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Investing in the future of our best friends’ physical and emotional wellbeing. 

Fear Free Research: Grounded in Science

While clinical experience and observations play an important role in veterinary decision making and growing our knowledge, they must be grounded in sound science. Therefore, Fear Free training, continuing education, resources, and recommendations are built on a foundation of evidence-based research. While extensive research already exists related to our understanding of the effects of fear, anxiety, and stress on physical and emotional health, how it can be assessed, how it can be prevented, and how it might be alleviated or treated, there is a need for ongoing research to support current recommendations and make further advances in preventing and alleviating stress and distress.

How Do Our Research Programs Work?

While Fear Free recognizes and encourages any and all research that will help to achieve the prevention or reduction of fear, anxiety, and stress in pets and their caregivers, Fear Free-funded research will initially focus on research designed to achieve two of our primary goals: Fear Free veterinary visits and Fear Free Happy Homes.  While Fear Free will set guidelines for the type and scope of research for which funding will be offered, the selection process for each award and grant will be managed by internal review of committee of the institution, association, or college being funded.

Research will focus on two categories:

Fear, anxiety, stress or pain associated with veterinary visits

Original evidence-based research in dogs and/or cats into the prevention, reduction, or assessment of fear, anxiety, stress or pain associated with veterinary visits, including travel, facilities, procedures, hospitalization, or return home. Studies conducted in shelter facilities will be considered if they achieve outcomes that would have direct applications to veterinary visits or hospitalization.

Enriching the lives of pets in the home

Original evidence-based research in dogs and/or cats investigating the effects of techniques, approaches, and strategies to decrease fear, anxiety, and stress in the home, including environmental enrichment, meeting behavioral needs, therapeutic interventions, and measures / tools for evaluating stress and distress.

Current Research
Current Grants & Awards

In 2018 and 2019 we have provided funding for the following grants and awards. While Fear Free has provided guidelines for the topics and focus of research, the selection of each grant or award has been determined by a review committee of the institution or association being funded.

Veterinary Behavior Symposium Research Awards

American College of Veterinary Behaviorist Research Grant – two projects selected by ACVB from amongst behaviorists and residents

  1. The Effects of Trazodone on Behavioral and Physiological Signs of Stress in Dogs During Veterinary Visits – Dr. Melissa Bain, Dr. Sun Kim
  2. Efficacy of Single Dose Dexmedetomidine Oromucosal Gel to Attenuate Anxiety in Client Owned Cats Presented for Routine Veterinary Care – Dr. Katherine Pankratz, Dr. Kristen Messenger, Dr. Margaret Gruen

An award for an abstract accepted for presentation as selected by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists for the Veterinary Behavior Symposium in Denver, July 14, 2018. Download the full program.

For 2018, there was a tie for highest score. Therefore the award was split between two presentations:

  1. Effects of Music on Behavior and Physiological Stress Response of Domestic Cats in a Veterinary Clinic – Amanda Hampton, DVM (View the Results)
  2. Tapping Into Those ‘Gut Feelings’: Impact of BL999 (Bifidobacterium longum) on Anxiety in Dogs – Ragen T.S. McGowan, Ph.D (View the Results)

A research award will also be presented for an abstract accepted for presentation for the 2019 Veterinary Behavior Symposium of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists which will be held in conjunction with the International Veterinary Behavior Meeting, July 30-August 1. www.dacvb.org/page/symposium

Fear Free Research Grant 

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) Research Grant to fund a veterinary behaviorist or resident as selected by a review committee of the ACVB related to the topics of fear, anxiety and stress in the veterinary clinic or enrichment and behavioral needs strategies in the home.

An award for best research presentation related to the Prevention, Reduction or Assessment of Fear, Anxiety, Stress or Pain related to Veterinary Visits will be presented at the joint congress of the International Veterinary Behavior Meeting and the American College of Veterinary behaviorists in Washington DC on July 30-August 1. https://www.dacvb.org/page/symposium

We are pleased to announce the project selected for our first research grant as selected by our review committee from all of the projects received through our open call for submissions on our website:

Dr. Claire Corridan for her research project entitled The Influence of Stress Minimising Protocols on Job Satisfaction & Resilience in Veterinary Personnel

Research Award

Two awards for studies related to preventing and alleviating fear, anxiety, and stress in the veterinary clinic and through environmental enrichment in the home, were selected from the presentations at the European Veterinary Congress of Behavioural Medicine and Animal Welfare, in Berlin September 27-29, 2018. For information see the Congress website http://www.behaviourmeeting-berlin.de.

