health and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Unique Size And Scope

Past studies since the 1960s have looked at veterinary mental health, but this study is unique and important for two reasons, says study investigator Linda Lord, Ph.D., D.V.M., academic and allied industry liaison lead, Merck Animal Health.

 

“Through our collaboration with AVMA we were able to survey a representative sample of veterinarians across all sectors of the United States, and the sample data were weighted by age, region and gender, so we feel very confident saying the data truly reflects veterinarians in the United States,” she said. “Earlier studies focused specifically on mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which are very important; this study is more comprehensive. Certainly mental health is a piece of the survey but we have gone beyond that and looked into wellbeing—how do you feel about your life, happiness, across many domains which could be financial, relationships—it looks at more areas than specifically mental health.”

Mental Health And Wellbeing By The Numbers

According to the study, approximately 1 in 20 veterinarians experience severe psychological distress, which is similar to the general population. Of that subset, the most common conditions reported are depression (94 percent), burnout (88 percent) and anxiety (83 percent). Compared to older male veterinarians and individuals in the general population, younger veterinarians are feeling the effects of financial and emotional stresses of life in the veterinary field.

Some two-thirds (67 percent) of younger veterinarians reported high student debt as a major concern, followed by stress levels (53 percent) and suicides rates (52 percent). Overall, only 41 percent of veterinarians would recommend the veterinary profession to family or friends and that number drops to 24 percent for veterinarians 34 years old and younger, while 62 percent of veterinarians age 65 and older do recommend the profession.

“One of the things that will come out as we talk about the study is the recommendations for how we can support young veterinarians in regard to helping them be successful, whether that is managing their debt or helping them from the standpoint of things like creating a stress management plan to help them deal with the stressors of practice life,” Dr. Lord says. “I think there are things we can work on at the organization level and at the individual level to try to make sure that we have a bright future for our veterinarians.”

SEE ALSO:  HOW FEAR FREE IMPROVES PRACTICE CULTURE (PODCAST)

The Great Divide

Only 50 percent of veterinarians with severe psychological distress search for help. That’s a big mental health treatment gap.

“We showed that there’s a very low percentage (16 percent) of veterinarians who have access to employee assistance programs,” Dr. Lord says. “I think, too, the gap may be not knowing where to go for resources, understanding what resources are available, and knowing how easy the resources are to access. We do worry that there is still a stigma around seeking help, that they have a fear that seeking help is going to be frowned upon.”

The Future

If there was a surprise for Dr. Lord in the enormous amount of information from the study, it may be the percentage of veterinarians who do not recommend the profession to others.

“I hope that in the future we’re able to build more confidence around veterinarians in terms of recommending the profession, and I think there are some actionable items to help us work on that,” she says. “The take-away message from the study is, I think, as a profession, we shouldn’t panic. If you look overall, our mental health is comparable to the general population, but I think we have segments that are struggling more. I think in particular we need to pay more attention to our younger veterinarians, regardless of gender, and really think about what we can do to support them and help them have happy, vibrant professional careers.”

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

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How Fear Free Certifications Instantly Create Marketing Opportunities Inside and Outside Your Practice https://fearfreepets.com/fear-free-certifications-instantly-create-marketing-opportunities-inside-outside-practice/ Thu, 01 Feb 2018 15:00:22 +0000 https://fearfreepets.com/?p=263419 In today’s competitive veterinary industry, many different certifications can set a practice apart: Cat Friendly Practice, American Animal Hospital Association accreditation, and American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, to name just a few. Fear Free has one distinguishing benefit, however: it’s that everyone on your staff can participate and become invested. Each team member can demonstrate this initiative, implement strategies, and market why this makes your practice different with every client interaction, every day.

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By Natalie Marks, DVM

In today’s competitive veterinary industry, many different certifications can set a practice apart: Cat Friendly Practice, American Animal Hospital Association accreditation, and American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, to name just a few. Fear Free has one distinguishing benefit, however: it’s that everyone on your staff can participate and become invested. Each team member can demonstrate this initiative, implement strategies, and market why this makes your practice different with every client interaction, every day.

We have seen a significant increase in our number of positive reviews since our nine associates have become Fear Free Certified. Nearly every Yelp review mentions positive treat rewards, gentle handling, classical music, or other Fear Free strategies. This has quickly spilled over into Google Reviews, Facebook messages, and Instagram followers. Perhaps more importantly, our website traffic about the Fear Free Initiative and why it makes our client and patient experience different has skyrocketed, translating into improvements in search engine optimization and new client acquisitions.

