Veterinary medicine is a balance of art and science. A pet’s health can be assessed, analyzed, and recorded, yet still be missing the one component that influences every measurable data point—emotional wellbeing. At Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center, we care for the whole pet—from nose to tail, and everything in between. By prioritizing your pet’s total comfort, we gain an accurate picture of their total health.

What is Fear Free and how does it help my pet?

Fear Free is an educational initiative to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in pets across the country. Through online training and certification, veterinary teams gain insight into a pet’s world perception, and learn body language, stress reduction, and positive reinforcement training methods. Your pet enjoys a more relaxed and comfortable veterinary visit, and is more cooperative about their care.   

Fear Free lets us measure how your pet feels

While pets cannot speak, they communicate clearly through body language. Your pet’s behavior in the exam room often reveals their discomfort, unease, and pain. Beyond the obvious indicators, such as cowering, panting, hiding, or vocalizing, some subtle stress signs in pets include:

  • Lip licking
  • Yawning
  • Dilated pupils
  • Grabbing treats roughly, or refusing food
  • Repeated scratching
  • Whale eye (i.e., an expression where the white of the eye is visible) 

A pet’s behavior and body language are measured against a scale known as the Fear, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (FAS). This scale is a behavior spectrum using a stoplight analogy—go, caution, or stop—to determine whether a veterinary team should proceed with care, or pause and reassess, to prevent escalating the patient’s fear, anxiety, and stress. 

Fear Free considers all your pet’s senses

Dogs and cats are sensitive to their environment, and we consider our treatment spaces and exam rooms through a pet’s sensory experience, to provide a sense of comfort and calm. 

  • Vision Dogs and cats see in a limited spectrum compared with humans, and while their acuity is not fully understood, we avoid using or wearing white and colors that may fluoresce and be harsh to their eyes. 
  • Sound We mute the noise from other pets, which can be frightening, with sound-deadening materials, closed doors, and soft, peaceful music.
  • Smell — We avoid harsh fragrances, perfumed products, and strong cleaners, and use enzymatic cleaners to thoroughly remove the scent of previous pets, which can upset dogs and cats. Also, we spray calming pheromones, such as Feliway and Adaptil, in pet areas, to promote feel-good vibes for our patients. 
  • Taste Treats are a large part of a Fear Free environment. We give our patients smelly, but tasty, items (e.g., spreadable cheese, canned pet food, tuna, and peanut butter) as happy distractions, and to build positive associations with the veterinary hospital. 
  • Touch Pets feel more secure and confident when they have sure footing. We provide extra traction for pets who need it, and soft surfaces for cats and older dogs to lie on, which immediately reduce their fear and anxiety. 

Fear Free means low stress pet handling techniques

Every interaction we have with a pet is respectful of their emotional state. Ours may look a little different from other veterinary experiences, but that’s OK—we believe that difference defines our considerate patient care. 

  • Presentation We may present ourselves to your pet by turning to the side, which is a non-threatening gesture that allows pets to acclimate to our presence before we proceed. Or, we may ignore your pet entirely when we enter the room. Rest assured, this is actually a true courtesy to the pet—and gives them more time to warm up to us.
  • Contact We apply gentle and steady physical contact—known as a touch gradient—to your pet. Steady hand contact reduces fear, and allows continual assessment of your pet’s responses.
  • Gentle restraint When physical restraint is needed, we begin with the lowest level of pressure. If a pet can lick spreadable cheese or canned food from a paper plate during the process, only minimal restraint may be necessary to keep your pet in position.    

Fear Free means always considering your pet’s pain

Many behavioral reactions and issues stem from physical pain. When your pet’s pain is respected, identified, and addressed, they likely will cooperate more when we treat them, and behave better at home. We always assume your pet is painful until proven otherwise. 

Fear Free distracts your pet to form positive associations

We love employing positive distractions for pets. By fostering a calm and patient environment, previously nervous pets will accept food treats in the examination room. The act of eating creates and reinforces happiness and satisfaction in dogs and cats, and gives them a positive focus.

Fear Free recognizes that some pets need extra help

Despite our best efforts and intentions, some pets need a little extra help to get them through their veterinary care—and that’s OK. We happily provide thoughtful use of safe anti-anxiety medications, which assist a pet’s ability to cope by increasing their serotonin levels.   

With Fear Free, we ensure your pet receives a more pleasant veterinary experience, without fear, stress, or anxiety. Call to schedule your pet’s next appointment at Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center, to see our team employ careful, considerate techniques, and to see the difference we make to your pet’s visit.