Join the Fear Free℠ Revolution!
We now understand so much more about our pets' emotional well-being, and the impact on your pet's health and happiness from stress, anxiety, and fear.
Any time your pet feels threatened, whether that threat is real or imagined, changes occur immediately within his or her body to prepare for fight or flight. These changes occur because your pet’s nervous system releases a variety of stress hormones that have profound effects across many different systems in the body.
The release of these hormones results in the immediate availability of energy and oxygen intake and decreases blood flow to areas not critical for movement. This can also inhibit digestion, growth, immune function, reproduction and pain perception.
Why It Matters
When your pet is under stress, the memories of any events occurring during that time will be very powerful, and how your pet is handled during veterinary visits may have long standing consequences for our future ability to handle him or her.
Why We Choose Lower-Stress Handling
When stressors are unremitting and the stress response continues, virtually every system within the body can be pathologically affected to varying degrees—cardiovascular, metabolic, reproductive, gastrointestinal, immune and skin.
The results can include myopathy (muscle disorders), fatigue, hypertension, decreased growth rates, gastrointestinal distress and suppressed immune function.
Chronic stress can even lead to structural and functional changes in the brain, and, when extreme conditions persist, permanent damage can result.
Being Fear Free℠ means putting your pet's emotional well being at the center of everything we do. It means there are no longer "standard procedures" for... well, anything. There is only what works for your pet in that moment, makes them comfortable, and builds a foundation of trust for future visits.
What You Can Expect
We may ask to do more of the visit in the room, with you present. (Unless that doesn't work for your pet. Then we will try something different.)
We may ask you to come in for "happy visits," where we don't do anything except show your pet love and encouragement, and teach them that this is a safe place.
We may give you medication, herbs, or supplements to give your pet at home, to calm them before the appointment.
We will always be listening to what your pet is telling us, and promise to change what isn't working.
Why We May Ask to Stop a Visit
When pets show subtle signs of fear or anxiety during a veterinary visit, if we proceed without attempting to alleviate the stress, we may not change the pet’s behavior at that time, but the pet will learn from the experience and will likely behave in a more fearful manner at the next visit.
Anything we do to relieve the stress of the visit will pay off in future visits being less difficult for your pet. Remember that frequent, distressing experiences can negatively impact an animal’s overall health and well-being.
Also, by continuing with a procedure when an animal is showing signs of anxiety, we are teaching the animal that its normal means of communication is meaningless. If we do that, what recourse might that animal have but to develop other less tolerable means of communicating its discomfort?
To avoid this scenario, when we identify signs of fear— especially during elective procedures—we may stop the visit and ask you to return at a later time when the pet is less stressed.
Bigger Road has been at the forefront of the Fear Free℠ revolution in veterinary care for many years. We developed special staff training in low-stress handling, to build trust and improve the health and well-being of our patients.
Our goal is to use as little restraint as possible, and adapt to every patient's needs. Our Fear Free℠ toolbox includes things like:
We remodeled our Kettering location to include separate entrances for dogs and cats. And when we designed our expanded Springboro location in 2015, we did everything with Fear Free℠ in mind:
- Separate cat and dog waiting areas
- Feline-only exams rooms with climbing spaces and soothing pheromones
- Consult rooms that feel like home, not a doctor's office
When Dr. Marty Becker announced that he was developing a Fear Free℠ certification, Bigger Road already had years of experience and success with low-stress techniques. So we knew we needed to help spread the Fear Free℠ message to the entire veterinary community.
Bigger Road serves on the Fear Free℠ advisory board. Our clinics have been filming locations for Fear Free℠ training materials, and we have hosted continuing education events for the professional community in animal behavior and low-stress treatment methods.