It may seem as if a significant time commitment is needed to create a marketing plan and materials, but the Fear Free website tool box has promotional videos, Facebook wall and cover photos, press release templates, and team training tips that can be downloaded and personalized for your practice immediately! Everything you need is ready for you. If your practice does not have a staff member in management designated to handle social media and marketing, look deeper into your current roster of employees to find someone with a passion for communicating the Fear Free message. Engage your staff in documenting Fear Free experiences with photos and videos of patients and clients. That can do more than anything else to promote Fear Free care, educate the public, and even attract new clients.

Richard Branson once said, “To succeed in business you need to be original, but you also need to understand what your customers want.” I firmly believe this. As I travel across the country and speak to different associates and owners, the acceptance and buy-in of clients to the Fear Free experience is overwhelming. Become certified, make it your own, and market this initiative both online and in your practice. The return on investment will be almost immediate, and your patients, clients and staff will be happier for it.

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Study: How Parents May Be Increasing the Risk of Their Child Being Bitten by the Family Dog https://fearfreepets.com/study-how-parents-may-be-increasing-the-risk-of-their-child-being-bitten-by-the-family-dog/ Fri, 19 Jan 2018 15:00:22 +0000 https://fearfreepets.com/?p=263370 When it comes to interactions between children and dogs, experts and parents or other caregivers don’t see eye to eye. In a study published in the July-August 2016 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, researchers examined the reasons children are frequently bitten by the family dog

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When it comes to interactions between children and dogs, experts and parents or other caregivers don’t see eye to eye.

In a study published in the July-August 2016 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, researchers examined the reasons children are frequently bitten by the family dog. Among their findings:

  • More than half the parents in the study sometimes leave their child unsupervised with the dog
  • Children and parents are not good at reading canine stress signals, allowing behaviors such as hugging to go on beyond the dog’s comfort zone, with signs the dog was unhappy being missed or ignored
  • Child-free resting and feeding places for the dog are not usually provided
  • Parents are trusting of their own dog while suspicious of unfamiliar dogs
  • Half of dogs who bite have medical issues, while 77 percent show signs of anxiety
  • In some circumstances, children are actually encouraged to exhibit risky behaviors

The study authors concluded:

The main finding of this study is the discrepancy between expert recommendations and the survey answers, especially in respect of the family dog. Often too much trust is placed in the dog not to react aggressively. Therefore, it is vital to educate caregivers about potentially unsafe behaviors, the dogs’ needs, and safety measures that are important even with the family dog. Dog bite prevention programs should cover parent supervision behaviors and dog behavior and they should be tailored to the child’s age. Measures that are easy to implement in everyday life, for example, environmental measures for very young children, should be promoted.

Christine Arhant, Ricarda Landenberger, Andrea Beetz, Josef Troxler, Attitudes of caregivers to supervision of child–family dog interactions in children up to 6 years—An exploratory study, In Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, Volume 14, 2016, Pages 10-16, ISSN 1558-7878, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2016.06.007.

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Fear Free Failure? Not A Chance. Here’s Why https://fearfreepets.com/fear-free-failure-not-chance-heres/ Tue, 09 Jan 2018 15:00:22 +0000 https://fearfreepets.com/?p=244418 You heard about the Fear Free initiative, and now you have become certified. You have an amazing number of tools at your disposal, and you have headed to work fired up with a passion to make this change! And then….

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By Kathryn Primm, DVM

You heard about the Fear Free initiative, and now you have become certified. You have an amazing number of tools at your disposal, and you have headed to work fired up with a passion to make this change! And then….The days go by and you see cases where your newly heightened sense of fear, anxiety, and stress tells you that pets are suffering. These are the ones you might not have noticed before. They refuse treats. Maybe they do not respond to adequately to pre-visit pharmaceuticals. Maybe their owners are skeptical or resistant. And you feel as if you are not “walking the walk.” Does that make you a FEAR FREE FAILURE?

Everyone is a Fear Free failure some times. Even Marty Becker, the father of Fear Free, has patients whose fear isn’t completely addressed. He tells of a Labrador Retriever he was treating who went from tail wagging to “freak out” in an instant when someone in the neighboring room slammed a cage door. He has been scratched by a sedated cat who was purring and seemed fine, and then suddenly FAS escalated and the cat lashed out without warning.

