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Fear Free Ways to Prepare for a Vet Visit

4:57 pm

Many pets exhibit fears of visiting the veterinarian. Between the unfamiliar smells, people, pets, and touching, it is no wonder that your cat or dog may be terrified of a visit to the veterinarian.

Fortunately, Fear Free certified vets and support staff exist to help make your pet’s trip to the hospital less stressful for both you and your pet. These trained professionals aim to reduce the anxiety that your cat or dog feels both during the visit and for future visits. AERA has a number of Fear Free-certified staff members that would love to help your pet feel more comfortable at the vet.

What is Fear Free Veterinary Care?

Fear Free-certified veterinary professionals can make a huge difference in the lives of pets with fear, stress, and anxiety leading up to and during visits to the vet. They are specially trained in low-stress handling techniques and have the resources and knowledge to make your pet’s visit more enjoyable for you both.

At AERA, our Fear Free-certified veterinary team members work to make sure your pet is comfortable in a variety of ways. We also aim to make the experience as fun as possible for your pet.


What Makes Fear Free Veterinary Care Different?

Fear Free veterinary care at AERA is designed to promote a more peaceful, relaxing experience for your dog or cat. Prior to your pet’s visit, you will have different waiting options available to prevent waiting room stress for your pet. If you know that your pet feels anxiety in veterinary waiting rooms, please let the front desk know ahead of time and we can work with you to provide alternative options.

One technique we use to keep your pet comfortable is instead of putting your pet on a slick, cold surface, we will use a yoga mat or warm towel to provide a more comfortable experience for your dog or cat. Pheromone and aromatherapy diffusers may also be used in the exam room to help keep your pet calm.

We also strongly suggest that you bring your pet’s favorite treats, toy, or comfort item along so that treats or playtime can be incorporated into the visit.  This will help your pet associate his or her visit with a fun, positive experience. Be sure to ask the vet you are seeing ahead of time what treats or items would be medically appropriate given the nature of your pet’s visit.

We encourage pet owners to tell our staff what your pet is and isn’t okay with. If your pet prefers women or men, we can try to accommodate you. We also recommend that you ask your vet any questions about reducing stress that you want answered. Designated team members are available to help make vet visits less stressful to all parties involved, including owners.

Making the Trip Fear Free

Getting to the vet can be difficult for animals with severe anxiety. Many animals are afraid of crates, carriers, and the car itself. We recommend that pet owners read our list of tips for a Fear-Free car ride.

  1. Give pets that experience nausea an anti-nausea medication before getting into the car. Dogs who deal with nausea may need to be given a smaller amount of food (or no food at all) before vet visits to prevent carsickness.
  2. Allow your pet to enter its crate or carrier voluntarily. Proper crate acclimation and training are important for a comfortable trip.
  3. Secure the crate or carrier in the car so it can’t slide around. If your pet won’t get into a carrier or is too big for a carrier, you can use a harness or seatbelt to secure your pet in the vehicle. Place a surface with a grip, like drawer liners or a rug pad, inside the crate beneath a towel so that your pet won’t slip and slide. A towel alone can be very slippery.
  4. Use pheromones, music, and temperature to create a calming environment inside the car.
  5. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the vet. Rushing can lead to your pet feeling additional stress.
  6. Leave extra distance between you and other cars to eliminate the need to slam on the brakes. Accelerate and take turns slowly to prevent jostling.

AERA’s Fear Free Tips for Dogs

For dogs who fear visits to the vet, we have made a list of tips that can help reduce fear and anxiety at our hospital.

  1. Keep your dog away from the other pets in the waiting room, including any carriers. We aim to provide a comfortable veterinary experience for all of the pet patients we see, and this can help prevent problems for many animals. We recommend bringing your dog in on a short leash. If you don’t have a leash, we can provide you with a slip lead for the duration of the visit.
  2. Dogs who are anxious or reactive in new environments may need special treatment. Ask a receptionist if an exam room is free for you to wait in. If there isn’t an exam room available, we will recommend waiting in your car until one becomes available. The receptionist will text you when your room is ready.
  3. If a disturbance arises, don’t feel uncomfortable moving your pet away from the situation. We ask that all visitors understand the needs of some pets to be removed from a stressful situation or any owner requests not to interact with a waiting pet.
  4. Ask your AERA veterinarian what kinds of treats and toys would be appropriate to bring to a visit to reduce stress and anxiety for your dog.

AERA’s Fear Free Tips for Cats

To help your cat feel less fear and anxiety about vet visits, we have compiled a list of tips that promote relaxation.

  1. When you arrive at an AERA facility, be sure to request a clean towel that you can use to cover your cat’s carrier. This towel provides privacy and gives your cat a safe space to wait for his or her exam. At the end of the visit, you just return the towel and go on your way.
  2. If you don’t have a carrier for your cat, let us know before your visit. A staff member can provide you with a carrier upon entering the clinic to help reduce anxiety while in the waiting room.
  3. Instead of using the carrier’s handle, hold the carrier from the bottom to provide a steady ride for your cat. When you use the handle, the carrier tends to swing, which can be frightening.
  4. While in the waiting room, place your cat’s carrier on the seat next to you. If there isn’t room, please place the carrier on your lap, on the floor next to you, or under your seat. Keeping your cat close can help reduce discomfort and anxiety.

Fear Free Happy Homes can not only provide you further information about Fear Free veterinary visits, but it can also help you better understand the fear and anxiety spectrum and provide other important resources on fear and anxiety in pets.

If you live in the Fairfield, New Jersey area and need to bring a frightened pet to the vet for an emergency or specialty care visit, call us at 973-788-0500 to set up a low-stress appointment today. .