“Fear Free” vet visits at West Davis Veterinary Center, by Sally Nies, Registered Veterinary Technician

Visiting the doctor can be stressful. I know I am not the biggest fan! All those pokes and prods can wear on anyone’s patience. Some dogs and cats also experience stress; they are in a new environment with strangers touching them and using unfamiliar instruments. It is very important to me, as a veterinary professional, to recognize stress and reduce its effects. Enhanced patient comfort minimizes current and future physiologic stress.

“Fear Free” is the concept of lowering stress for veterinary patients in the hospital. In practice this combines positive reinforcement, training, and even building architecture. There are many resources about this idea, and I would encourage you to visit the websites I have linked to at the end of this blog entry. I would like to touch on why West Davis Veterinary Center wants to be a certified “Fear Free” hospital.

This is more important than just making the patient examination easier. The other day, a kitty known for not wanting to visit the vet hunkered down in her carrier, hissing and spitting. Among other things probably unmentionable here, she was saying, “Don’t Touch Me!”. Very gently, we gave her an injectable anti-anxiety medication and left her in her carrier covered with a pheromone infused towel. In time, we collected her blood and urine samples with minimal stress, except for the occasional grumble or hiss.

Dr Michael Yackey showed me her blood results the next day. Her blood glucose levels and CK were lower than seen previously. These are two things on the panel that may increase because of stress and struggle. An anxious animal in a “fight of flight” situation has a spike in blood sugar levels and CK rises due to muscle stress. Handling this patient as “fear free” as possible had a demonstrable change in physiologic adaptations to external stress.

Different patients require different strategies to reduce stress. In future articles, I will tell you more specifically what we can do together to help dogs and cats have a better pet visit. Dr Cara Bradley will also write a little about architecture and examination room designs to help maximize patient comfort.