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Success Stories: How Humans and Pets Benefit From Fear Free

Kim Campbell Thornton

It’s not just dogs and cats who benefit from Fear Free techniques at the veterinary clinic. Humans often find that they are calmer and happier as well.

Fear Freed

My sister has a beautiful kitty named Sushi whom she adopted about eight years ago. Her veterinarian, Dianicia Kirton, DVM, whose Hopkinton, Massachusetts, practice is Fear Free certified, has been recommending that Sushi get her teeth cleaned but my sister was hesitant. The veterinarian addressed each of her concerns until eventually she was ready to move forward. A few weeks later, Sushi’s mom brought her in for the teeth cleaning, although she was still nervous and reluctant. The veterinarian and staff were very calming and worked on Sushi quickly. Everything went well, and Sushi was her normal, happy self afterward. My sister told the vet that she felt like she had been “Fear Freed,” and Dr. Kirton responded, “Yes, it’s as much for the people as it is for the animals.” My sister was happy with the whole experience and thankful to have found a practice that uses these methods!

Kay Henze

Penny-Wise Visits

Pennie, a 7-year-old 78-pound Chesapeake Bay Retriever, had never had a full veterinary exam after her puppy vaccines because she bared her teeth and growled at veterinary team members at every clinic she was taken to. When she was brought to us, we implemented several Fear Free strategies, spending 45 minutes building her trust both outside the clinic and in the exam room. We were able to get her to stand on the lift table and receive vaccinations without being muzzled. On her third visit, we were able to lift her lips and examine her teeth. Now she boards with us routinely and is a big part of our veterinary practice family. Implementing these Fear Free tools has changed Pennie’s life and her owner is now able to better understand and relate to her dog, making it much safer to take her for walks and be groomed.

Dr. Sarah Lavelle, Ark Veterinary Practice, Belgrade, Montana

Happy Cats and People

We love our Fear Free veterinary hospital. At TLC, there are separate areas for cats and dogs. We took our two cats in last week, and the exam room was comfortable, with shelves for the cats to explore. A board listed the names of the technician and veterinarian who would be seeing the cats, so we knew who would be treating them. The technician who went over the intake information was sweet and tender with Lucy and Lilu. An email ahead of time alerted us that a new veterinarian would be seeing the cats. She was calm and handled the cats gently. Both cats were calm throughout the visit—although Lucy didn’t much like having her teeth examined—and when they got home they came out of their carriers calmly and went about their day. Lilu was her regular self and didn’t hide away as she has on some prior visits to other clinics. The clinic called the next day to see how the cats reacted to their vaccines and visit. We feel we have found our new clinic!
Katherine and Brent Williams, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Zola’s Optimism

Zola has been to a number of veterinary clinics before and has always been nervous and reactive. During her first appointment she was quite nervous, but with the help of some peanut butter as a distraction she allowed us to pet her. We decided that that was a win and that Zola would benefit from coming back another time after having gabapentin to help calm her. At her next visit, Zola was visibly more relaxed, and we had a Kong full of peanut butter ready for her. Knowing that Zola did better with minimal restraint we kept her focused on the Kong and were able to do a full exam, vaccinations and a blood draw. Zola’s owners had never seen her so relaxed at the vet and she has since come back willing and happy to see us.
Anne McClanahan, DVM, Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic, Madison, Wisconsin



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

Kim Campbell Thornton is content manager for Fear Free Pets and is a Level 3 Fear Free Certified Professional. She has been writing about dogs, cats, wildlife, and marine life since 1985.

Happy Paws Magazine

Fall/Winter 2019 Issue Available Now!