Does the treat ladder work? Sure, it works for a lot of patients. Medications can be the safety net for those who won’t eat treats. Not every protocol works for every pet, and Fear Free gives you an algorithm to work through so most pets are helped dramatically. But with some patients you can climb the “treat ladder” and fall off the other side. Some patients either do not respond adequately to pre-visit pharmaceuticals or do not respond at all to the medications you have chosen. There will be owners who cannot give the medications or think them unnecessary. You may have skeptical coworkers. Maybe you feel like time constraints do not allow you to fully sedate or reschedule appointments.

Does it make you a Fear Free Failure?

You have to remember that Rome was not built in a day. The war against patient fear cannot be cured in a day, either. Some patients arrived at their current level of FAS after years of bad experiences. You have already improved simply by becoming certified. If you recognize a pet’s fear and correctly read the signs, you are stepping further in the right direction. If you alert the pet owner to the signs the pet is showing, you are leaping in the right direction. If today’s visit was even a little better than the last visit and you were able to stop the advance of FAS before the animal feared for his life, you are making a difference.

All progress must be measured in baby steps sometimes. You will have days and cases where the difference is clear and you can celebrate. You will have days when you feel as if you can’t make a difference. Hold on to your mission. Seek others in the Fear Free Certified community to find support and encouragement. Think of the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.”

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Study: Effects of Trazodone Compared to Acepromazine in Anesthetic Induction https://fearfreepets.com/study-effects-trazodone-compared-acepromazine-anesthetic-induction/ Thu, 21 Dec 2017 15:00:22 +0000 https://fearfreepets.com/?p=210406 Acepromazine is frequently used for pre-medication before veterinary visits and surgery. While it offers sedation, it doesn’t offer any substantial anxiety relief. The authors of a study published in the February 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association investigated the use of trazodone instead of acepromazine as an oral pre-medication.

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Acepromazine is frequently used for pre-medication before veterinary visits and surgery. While it offers sedation, it doesn’t offer any substantial anxiety relief. The authors of a study published in the February 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association investigated the use of trazodone instead of acepromazine as an oral pre-medication.

Thirty healthy, client-owned dogs were admitted for tibial plateau leveling osteotomy or tibial tuberosity advancement and assigned to one of two groups: acepromazine or trazodone.

The acepromazine group received 0.01 to 0.03 mg/kg IM 30 minutes before anesthetic induction, and the trazodone group received 5 mg/kg for patients > 10 kg or 7 mg/kg for patients ≤ 10 kg, PO 2 hours before induction.

Both groups received morphine sulfate (1 mg/kg IM) 30 minutes before induction. Anesthesia was induced with propofol (4 to 6 mg/kg IV) and maintained with isoflurane or sevoflurane in oxygen. Bupivacaine (0.5 mg/kg) and morphine (0.1 mg/kg) were administered epidurally.

Findings included:

  • There was no difference in the mean dose of propofol and all cardiovascular variables between groups.
  • No significant differences were seen in the cardiovascular effects of premedication that included acepromazine versus trazodone.
  • No significant differences were seen in the mean propofol dose needed for induction, mean isoflurane vaporizer setting, mean duration of anesthesia, or median surgical time between the treatment groups.
  • Heart rates and blood pressure measurements were the same for all dogs.
  • Both groups had similar numbers of dogs who required intervention for low blood pressure and bradycardia.

In her evaluation of the study, boarded veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lisa Radosta of the Fear Free Executive Council said:

This study shows that there is an opportunity to use a medication with more anxiolytic and fear-reducing properties than acepromazine with no significant differences in outcome. Veterinarians can now ask clients to pre-medicate with trazodone at home so that pets will be calmer when they enter the clinic and ideally be less stressed and fearful as well as easier to handle.

Murphy LA, Barletta M, Graham LF, Reichl LJ, Duxbury MM, Quandt JE. Effects of acepromazine and trazodone on anesthetic induction dose of propofol and cardiovascular variables in dogs undergoing general anesthesia for orthopedic surgery. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2017 Feb 15;250(4):408-416. doi: 10.2460/javma.250.4.408.

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Is Fear Free the Only Way to Compassionate Veterinary Practice? https://fearfreepets.com/fear-free-way-compassionate-veterinary-practice/ Sun, 03 Dec 2017 15:00:22 +0000 https://fearfreepets.com/?p=203688 Is Fear Free Certification right for every veterinary professional and practice? It’s hard for me to answer that with anything other than a resounding “Yes!” Not only do I constantly see Fear Free change the lives of animals, allowing them to receive the care they need and deserve without fear, anxiety, and stress, but I believe it holds the answer to many of the most difficult challenges facing our profession today. I believe Fear Free is the right tool at the right time to shift our profession into a whole new era.

