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, and stress related to veterinary visits

Original evidence-based research in dogs and/or cats into the prevention, reduction, or assessment of fear, anxiety, and stress 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 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 an internal review committee of the institution or association being funded.

Veterinary Behavior Symposium Research Awards

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 will be 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)

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.

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.

University of Florida

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

Veterinary College Research Grants for 2018 have also been awarded to Lincoln Memorial University, Purdue University, Cornell University, Western University, and Washington State University. Projects have yet to be finalized.

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, and stress 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 of a Fear Free-funded study, full results and findings (or a link to appropriate journal/institution to download the full study) will be published here. Additionally, results from any ongoing studies will be included here as they become available.

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 and Behavioral Signs Research

Natural Supplements and Products Research

Pre-Visit and In-Clinic Medications

Puppies Kittens Socialization Research

Supplemental Fear Free Resources Research

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!

To further expand our database and ensure that it is broad and comprehensive, we encourage requests for research proposals for which we might consider funding either for individuals, groups or teaching institutions that are looking for assistance to help fund original evidence-based research that meets one of our two funding objectives. Even if no funding opportunities are currently available, we keep and review all submissions on a regular basis and encourage ongoing submissions.

NOTE: While this form is designed as an informal first step for potential applicants, in order for any full application to be considered, it must be properly designed (including statistical considerations) and approved by an institutional animal care and use committee or institutional review board.