The Award Winners

Ludovica Pierantoni for her presentation on how puppy classes may positively affect the behaviour of dogs separated from their litters too early. (View Award)
Joao Da Silva-Monteiro for his poster on psychoactive drugs; rational use to change dog and cat’s stress behaviour during hospitalization. (View Award)

For each funding project, selection will be through internal review by each veterinary college. Fear Free is involved only in clarifying which projects meet the criteria for award funding.

Purdue University – Behavior Resident Research

Dr. Orion Stollar and Dr. Niwako Ogata for their project: Effects of a Single Dose of Oral Gabapentin in Dogs During a Veterinary Examination: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.

University of Florida

Veterinary Student Research Funding for Alexis Deriberprey for her project “The Effect of Exam Location on Heart Rate in Cats

Studies in Progress

Veterinary College Research Grants for 2019 have also been awarded to the following studies in progress:
Purdue University: Veterinary Resident Study on the effect of oral gabapentin in dogs during veterinary exams – abstract to be posted here on completion
Western University: Veterinary Student summer research project on enhanced human interaction to decrease stress in pet dogs – Abstract to be posted here on completion
Washington State University: TBD – Abstract to be posted here on completion

Funding for a research grant to a member of the behavior chapter of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists on Effects of alpha-casozepine on reducing fear, anxiety and stress at veterinary consultations – Abstract to be posted here on completion

Use of Zylkene in Reducing Fear, Anxiety and Stress in Animals in Veterinary Consultations. Recipient: Dr. Sally Nixon

Funding for two annual awards for evidence-based research published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior www.sciencedirect.com/journal/journal-of-veterinary-behavior focused on improving pet welfare during veterinary visits and in the home. One award each will be given to papers selected for publication by a review committee of the journal for

  1. Original, evidence-based research in dogs or cats investigating the prevention, reduction, or assessment of fear, anxiety, and stress associated with veterinary visits
  2. Original evidence-based research in dogs or cats investigating the effects of techniques, approaches, and strategies to decrease fear, anxiety, and stress in the home.

To find out more about these awards and how to submit your research for award consideration see: www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-veterinary-behavior/news/improving-pet-welfare-research-awards

Fear Free is committed to the support of evidence-based research through funding and awards of projects that will increase and enhance our understanding of the science and knowledge on which Fear Free training and education is based, with a focus on two initial objectives: Preventing and alleviating fear, anxiety, and stress related to veterinary visits and enriching the lives of pets in the home.

Veterinary teaching institutions with projects that meet our funding objectives should submit proposals for 2019 funding using the form at the end of this page. 

In addition, research proposals can be submitted for consideration if they meet one of the two following criteria:

  1. Original evidence-based research in dogs and/or cats investigating the prevention, reduction, or assessment of fear, anxiety, stress and pain associated with veterinary visits, including travel, facilities, procedures, hospitalization, or return home. Studies conducted in shelter facilities will be considered if they achieve outcomes that would have direct applications to veterinary visits or hospitalization.
  2. Original evidence-based research in dogs and/or cats investigating the effects of techniques, approaches, and strategies to decrease fear, anxiety and stress in the home including environmental enrichment, meeting behavioral needs, therapeutic interventions and measures/tools for evaluating stress and distress.

Research projects should consider experimental design and statistics and have Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee or Welfare approval.

Projects that meet these criteria can be submitted using the form at the end of this page.

Completed & Ongoing Studies

Upon completion, summary abstracts of Fear Free-funded studies will be published on our research page (including a link to journal publication where available). Below are abstracts from some studies completed in 2018.

ACVB Veterinary Behavior Symposium Research Award, 2018
Amanda Hampton, DVM
Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine | Baton Rouge, LA. USA

Effects of Music on Behavior and Physiological Stress Response of Domestic Cats in a Veterinary Clinic

ACVB Veterinary Behavior Symposium Research Award, 2018
Ragen T.S. McGowan, Ph.D
Nestlé Purina Research, St. Louis, MO, USA

Tapping into those ‘Gut Feelings’: Impact of BL999 (Bifidobacterium longum) on anxiety in dogs

Veterinary College Research Grant
Student Research Project
University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine | Gainesville, FL, USA

The Effect of Exam Location on Heart Rate in Cats

Additional Fear Free-Related Research

Effects of Stress on Health and Behavior Research

Fear, Anxiety, Stress, and Veterinary Visits Research

Feeding and Anesthesia Research

Medical Health and Behavioral Signs Research

Natural Supplements and Products Research

Pre-Visit and In-Clinic Medications

Puppies Kittens Socialization Research

Supplemental Fear Free Resources

Training and Communication Research

The importance of research for Fear Free

All evidence is not equal

While clinical experience and patient assessment are essential in guiding veterinary decision making, both medical and behavioral care recommendations must be based on the best available scientific evidence. Ongoing research is also critical to ensure that treatment protocols and the counseling we provide are supported by evidence and advance the quality and efficacy of the care veterinarians provide.