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By Dr. Marty Becker

Is Fear Free Certification right for every veterinary professional and practice?

It’s hard for me to answer that with anything other than a resounding “Yes!” Not only do I constantly see Fear Free change the lives of animals, allowing them to receive the care they need and deserve without fear, anxiety, and stress, but I believe it holds the answer to many of the most difficult challenges facing our profession today. I believe Fear Free is the right tool at the right time to shift our profession into a whole new era.

But it’s also true that one of the biggest sources of stress for both animals and people is a lack of choice. Just like our patients, no veterinarian or veterinary nurse wants to feel backed into a corner, or be told there is only one right way to accomplish something.

There are six of us on the Fear Free team, and I know for a fact that not one of us would ever want to cause any veterinary professional stress, make someone feel Fear Free is a threat to them, or seem to be cutting off choices instead of expanding them.

Instead, I see Fear Free as the most recent stop on a path pioneered by countless voices in veterinary medicine, from Dr. Leo Bustad to Dr. Karen Overall to the late and much-missed Dr. Sophia Yin.

I believe all of us in veterinary medicine are following in the footsteps of those giants and countless others, moving toward an ever more-compassionate practice of veterinary medicine that is less stressful and more rewarding for us, too.

If Fear Free can be of service to you on that path, please know we’re here to help. If you’re taking your own road, we respect your journey and hope to have the opportunity to learn from you as we meet along the way.

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Healing Our Wounds as We Heal Theirs: A Veterinarian Gives Thanks https://fearfreepets.com/healing-wounds-heal-veterinarian-gives-thanks/ Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:00:22 +0000 https://fearfreepets.com/?p=196867 Since I published the story of my personal struggle with depression and a family history of suicide—including my father, who killed himself with a shotgun in Veterinary Economics last year, I’ve heard from hundreds upon hundreds of my fellow veterinary professionals who have faced the same struggles. As Thanksgiving and the holiday season draw near, I can’t help but think of all of us in veterinary medicine who are feeling anything but thankful, and are overwhelmed not with feelings of good cheer, but of darkest depression.

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By Dr. Marty Becker

Since I published the story of my personal struggle with depression and a family history of suicide–including my father, who killed himself with a shotgun–in Veterinary Economics last year, I’ve heard from hundreds upon hundreds of my fellow veterinary professionals who have faced the same struggles.

As Thanksgiving and the holiday season draw near, I can’t help but think of all of us in veterinary medicine who are feeling anything but thankful, and are overwhelmed not with feelings of good cheer, but of darkest depression.

My personal journey to becoming a veterinarian began when I was 7 years old, growing up on a dairy farm. The family vet came out to treat a fallen cow who, after one injection, rose up.

Even though my desire to be a veterinarian was sparked by that happy recovery, that memory and many like it are frequently overwhelmed by memories of death, terrible suffering, and the mistakes that we see happen in our profession every single day, year-in, year-out.

My experience of practicing veterinary medicine ranged from getting the Twin Falls, Idaho, City Shelter to shut down their gas chamber by agreeing to euthanize the animals myself; fighting to keep some kind of barrier between me and the pain of seeing animals I cared about suffer, or die–and seeing the devastating grief of their human families at their loss; the steady drumbeat of “suck it up” and “don’t think about it” and “don’t focus on all this emotional stuff” I heard so often from my bosses and colleagues.

I got the message loud and clear: Unlike physical suffering and illness, their mental and emotional counterparts were shameful, trivial, and unworthy even of acknowledgement, let alone treatment.

It was the Thanksgiving season that followed the horror of 9/11 when I first became seriously depressed. I was in my late 40s, and had just finished working on my book The Healing Power of Pets. I was sad and wanted nothing more than to sleep all the time. I was in darkness that no amount of awareness of my family history, or will power, or stern self-lectures, or prayer could lighten. That took the care of a physician and the prescription of an anti-depressant. Five years later, I needed an additional medication to keep the darkness at bay.

While clearly my family background contributed to the likelihood I’d suffer from depression, so did my profession. A recent commentary in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) cited a CDC survey of more than 10,000 practicing veterinarians that found we are more likely to be depressed, to suffer serious mental illness, and to attempt suicide than the general public.

In fact, frighteningly, 14.4 percent of male and 19.1 percent of female veterinarians have considered suicide, nearly three times the national average for the general population. And these numbers are consistent with those in studies of veterinary professionals around the globe, not just in the United States.

