Murphy is a 4-year-old Heeler mix whose owners adopted him when he was 8 months old. From the beginning, he was a little nervous while he was here but has always loved treats. As he got older, he got a little wary of new procedures and being handled. He didn’t like it when the stethoscope was placed on him or if we reached over him to scan his microchip or do anything else. Since he was young when this started, we talked to his owner about trying an anti-anxiety medication called Trazodone with him. This commonly used anti-anxiety medication can help to relax patients while they are here. When pets are more relaxed, we are able to better judge their health and get more accurate lab work results.
His mom was willing to try the medication and start Victory Visits with him. For his Victory Visits, we started slowly by introducing him to a specific room kept consistent throughout his visits. He was most nervous of the stethoscope, so we worked that into our plan at every visit. He was always given tasty treats when he greeted people and when approached by “scary” instruments. He began allowing us to place the stethoscope on him for short periods, and we worked our way up to touching down his back and legs and even his paws. At each visit, we achieved new milestones while strengthening the gains we’d made previously. While he is still wary of certain procedures, we have been able to build up trust with him, which allows us to keep his fear, anxiety, and stress at a minimum.
But don’t just take our word for it! Here is what Murphy’s owner, Mrs. John, has to say about her Fear Free Victory Visit experience:
“I would like to say how much I appreciate the care, effort, and patience everyone at the clinic has put into working with Murphy. I think the Fear Free approach really shows dedication to the total wellbeing of my pets. Murphy is so highly sensitive and sometimes anxious and afraid that if he was not participating in Victory Visits it would be extremely stressful for him to visit the vet. The Victory Visits have instead taught him to be excited to go to the vet, and the progress he has made is amazing. He has gone from being extremely nervous, defensive, and almost biting to being relaxed and excited and wagging his tail. The team is skilled at reading body language and working with Murphy within his comfort zone. They turned what was a scary experience for him into a positive one through the victory visits. I was so nervous when we had to do a blood draw after about a year of working with him, and he was such a super star, he hardly even noticed the procedure. I am truly thankful that Murphy can have positive experiences through Victory Visits so he doesn’t have to be afraid of going to the vet.”
Emily Andrade, Certified Veterinary Assistant, Fear Free Level 3 Certified, Gamble Pet Clinic, Fort Collins, Colorado