By: Debbie Reynolds, DVM
Veterinary Home Healthcare is undergoing change! Practicing Fear Free medicine is something you can become certified in and something we have been sort of doing without being certified for some time now. We have always given treats and used minimal, if any, restraint since starting Veterinary Home Healthcare. My customers can attest to that!
However, I have learned SO much more after becoming a certified Fear Free Practitioner. One of the main things we learned was that the sedatives most veterinarians use for phobias and stress have no effect on fear, anxiety or stress. They simply sedate them. I have a new arsenal of drugs that alleviate fear, anxiety and stress. They don't sedate the pet. They simply make them less fearful and this allows for a more pleasant exam.
It is not really fair for a pet that is fearful to miss out on a thorough medical exam just because of a natural fear. So, if we alleviate that, we can give them a high quality medical exam and alleviate their fear at the same time.
We have implemented many more treats, especially for cats. We are using pheromone sprays that give dogs and cats a pleasurable feeling. These are sprayed on our clothes, or a towel. We can't smell them, but the cat or dog usually gravitates right to the spot where we have sprayed it.
Another "odd" thing we may ask you to do is put your cat in a bathroom before we get there. We don't knock on doors of our cat patient homes because we know how most cats hate that sound. They much prefer a quiet environment and no sudden noises or movements. We enter slowly and quietly. The benefit of them being in the bathroom is that we can relax in an area where they can't run away or hide and let them get used to us. Also, the sink works as an amazing space for an exam. We will use a pheromone scented towel and place your cat in the sink area. They feel secure and hidden and are comfortable there.
One of the big differences you will notice is that we may have you pick up some medicine before your appointment. We will also ask that your pet be hungry at the appointment so we can distract them with high value treats. We may be spending a little more time with your pet so we can let them acclimate to us and get to know us. After we learn the nuances of your furry family member then we will have our protocol down and will be ready for the next visit.
It definitely costs more time and money for the veterinary team, but the payoff is well worth it! The reason I began doing house calls in the first place is to get back to the basics of loving animals. I wasn't able to do that in clinics. I am now, though, and the fear-free practice makes it even better.
We are excited about this new journey we are on to make our patients free of fear, stress and anxiety and to make each visit a happy one - for everyone!