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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:

Fear, anxiety, stress or pain
associated with veterinary visits

Original evidence-based research in dogs, cats, equine, and/or avian 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.

Current Research

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

ACVB Veterinary Behavior Symposium Research Award, 2018

Amanda Hampton, DVM

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

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

ACVB Veterinary Behavior Symposium Research Award, 2018

Ragen T.S. McGowan, Ph.D

Tapping Into Those ‘Gut Feelings’: Impact of BL999 (Bifidobacterium longum) on Anxiety in Dogs

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

American College of Veterinary Behaviorist Research Grant, 2019

Dr. Sun Kim, Dr. Melissa Bain

The effects of trazodone on behavioral and physiological signs of stress in dogs during veterinary visits

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

American College of Veterinary Behaviorist Research Grant, 2019

Dr. K. Pankratz, Dr. K. Messenger, Dr. M. Gruen, Meghan Carson

Efficacy of single dose dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel to attenuate anxiety in client owned cats presented for routine veterinary care

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

American College of Veterinary Behaviorist Research Grant, 2020

Dr. Julia Albright

Efficacy of white noise as part of a multimodal anxiolytic and analgesic protocol to treat post-operative pain following hemilaminectomy in dogs with acute intervertebral disc herniation

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

American College of Veterinary Behaviorist Research Grant, 2020

Dr. Vanessa Spano

Effects of a combination of gabapentin and mirtazapine transdermal on signs of stress in cats during veterinary examination

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

American College of Veterinary Behaviorist Research Grant, 2020

Hagar Hauser, DVM

In-Hospital Administration of Dexmedetomidine Oromucosal Gel for Stress Reduction in Dogs During Veterinary Visits

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

International Veterinary Behavior Meeting jointly with Veterinary Behavior Symposium Award, 2019

Dr. Pierrette Mercier

Using standardized scales to assess fear at veterinary visits – interrater and intrarater reliability

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

European Veterinary Congress of Behavioural Medicine and Animal Welfare Award, 2018

Dr. Ludovica Pierantoni

Puppy Classes may positively affect the behaviour of adult dogs separated from their litters too early

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

European Veterinary Congress of Behavioural Medicine and Animal Welfare Award, 2019

Hilal Kurum and Ebru Yalcin

Fear Free Happy Homes Award: Effects of Multi-Modal Environmental Modification in Crystal-Related Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

European Veterinary Congress of Behavioural Medicine and Animal Welfare Award, 2019

Caroline Gilbert

FF Veterinary Visit Award: Teaching Veterinary Students Practical Exercises for Reducing Animal Stress During Veterinary Examinations to Improve Dog & Cat Welfare

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

European Veterinary Congress of Behavioural Medicine and Animal Welfare Award, 2018

Dr. Joao Da Silva

Psychoactive drugs – rational use to change dog and cat’s stress behaviour during hospitalization

Veterinary Behaviorist Grants and Awards

Australia and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists Research Grant, 2019

Dr. Sally Nixon

Use of Zylkene in reducing fear, anxiety and stress in animals in veterinary consultations

Journal of Veterinary Behavior Welfare Awards

Journal of Veterinary Behavior Author Awards

Improving Pet Welfare Award, 2019

Christine Arhant

Attitudes of veterinarians and veterinary students to recommendations on how to improve dog and cat welfare in veterinary practice

Journal of Veterinary Behavior Author Awards

Improving Pet Welfare Award, 2019

Ian Dinwoodie

Demographics and comorbidity of behavior problems in dogs

Veterinary College Research Grants

Veterinary College Research Grants

Lincoln Memorial University (LMU)
Veterinary Student Research Grant

Julie Hunt, Jennifer Johnson et al.

The Impact of Fear Free Practices on Canine Stress During Transportation – A Pilot Study

Veterinary College Research Grants

Mississippi State University
Veterinary Student Research Grant

Rachel Doenges, Dr. Christine Calder

Use of Trazodone and Gabapentin in Combination to Reduce Fear, Anxiety and Stress during Veterinary Visits in Client Owned Dogs

Veterinary College Research Grants

North Carolina State University
Veterinary Student Research Grants, 2020

Impact of Classical Counterconditioning (Quiet Kennel Exercise) on Barking in Kenneled Dogs

Veterinary College Research Grants

Purdue University
Behavior Resident Research Grant

Dr. Orion Stollar, Dr. Niwako Ogata

Effects of a single dose of oral gabapentin in dogs during a veterinary examination: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

Veterinary College Research Grants

Western University
Veterinary Student Research Grant

Andra Dumitrescu

Enhanced human-animal interaction to decrease stress of veterinary visits in pet dogs

Website Submissions

Website Submissions

Website Open Call for Fear Free Research Grants, 2019

Dr. Claire Corridan

The Influence of Stress Minimising Protocols on Job Satisfaction & Resilience in Veterinary Personnel

Website Submissions

Website Open Call for Fear Free Research Grants, 2019

Dr. Giovanni Marliana – University of Bologna

The Calming Effect of Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and Classical Music on dogs and cats in the waiting room and during the veterinary visits.