At the highest (and narrowest) level of the pyramid of evidence are systematic reviews and meta-analyses of multiple randomized controlled studies. However, these are generally impractical in clinical veterinary behavioral medicine because of the lack of availability of sufficient randomized controlled trials. Yet randomization, blinding, and a control group are necessary to control for bias and to provide a level of evidence that supports and validates the practitioner’s therapeutic recommendations. Also high on the evidence pyramid are practice guidelines and consensus statements based on critical appraisal of the best and most relevant evidence, but these too are only as sound as the available evidence.

While at least one blinded randomized controlled trial would be a minimum standard on which to base decision making, much of the evidence available in the field of veterinary behavior is far less robust (middle of the pyramid), including case-controlled studies that look at outcomes and risk factors and cohort studies that compare populations that received the treatment and those that did not. At the lowest level of the evidence pyramid (which is also the broadest) is research extrapolated from other species, expert opinion, and case reports.

Veterinarians must recognize, understand, and evaluate the evidence to provide pet owners with guidance and treatment recommendations grounded in science. With new evidence-based research, the quality and level of care is improved by expanding the knowledge base, increasing the understanding of disease processes and mechanisms, and by validating, modifying, or enhancing the diagnostic, preventive care, skills, and treatment options veterinarians can provide.

To help achieve these objectives the Fear Free research portfolio focus on two important needs:

  1. To support through funding of awards and grants, new original evidence-based research that targets prevention, assessment, and alleviation of fear, anxiety, and stress during travel, at veterinary visits, and in the home
  2. To review, collate, and categorize published and current scientific evidence to maintain a bibliography of publications and research that document the following:
    • The effects of fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS) on physical and emotional health on the pet, owner, and veterinary personnel and on the delivery of veterinary care
    • The scope of the problem
    • The effectiveness of behavioral methodologies and both pharmaceutical or natural therapeutics in preventing or alleviating fear, anxiety, and stress, including how outcomes can be effectively assessed (measured).

Our current database is brand new and we will be adding relevant studies on an ongoing basis. To help us maintain and further expand our library of evidence, as well as promote and publicize research in the field, we encourage submission of new evidence-based research, as well any recommendations for additional publications we might include in our bibliography.

Submit a Proposal


Have ideas? We want to hear them!

Please use the form below to submit research proposals for grants of up to $2500 for original evidence-based research that meets one of our two current funding objectives:

Fear Free Veterinary Care: Fear, anxiety, and stress related to veterinary visits
Original evidence-based research in dogs and/or cats into the prevention, reduction, or assessment of fear, anxiety, stress or pain associated with veterinary visits, including travel, facilities, procedures, hospitalization, or return home. Studies conducted in shelter facilities will be considered if they achieve outcomes that would have direct applications to veterinary visits or hospitalization.

OR

Fear Free Happy Homes: Enriching the lives of pets in the home
Original evidence-based research in dogs and/or cats investigating the effects of techniques, approaches, and strategies to decrease fear, anxiety, and stress in the home, including environmental enrichment, meeting behavioral needs, therapeutic interventions, and measures or tools for evaluating stress and distress.

Guidelines:

  1. This form should be used to submit abstracts for consideration for grant funding. Submissions should be concise (within the suggested word count) while providing the required information for review including the project title, objectives, qualifications of the researchers, study design and expected outcome. All research must be approved by the facility’s institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) or institutional review board (IRB). Projects conducted outside of institutions with an IACUC or IRB will be considered if they do not require handling or treatment of animals or if they only include observations during the planned, scheduled and routine course of veterinary care and have informed client consent.
  2. This form should be used both by Individuals (or groups) seeking funding for a specific project and by Universities and Colleges seeking funding for student research projects. Individuals should check the appropriate box and complete all fields (marked by asterisk).
    If applying for a grant on behalf of the institution, check the appropriate box and complete the following fields: Institution, Name, Position, Credentials (project administrator or mentor), and timeline for the project. Names and credentials of additional administrators or mentors can be listed in the comment section. Note that a title or description is not required as the institution can select the project “internally” after funding is awarded.

All proposals submitted by June 30, 2019 that meet our funding criteria, will be considered for a funding grant of up to $2500. If further information is required, our review committee will contact you before review, grading and selection of the project. Submissions received after June 30, 2019 will be considered if further funding grants are available later in 2019.