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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 certification are built on a foundation of evidence-based research.

Although there is already extensive research related to the effects of fear, anxiety, and stress on the emotional and physical health of pets and how they are recognized, assessed, diagnosed, and treated, there is a continued and ongoing need for new research to validate current methods and practices, foster new learning, and advance the science of Fear Free in support of our mission to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people that care for them.

How do our research programs work?

The goal of Fear Free is to enhance the emotional and physical wellbeing of companion animals by supporting, stimulating, and promoting evidence-based research aimed at advancing our understanding and improving our ability to create a positive, happy, and Fear Free veterinary experience for pets, owners, and their healthcare providers.

To help accomplish this goal, the Fear Free research program has been established to support research, education, and training in the recognition, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of fear, anxiety, stress, and pain in companion animals through the funding of grants and awards for original evidence-based research and by collating, building, and maintain a bibliography of the Fear Free references.

Grant funding is available to individuals, veterinary colleges, and veterinary speciality associations for research projects that are designed to achieve our funding objective. All grant applications should be submitted using the online form and following the funding guidelines below.

Research Objective

Preventing and alleviating fear, anxiety, stress, and pain
associated with veterinary care in companion animals

We are looking for 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.

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

American College of Veterinary Behaviorist Research Grant, 2021

Dr. Karen Van Haaften

Use of gabapentin in behavior modification treatment plans for under socialized and fearful cats

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, 2020

Christine Arhant et al.

Owner reports on the use of muzzles and their effects on dogs: an online survey, J Vet Behav 2020; 41, 73-81. Results available for free 2021 access.

Journal of Veterinary Behavior Author Awards

Improving Pet Welfare Award, 2020

Vinícius Miguel Carrieri-Rocha et al.

Acoustic stress in domestic dogs living around football stadiums. J Vet Behav 2020; 37, 27-35. Results available for free 2021 access.

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

University of Tennessee
Veterinary Student Research Grants, 2020

Effect of the veterinary visit on heart rate variability in 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

Veterinary College Research Grants

University of Florida Veterinary Student Research Grant

Alexis Deriberprey, Francesca Griffin, Wendy Mandese et al.

Evaluation of clinical examination location on Stress in cats: a randomized crossover study

Website Submissions

Website Submissions

Website Open Call for Fear Free Research Grants, 2020

Dr. Mindy Waite

Testing a Simple Preference Assessment for Dog Owners

Website Submissions

Website Open Call for Fear Free Research Grants, 2020

Dr. Renata Costa

Gabapentin, melatonin, and acepromazine combo to manage fear-aggressive and anxious dogs prior to hospital 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

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.

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 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)

Previous year results pending:

  1. Wendy Mandese, University of Florida Urinalysis and Urine Culture Results of Fear Free-Catch Samples in Dogs – in progress – results pending
  2. Kyla Ortved, University of Pennsylvania The Effects of Video Angle on the Assessment of Equine Lameness via Telemedicine” – in progress – results pending
  3. Yon Alexandre Raileanu – Hebrew University of Jerusalem “A Pilot Study for Fear Free Client Education.”  – In progress – results pending

(jump to 2021 submission form)

Fear Free and the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) have partnered to provide a research grant in the amount of $3000.00 for original evidence-based research in dogs, cats, horses and /or avian species investigating the prevention, treatment and/or assessment of stress and pain associated with veterinary medical care. The grant announcement and call for proposals has been posted on the IVAPM with July 1 submission deadline.
For details visit https://ivapm.org/foundation/
Submission guidelines https://ivapm.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Research-Call-for-Proposals-Terms-of-Funding-2021-01_21-adding-IVAPM-TG-comments-x-2.pdf

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 critical to ensure that treatment protocols and counseling we provide are supported by evidence as well as to assess and validate the effects of new and current approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

The highest level of evidence are systematic reviews and meta-analyses of multiple randomized controlled studies. However, these are rarely available to clinical veterinary behavioral medicine because of the lack of evidence-based studies. Yet randomization, blinding, and a control group are necessary to control for bias and provide a level of evidence that supports and validates the practitioner’s treatment recommendations. Practice guidelines and consensus statements by recognized experts in the field also provide sound evidence but are only as strong as the science on which they are based.

At least one blinded, randomized, and controlled trial would be the minimum standard on which to base decision-making. However, much of the evidence in the field of veterinary behavior is less robust, supported by case-controlled studies that look at outcomes and risk factors and cohort studies that compare populations that receive treatment with those that did not. The weakest evidence (although sometimes the most common) are case reports, expert opinion, and research that is extrapolated solely from other species.

The Fear Free research program has been established to support, fund, and collate evidence-based research to advance the science, grow the evidence, and validate, enhance, and improve the recognition, prevention, and treatment of fear, anxiety, and stress for our patients and for their caregivers.

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 is focused on two important needs:

  1. Funding of awards and grants for original evidence-based research that targets prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and measurement of fear, anxiety, stress, and pain during travel and veterinary visits
  2. Reviewing, collating, and categorizing the scientific literature to maintain and build a Fear Free bibliography of publications and research related to:
    • The effects of fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS) on the health, behavior, and wellbeing of the pet and their impact on the owner, veterinary personnel, and the delivery of veterinary care
    • The development and validation of treatment, diagnostic methods, techniques, assessment tools, management products, and medications for recognizing, preventing, and alleviating fear, anxiety, and stress in pets

We continue to grow and expand our bibliography with new relevant studies on an ongoing basis. To help us maintain and further expand our reference library, as well as promote and share research in the field, we encourage submission of new evidence-based research for addition to 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. At least one member of the research team should be a Fear Free Certified Professional. 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. 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.
    4. 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, and for student research.
    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 September 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!