Fear Free Vet | Brisbane Vet

What does being a Fear Free Vet mean?

If your vet advertises as being fear free, this means that they are may have been certified by Fear Free Pets. The certification process involves a training course covering:

  • Body language
  • Creating positive emotional associations for vet visits and procedures
  • How they can modify existing procedures to make them as stress free as possible
  • Low stress set ups for the waiting room, consult room and hospital back of house area

To maintain their certification, Fear Free Vets need to complete ongoing study each year. This is to make sure they keep up to date with best practices.

What will this look like to you during a visit?

When visiting a Fear Free Vet, your visit should look something like this:

  • Vet staff give you information to help transport your pet to the clinic in the least stressful way. The advice they will give is specific to your pet.
  • Dogs and cats have separate waiting areas – Ideally there are also partitions to block view for each individual pet. The entry and waiting area also doesn’t have choke points where two stressed out animals might come in close contact.
  • Fear Free Vet staff will take the time to ensure your animal is comfortable before doing any handling or procedure.  Staff will also attempt to create positive associations with being at the vet by pairing experiences with high value food.
  • If your pet is fearful, urgent procedures are usually be done using medication so the process less stressful.
  • Less urgent procedures are rescheduled until you and the staff can work to change your pet’s fearful association with that procedure.
  • A Fear Free Vet will give you homework on things you can work on with your pet to change any negative association they may have with handling or basic procedures. Alternatively they may refer you to a behavioural trainer for this.
  • Your pet will not be taken out to the back of the vet clinic for routine procedures where you cannot see them. The only time your pet will be taken out the back should be for hospital procedures. Many vets take pets out the back for routine things such as nail trims, vaccinations or blood tests. When removed from you, many pets will become inhibited and less likely to struggle. This is helpful for the vet in the short term to do the procedure, but long term is teaching the animal that vets are scary.
  • Your pet will be given pain medication for any procedure that can be painful.

Why is choosing a Fear Free Vet important?

  1. To improve your pet’s welfare. If we create good associations with the vet, our pets will spend less time stressed or fearful. Our pets are always forming associations. We want our pets to associate going to the vet with good things happening. Too often it is the opposite, and for many pets this association of fear and stress becomes worse over time.
  2. Vet visits will become safer. Scared animals have several options to try and stop the scary thing, and one of those options is fight. If your pet is not scared at the vet, then any procedure will be safer for all the humans involved. There is less chance of a procedure going wrong if your pet is not moving unpredictably in the process.
  3. Diagnoses will be more accurate. We now know that our pets will try and hide pain if they are also stressed. It will be more difficult for your vet to identify if your pet is experiencing pain if they are also stressed during the visit. We also know that diagnostics such as blood test results are altered if the animal is stressed.
  4. Our pets will be healthier as we will be more inclined to take them to the vet. My dog Henry is incredibly scared of the vet. Because of this, he needs to be sedated for basic procedures such as a blood draw. While I try not to, this invariably means I put off vet visits as much as possible because it is stressful for both of us.

How to find a Fear Free Vet

You can search for a Fear Free Vet near you via their directory

Fur Get Me Not also offers Fear Free Vet visits at Whisper’s Wellbeing Clinic.

The Fear Free team have put together these great resources for pet owners.