If you work in a veterinary clinic then you have likely heard the term ‘Fear Free’ floating around. You may already work in a practice that is Fear Free certified - be thankful! Even if you don’t, you can still practice in every way you can to try to minimize the stress your patients feel when they come to the veterinary clinic. For the newer graduates, you are the advocates! I have been there, in a room with a seasoned veterinarian who didn't believe in Fear Free modalities like pre-visit pharmaceuticals (PVP) and going slow with pets who are scared. Do your part and get them to learn the benefits. Remember, pets are family now. No one wants to see their family member scared. When you send a pet home that is fearful, then the trust you are building with that pet owner suffers. Would you take your pet to someone you couldn't trust?
I was thinking about fear free today with my surgery patients, and trying to get the staff to understand, small little things like a little bit of nursing care or TLC can go a long way to make a patient more comfortable. Discussing that a little bit of an anti-anxiety medication or sedative can make their visit more tolerable. I like to use an anti-vomiting medication prior to my elective procedures, and I ask the staff - how do you feel when you throw up? Well, we can address this when these pets come in for their preanesthetic blood work. Animals that are fearful are also more difficult to handle, so the benefits are not just for the pet, but for the staff members as well.
Today, I had a spay patient. She didn’t want to sit in the kennel alone so I spent some time holding her and petting her. Even though she was scared after she got poked with the needle for her premedication, her recovery went well. She looked comfortable and not stressed which really made me feel good.
Later we had a tech appointment for heartworm screening tests for two dogs. My tech was in surgery all day, so I sent her on a break. We have an assistant that we are training for some blood collections, so her and I went to work on these two dogs. Reviewing the file is important. We can see that one of the dogs has a history of lunging - so we have to be cautious with this dog. There was a note that we did well for collecting in the room with the owners. I clarified that they were ok with this. The owners brought treats and we worked together. The owners giving treats holding their dogs and distracting them while we took blood samples. These two dogs did really well due to their exceptional owners. Don't forget to communicate with the owners on what you are doing. A little bit of alcohol - it's going to feel cold (this communicates to the owners that their dog might flinch). Ok, they're going to feel a little mosquito bite - again communicating that you're going to be poking them with the needle. Small little things to keep the owners informed, so that they can keep their dogs distracted during those times.
If you are a pet owner and you have a dog or cat that gets stressed at the veterinary clinic, ask your vet what kind of accommodations can be made. Ask your veterinarian if there are any medications that can be offered to make their visit more comfortable. I’ve vaccinated dogs in the lobby because they are scared of the exam room. Some dogs prefer the floor. Some cats prefer to be in the bottom of their carrier. It’s about working with each patient as an individual with a unique personality.