I did not found Fear Free to address the epidemic of depression and suicide in our profession; I did it to help animals. But what I found is that it also has the power to help us.

Consider these words written by the authors of that same JAVMA article I mentioned above:

 

Some of the reasons for the high rates of mental disorders in veterinarians include work-related stress, a lack of early detection of mental problems, access to lethal drugs associated with euthanasia, and the adverse effects of performing euthanasia.

A qualitative, interview-based study of veterinarians who had attempted suicide revealed contributing factors to be adverse relationships at work, concerns about career, issues related to patients, long hours, and heavy work-load. A cross-sectional study of work conditions for veterinarians found that the number of hours worked and professional mistakes were the chief stressors that accounted for anxiety and depression.

How much of the soul-killing stress that afflicts veterinarians and veterinary nurses is caused by working all day on patients who fear us, even hate us? How much is the result of seeing the animals we love and feel such compassion for shiver, drool, even lose control of bladder and bowels, as we try to help and heal them?

I know I became a veterinarian because I felt so connected to the soul of animals. I thought I was doing what was best for them, and it was not until the fateful day when Dr. Karen Overall ripped the bandage off the wound of my compassion that I realized I was in fact harming all the animals I thought I was helping. That horrifying realization sharpened my senses, opened my heart, and inspired the creation of Fear Free.

And it was in hearing from so many of the almost 25,000 of you who have so far enrolled in certification that I realized it isn’t just our patients who need healing through the practice of Fear Free veterinary medicine; it’s us, too.

Of course, Fear Free is not a form of therapy or medical care. Depression and suicidal ideation are real medical issues and require the care of qualified professionals. But as the JAVMA article pointed out, work stress is a massive risk factor for mental health problems and suicide in veterinarians.

Look at it this way: If I think of myself as a cup, I’m half-full–maybe even three-quarters full in my case–of risk factors related to genetics and my upbringing.

Why fill that cup the rest of the way with insufficient sleep, a lack of connectedness to my family and community, guilt, unwillingness to face my problems, and stewing every day in the fear, anxiety, and stress of the pets, pet owners, and staff I interact with professionally? Why crank up the already dangerous pressure I feel by burying feelings of burnout, compassion fatigue, depression, or worse?

After almost 40 years of veterinary practice, I still feel blessed to be part of the greatest profession on earth. I am endlessly grateful for the opportunities I have to lecture to veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and veterinary students, and to speak on behalf of the veterinary profession through the media.

But this Thanksgiving, I also know tremendous gratitude that I’m able to share this gift with each of you: That the practice of the medicine we love on the animals we love can be a healing gift to us both, and not a source of fear or suffering. That we’re part of the largest transformational initiative in the history of companion animal practice, part of healing animals, the people who love them, and ourselves.

God bless you, and have a Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

Author’s note: If you’re experiencing depression or are contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK; 800-273-8255; suicidepreventionlifeline.org). It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whatever darkness you are facing, the good people who staff these phone lines care and will help you.

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Study: Gabapentin Reduces Stress in Cats Before Veterinary Visits https://fearfreepets.com/study-gabapentin-reduces-stress-cats-veterinary-visits/ Mon, 06 Nov 2017 15:35:22 +0000 https://fearfreepets.com/?p=175157 Cats can suffer from severe fear and stress when being transported to the veterinarian or while being examined once there. New research indicates that use of the medication gabapentin can significantly reduce signs of stress and increase compliance with the veterinary exam.

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Cats can suffer from severe fear and stress when being transported to the veterinarian or while being examined once there. New research indicates that use of the medication gabapentin can significantly reduce signs of stress and increase compliance with the veterinary exam.

Gabapentin is an inexpensive medication originally developed to control seizures in humans. It is also used to control neuropathic pain in humans, dogs, and cats. While it is not labeled for use for anxiety, it is increasingly used for that purpose in human and veterinary medicine. It does not have a strong taste and is usually well accepted by cats when given in liquid form or with treats. (Note that some liquid formulations contain the sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to dogs although not known to be toxic to cats.)

Despite its increasing use in animal practice, research into its efficacy in cats has been recent and limited. In this study, published in the Nov. 15. 2017 issue of Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 20 healthy pet cats, ranging in age from 1 to 16 years and with a history of signs of stress when at the vet, were brought by their owners for two veterinary visits one week apart.

