Fear Free exams involve a multi-modal approach – including preparation at home, hospital procedures, the hospital environment, medical team training, tools, and even medications. Every patient has unique needs when visiting a veterinary clinic. Some respond well to voices and meeting new humans, while others need time, distance, and a lot of treats to feel at ease. More reactive or fearful dogs may require a multitude of tools and medications.
Can you identify some of the fear free tools used in this picture?
1. Exam room: This room has a couch and rug. The room is more comfortable for the client and patient.
2. Pheromones: The towel is sprayed with a pheromone that helps patients relax.
3. Treats: This one is obvious. However, in some cases, we toss the treats on the floor near the patient to make it easier for the fearful animal.
4. Toys: Toys including balls, chews, and laser lights help distract and relax patients while waiting in the room.
5. Music: Music designed to be pleasing to cats and dogs help mask noises outside the exam room while calming the pet.
6. Muzzle: Yes, a muzzle is a fear free tool. Some dogs, if properly trained to wear a muzzle, will feel calmer and have a more fear free experience during veterinary visits.
Dogs should be muzzle trained so that they willingly allow them to be placed, and it’s best to come to the visit with the muzzle already on.
For any dog who is in pain or fearful, a muzzle can be an incredibly important fear free tool. The muzzle will help protect the medical staff during an exam AND reduce the emotional distress that the dog experiences.
The end result of a fear free approach to a veterinary visit is a healthier pet with reduced anxiety and stress. Addressing the emotional well being of the team, patient, and client also improves patient outcomes.