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Success Stories: How 5 Experts Are Rocking Fear Free

Kim Campbell Thornton

Veterinarians and technicians use their Fear Free knowledge every day, from the front desk to the exam room to the boarding ward to the ER. Here are five ways–some simple, some inspired–that Fear Free is benefiting practitioners, shelters, pet owners, and of course pets.

Gimme Shelter

Word has spread to local shelters. They send people to us who have adopted pets likely to have significant stress at veterinary visits. This has helped us increase our client base and meet a lot of great new owners and pets.

Blake Tharp Dickerson, DVM, Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Ironhorse Veterinary Care, Leawood, Kansas


Purple Reign

We have added a special code on our appointment book to allow us to know instantly if a pet requires PVP (pre-visit pharmaceuticals). It is light purple on my schedule. Some days, a large part of my schedule is purple, but I see this as an opportunity to help these pets who would otherwise just be allowed to advance in fear, anxiety, and stress.

Kathryn Primm, DVM, Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Applebrook Animal Hospital, Ooltewah, Tennessee

Cool for Cats

Marcus didn’t sit for a photograph, but this cute dog with Dr. Marks did.

Marcus is a 12-year-old domestic shorthair who came to board with us unexpectedly due to a death in the family. Marcus had never boarded and when first admitted, he escalated quickly to FAS 5 just on exiting the carrier. We quickly added Gabapentin 100 mg in liquid form to some tuna and gave him space and privacy in a cat condo in our cat-only ward with Feliway-impregnated towels and a hiding space. Within three hours, Marcus was rubbing up on the cage and making biscuits! It’s amazing to see the real-time success these strategies can have, both in the acute need and for more proactive and long-term success!

Natalie Marks, DVM, Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, VCA Blum Animal Hospital, Chicago, Illinois

Happy Dog

stock photo

Yesterday, I had a Fear Free experience that was new to me (a rarity)! A mother and daughter presented their adorable Westie, Daisy, for vaccination. Daisy’s emotional record shows she sometimes experiences increased FAS for needle-sticks, and she has dietary restrictions for medical reasons. I placed prilocaine cream over the planned vaccination areas, and while I waited for it to work, I discussed distraction strategies for Daisy’s vaccinations. The client’s daughter had a wonderful idea: Daisy loves TV shows about dogs! Mom provided her cell phone, and the daughter found Daisy’s favorite program about Westies on YouTube. She turned on the program and let Daisy settle in to watch. Once Daisy was settled with her favorite show, we vaccinated her in the areas where prilocaine was applied, and she didn’t even notice. Her family was thrilled with this Fear Free result!

Monique Feyrecilde, CVT, VTS (Behavior), Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Mercer Island Veterinary Clinic, Mercer Island, Washington

Hey, Bulldog

I work in a busy emergency and critical care department at a veterinary school. I have used Fear Free practices for several years with excellent results. I use it on every patient, every day. One day I was coming in at shift change and witnessed a Bulldog being heavily restrained for eye medications. He was really resisting and was becoming cyanotic. I asked the handler to stop and they did. I then asked if I could try something. The patient was very food motivated and would sit and eat treats as another person put the medications in. This worked so well that by the end of my shift he knew the routine, and each treatment time he would initiate the treatment by sitting in front of me. I make it part of my rounds to let the next shift know what has or has not worked for each patient. We also created patient care cards for this purpose.

Michelle Damon, CVT, VTS (ECC), Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Cummings Hospital at Tufts Veterinary School, Grafton, Massachusetts




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

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