Website Submissions

Website Open Call for Fear Free Research Grants, 2020

Dr. Isabelle Bazin – University of Montreal

Clinical relevance of rectal temperature measurement in cats showing marked signs of stress during routine veterinary visits

Pending Grants and Awards

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists Research Grant 2021
Funding for original evidence based research by an ACVB diplomate or resident – To be announced

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.

For award details: https://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-veterinary-behavior/awards/2019-journal-of-veterinary-behavior-award-winners

Funding in support of student research projects at University Colleges of Veterinary Medicine. Veterinary colleges institutions with projects that meet our funding objectives should submit proposals using the form at the end of this page and selecting the box for Institutions Seeking Grants.

(jump to submission form)

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.

Research proposals that meet one of the two following criteria can be submitted using the form at the end of this page.

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.

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.

(jump to submission form)

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 focuses 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.

Fear Free Related Research – Bibliography

Submit a Proposal

Fear Free will provide grants of up to $2,500 USD to both individual researchers and veterinary colleges to support student, resident, or faculty research projects that should advance the science and evidence for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of fear, anxiety, stress, and pain related to veterinary care. All applications should be submitted using the online application form below.

To be eligible for funding, research proposals should intend to implement original evidence-based research in dogs, cats, avian, and/or equines investigating the prevention, reduction, or measurement of fear, anxiety, stress, and /or pain associated with veterinary healthcare, including travel, facilities, procedures, hospitalization, or return home. Studies conducted in shelters will be considered if the findings can be applied to veterinary visits and hospitalization.

Submission & Funding Guidelines

This form should be used both by individuals (or research groups) and by universities for funding of veterinary student, resident, or faculty research projects. All research must be approved by the facility’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) or equivalent oversight committee. Please check the appropriate box for individual/group or institution funding and follow the submission guidelines described.

  1. Individual/Research Group Grant Funding
    Grants will be awarded approximately three (3) times per year from amongst all of the applications received at the posted submission deadline for pilot studies and novel small-scale projects that should provide information of immediate practical value to practitioners.

    1. All applications that meet Fear Free eligibility criteria will be assessed by our scientific review committee on the quality and originality of the proposed research, significance and relevance to Fear Free, study design, and the achievability of the objectives with the funds provided over a timespan of up to 6 to 12 months. Typically, the top-ranking project from all applications at each submission deadline will be awarded a grant of up to $2,500 USD.
    2. Submissions should be concise while providing the required information for review, including project title, clearly stated research question, objectives, qualifications of the researchers, study design, and expected outcome.
    3. At least one member of the research team should be a Fear Free Certified Professional.
    4. Proposals will not be considered that are incomplete, do not meet funding criteria, or require funding in excess of the maximum award amount of $2,500 USD.
    5. Research should be affiliated with a host institution with approval by the Institution’s Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) or equivalent oversight committee. Projects that are not affiliated with a host institution with an animal use oversight committee will be considered only if they do not require handling or treatment of animals, other than observation during the provision of standard veterinary care and with informed client consent.
  2. Institution Grant Funding
    Research grants of $2,500 USD will be awarded to veterinary colleges for funding of a student, resident, or faculty research project that meets Fear Free funding criteria. Clinician or faculty research may also be considered.

    1. Applications should be submitted by a faculty member or clinician who will be mentoring or coordinating the research project.
    2. If applying for a grant on behalf of the institution, check the “Institutions Seeking Grants” 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. A title and description (research question, objectives, design) are not required as the university may internally set the process for review, adjudicate, and selection of the award recipient.
    3. Funding will be provided for up to four (4) university grants, with preference given to first-time applicants, student research, and projects in which at least one member of the research team is a Fear Free Certified Professional.
    4. Funding for university grants will be considered at the time and in the order in which they are received.
    5. For student research projects, grant funding may not be used to pay indirect costs. For all other projects, a maximum of 8% of the grant funds may be used toward indirect costs.

Grants will be awarded approximately three (3) times a year. The next closing date for grant proposals is Sept 1, 2021. All submissions received at each deadline will be reviewed by our scientific review panel based on quality, originality, and clinical relevance to Fear Free, with the highest-ranking project awarded a grant of up to $2,500 USD. Applications received after the submission deadline will not be considered at the next announced call date.  Applications for university funding will be considered at the time and in the order that they are received.     

Happy Paws Magazine

Spring/Summer 2020 Issue Available Now!