The cats were randomly assigned to receive 100 mg of gabapentin or a placebo capsule containing lactose powder before the first visit. The capsules were given 90 minutes before they left for the vet. The treatment was reversed for each cat prior to the second visit.

Once they arrived at the veterinary hospital, each cat was examined and had his or her blood pressure read. Owners also rated the cats’ stress scores during the trip to the hospital as well as during the exam. The veterinarians rated the cats’ compliance with the process. The owners, the examining veterinarian, and observers were all blinded to which cats received the medication and which the placebo.

Findings included:

  • Owners gave significantly lower stress scores during transportation and examination to the cats who received gabapentin.
  • Veterinarians rated the cats treated with gabapentin as significantly more compliant during exam.
  • For 20 percent of the cats, examination was possible only when they were medicated with gabapentin
  • Sedation was a commonly reported side effect, particularly in smaller cats.
  • Some ataxia, hypersalivation, and vomiting were reported, all of which resolved within 8 hours.
  • Owners reported the peak effect of the medication occurred 2 to 3 hours after administration, suggesting that dosing the cats 90 minutes in advance, as was the case in the study, may have been less than optimal.

In their discussion of the study results, the authors concluded:

Overall, the present study yielded good evidence that oral administration of a 100-mg gabapentin cap­sule to cats 90 minutes before transporting them to the veterinary hospital led to a significant reduction in stress-related behaviors during transportation and examination. Gabapentin administration also de­creased aggression and increased compliance of cats during veterinary examination.

Karen A. van Haaften DVM; Lauren R. Eichstadt Forsythe PharmD; Elizabeth A. Stelow DVM; Melissa J. Bain DVM, MS, Effects of a single preappointment dose of gabapentin on signs of stress in cats during transportation and veterinary examination, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, November 15, 2017, Vol. 251, No. 10, Pages 1175-1181. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.251.10.1175.

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Veterinary Technicians: The Heartbeat of the Hospital https://fearfreepets.com/veterinary-technicians-heartbeat-hospital/ Thu, 19 Oct 2017 18:35:22 +0000 https://fearfreepets.com/?p=186319 Veterinary technicians have their fingers on the pulses of every patient, and they are at the heart of the entire veterinary profession. No living being can survive without a heart. Veterinary medicine can’t survive without our phenomenal technicians. During National Veterinary Technician Week, we celebrate the knowledge, compassion, professionalism, and amazing skills of these key team players. Veterinary medicine wouldn’t be possible without amazing technicians, and Fear Free veterinary medicine is no exception. Technicians facilitate Fear Free medicine, but practicing Fear Free medicine can help technicians, too!

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By Monique Feyrecilde, BA, LVT, VTS (Behavior)

Veterinary technicians have their fingers on the pulses of every patient, and they are at the heart of the entire veterinary profession. No living being can survive without a heart. Veterinary medicine can’t survive without our phenomenal technicians. During National Veterinary Technician Week, we celebrate the knowledge, compassion, professionalism, and amazing skills of these key team players. Veterinary medicine wouldn’t be possible without amazing technicians, and Fear Free veterinary medicine is no exception. Technicians facilitate Fear Free medicine, but practicing Fear Free medicine can help technicians, too!

The expectations placed on technicians can seem impossible at times. Triage exams, collecting histories, giving injections and vaccinations, performing blood collections, cystocentesis, and radiographs, administering and monitoring anesthesia, assisting in surgical procedures, providing complete dental care and intensive care for hospitalized patients, managing extensive medical records, performing grooming and janitorial duties, and providing emotional support for team mates, clients, and patients are all in a day’s work. The list of duties and responsibilities is overwhelming, and finances can be tight on a technician’s salary. With such a huge list of responsibilities in a stressful work environment for modest pay, it’s no surprise to anyone in the industry that technicians have a high rate of professional attrition and burnout.

One perhaps surprising but important cause of attrition is a mismatch between motivation and expectation. When I am teaching or presenting at a veterinary conference, I ask, “Why did you choose veterinary medicine?” Invariably the answer is because people love animals and wish to help these animals. These admirable and compassionate individuals come to the profession wanting to help, but these same people are confronted with a mismatch of expectations. The medical care they are providing to restore wellness can result in emotional and physical injuries to pets and people.

We learn how to observe patient body language, understand animal communication, and meet physical and emotional needs of animals. We are then then asked to ignore these important pieces of information in the name of diagnostics and treatments. We are taught the fastest way to scruff a cat who is trying to run away, and how to use a control pole without being bitten.  Is the better lesson how to prevent the animal from feeling as if she needs to escape from us? We are asked to harden our hearts and become experts in difficult physical restraint in the name of making pets “better.” Could we instead have open hearts and become experts in working with Considerate Approach and Gentle Control, or even Cooperative Veterinary Care? We are told to control our emotions and “keep it professional.” It is easy to label animals as mean, aggressive, biters, fractious, evil, or worse. It’s easy to become jaded about people and pets. We are asked to set aside the compassion and love for animals that sparked our interest in this vocation, and it hurts.

Fulfilling your heart’s vocation shouldn’t be dangerous, and it shouldn’t mean you set aside your compassion for animals. Dangerous work conditions, emotional challenges, low income, and underutilization are all cited by technicians as reasons they leave clinical practice. Fear Free can help keep amazing technicians at the heart of every hospital.

Heather Schroeder, CVT, is one example of a veterinary technician who recently transitioned out of clinical practice. She shared her story with me.

“After I earned my Fear Free certification, I made a presentation to my team teaching them about Fear Freesm. I wanted to inspire them to feel the way I felt, and to handle patients using these techniques. I had a great deal of success working with patients and receptive veterinarians, but the rest of the team continued allowing pets to struggle, handling them with forceful restraint. If I tried to step in and help, my team was not receptive and responded negatively.

After many disappointments, I chose to leave clinical practice for academia. I’m now teaching veterinary technician students, and including Fear Free in my curriculum to help new technicians succeed from the start.”

Fear Free brings us back to the heart of the matter: the wellbeing of animals. We can listen to the animals again. Jade Velasquez, LVT, is the practice manager of Brookside Animal Hospital. She shares, “When technicians are empowered to use Fear Free techniques, we can reconnect with our passion to provide care in a kind, caring and compassionate manner for our patients.” Technicians can prevent fear, anxiety, and stress. We can respond to patients’ emotional states, and provide care without causing fear. When we reduce the fear, anxiety, and stress a patient experiences, we reduce the risk of physical and emotional injury to both people and pets in the veterinary hospital.

Clients love Fear Free technicians. They notice the special interaction and bond between patient and caregiver when these technicians make every visit as comfortable as possible. Check out this client feedback about technicians:

“I love how excited Leon is to see Monique when we come to the clinic. Other hospitals gave up on Leon, but Monique is an amazing technician and we are so grateful for the care she provides while he is at the hospital.”

-Anthea G., client of Mercer Island Veterinary Clinic

“My dog, Carmela, has a lot of fears, especially the veterinarian. My vet office has recently instituted Fear Free techniques. No one approached her or frightened her. I took her to the scale, she sat on the scale for her weight, again quiet. We went into the exam room. Our technician Kate and veterinarian came into the room, sat on the floor and fed her treats. Carmela would go behind me and then go to the veterinarian. By the end of the visit, Carmela was lying quietly on the floor, no vocalizations, no jumping up and grabbing my clothing. She never felt trapped or forced. It was just amazing.”

-Susan Olson, client of Marine View Veterinary Hospital

“I never realized what technicians do! During my visit, the technician asked all sorts of questions about Mimi.* The doctor did her checkup and then the technician took her blood, and gave her shots. Mimi hardly noticed the needles while I had her eat the cheese whiz, and the technician was so gentle with her. I was so glad to be able to see what happened, and to see what gentle care they took of my baby.”

-Anonymous, Mercer Island Veterinary Clinic

During this week of appreciation for the ninjas, the masters, the magicians, the marvelous wizards who are veterinary technicians, take a moment to consider how to keep technicians in our hospitals and with our patients. We need to fully utilize our technicians, we need to appreciate them, we need to pay them, we need to show them respect. We need to empower them to do no harm. Veterinary technicians should be able to love our patients, showing concern for both their emotional and physical wellbeing. Empowering technicians to practice Fear Free medicine will help them fulfill their true vocations, and it will help keep them safe. It will bond clients and technicians, making our practices stronger and healthier. Let these compassionate geniuses show their empathy for our precious patients: it will keep the hearts of our hospitals healthy.

Monique Feyrecilde, BA, LVT, VTS (Behavior)

Teaching Animals, Auburn, WA | Mercer Island Veterinary Clinic, Mercer Island, WA

Monique Feyrecilde is a full-time veterinary technician in small animal private practice with over 20 years of experience. She is a veterinary technician specialist in behavior, and a past president of the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians as well as the current chair of the Examination Committee. Monique was a content contributor for the Fear Free Certification course, and a module chair for two modules in the level two certification course.

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Gulliver’s Travails And Other Tales Of Fear Free Technician Care https://fearfreepets.com/gullivers-travails-tales-fear-free-technician-care/ Mon, 16 Oct 2017 18:35:22 +0000 https://fearfreepets.com/?p=172885 Gulliver was nervous and fearful. Recently adopted, he needed a complete checkup, but his owner wasn’t sure she could get the cat into a carrier and to the clinic without a complete meltdown on his part—and maybe hers. Fortunately, she knew that her veterinarian offered in-home exams using Fear Free techniques.

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By Kim Campbell Thornton

Gulliver was nervous and fearful. Recently adopted, he needed a complete checkup, but his owner wasn’t sure she could get the cat into a carrier and to the clinic without a complete meltdown on his part—and maybe hers. Fortunately, she knew that her veterinarian offered in-home exams using Fear Free techniques.

Dr. Karen Angele and certified veterinary technician Chrissy Schultz went to Gulliver’s home where they gently wrapped him in a towel treated with Feliway, a pheromone spray, and sat with him on the floor as they checked his weight, examined his eyes, ears, and teeth, and drew blood.

“Gulliver’s owner described the visit as a very pleasant encounter for both of them,” says Carol Petersen, a certified veterinary technician at Burr Ridge Veterinary Clinic in Darien, Illinois, where Dr. Angele and Ms. Schultz practice.

Gulliver’s tale is just one example of the reasons veterinary technicians and other staff members have taken to Fear Free techniques. The opportunity to give pets the care they need in a way that’s pleasant for all involved is more than just handing out treats and helping pets feel comfortable in a care setting, whether that is the home or the veterinary clinic.

“Implementing Fear Free techniques at our clinic has been life-changing,” Petersen says. “Fear Free was a natural next step for Burr Ridge Veterinary Clinic because in addition to making sure each pet receives all of the medical treatments needed for good physical health, we’re equally committed to the emotional health of our patients.”

Trixie is a 12-year-old American Eskimo who hated getting her nails trimmed. When her people brought her in to Heron Creek Animal Hospital in North Port, Florida, they described her as nippy and said she would need a muzzle for the nail trim. Cindy Goldstein, LVT, CVT, who is Fear Free certified, has a “less is more” attitude when it comes to restraint and handling. She put her Fear Free training to the test, spraying a bandana with Adaptil and gently holding Trixie while her owner stood in front of her.

“Trixie was wagging her tail and gave no signs of aggression and didn’t try to bite,” Goldstein says. “The pets that I use Fear Free techniques on are more relaxed, and so are their owners. It makes bringing your pet to the vet less stressful for the owner and rewarding for me as a tech.”

One of the benefits of Fear Free certification is the way it expands knowledge of animal behavior and handling. Training in those areas is sometimes lacking, says Jennie Fiendish, a CVT in Portland, Oregon, who owns Happy Power Behavior and Training. She notes that it’s not uncommon for new graduates to have been taught to scruff cats or hold down struggling dogs. In her own experience, Fear Free has taught her how to advocate for patient needs and easy ways to implement techniques.

“Fear Free provides an excellent working understanding of animal behavior and how it applies to our patients, how they feel about us, and how we can interact with them appropriately,” she says. “With the techniques learned from Fear Free, I have not only seen a dramatic decrease in fear and stress of our patients but also for our staff. No one wants to cause an animal harm or get harmed themselves. Fear Free lets us accomplish that.”

At Del Mar Veterinary Hospital in Saint Augustine, Florida, its Fear Free status differentiates it from clinics in the surrounding area. Anna Deason, lead CVT, believes it has helped the team achieve a closer bond not only with their patients but with owners as well. It may look as if technicians are simply cuddling animals and giving them lots of treats, but there’s more going on beneath the surface.

“To us, we are performing a better exam and getting samples, but to the owners they see us taking the time to make sure their pet is comfortable and happy,” she says.

And that’s the real key to the success of Fear Free. When pets are less stressed, owners are less stressed, too.

“Owners come in worried about their pets,” says Nicole Ballreich, a Fear Free certified LVT at Westarbor Animal Hospital. “When they see their pets eating food and purring or licking us, they laugh and feel better about the visit. This keeps them coming back.”

Most important, Ballreich says, when patients are happy and less stressed, veterinary technicians are less stressed. That allows them to provide more care and better care.

“It is making a huge difference in how we run our practice.”

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