What is it?
The Fear Free mission is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety and stress in pets visiting various animal care professions, including the veterinary setting.
Some of our nurses are accredited Fear Free professionals and they have helped to transform our protocols to enhance the emotional wellbeing of patients during their visits. Currently, we have 3 Fear Free certified nurses, and one Fear Free certified at Level 2, working towards her Elite status.
Why do we do it?
Stress has a detrimental effect on physical healing, as well as a significant negative effect on canine behaviour and learning. Sometimes the smallest thing can be deemed very traumatic to a patient who cannot express their fear and anxieties to us, as easily as we can to one another. Consider going for a routine vaccination, some people would not be phased by this, but others can be physically traumatised by the experience. We try to alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress via a combination of desensitisation and positive reinforcement techniques, using a variety of enrichment toys and tools, as well as pre-visit pharmaceuticals, if required.
The overall aim is to improve the experiences of the patient (first and foremost), the client, and the practice staff involved with their care. This significantly helps with compliance for repeat visit requests, and ultimately patient recovery rates. Patients are less stressed about visiting the practice, meaning owners are more confident about bringing them back.
What do the sessions involve?
Fear Free sessions are offered as individual 30-minute sessions or a block of 5 sessions, which can be spread out at a frequency recommended by your Fear Free professional. Often blocks of appointments are required because desensitisation to a fearful stimulus and the re-building of trust following a ‘traumatic’ experience takes hard work and time.
At each session, the patient will be observed for how they respond to certain things that we need to achieve within a clinical examination. If there is something additional that needs to be achieved, such as an annual booster vaccination, then your Fear Free professional would discuss this with you and work out a plan for how best to approach achieving these goals.
Following Fear Free sessions, an individual patient protocol will be written and attached to the patient record, for all team members to see and utilise if they are to see your pet in practice. However, we support and recommend that if your pet has a preferred team member that they are less anxious around, speak up for them and ask to see a certain vet or perhaps a female over a male, which is often the case with some dogs.
Providing your pet has been seen for Fear Free sessions within the last 6 months, you will be provided a double appointment slot, at no extra charge, to ensure Fear Free protocols can be followed. This will usually involve one free of charge consultation with a nurse, before or after your consultation with a veterinary surgeon. Whether your appointment with the nurse (for reassurance, calming and positive reinforcement) happens before or after an examination with a vet, will entirely depend on how each individual copes with a clinical examination.
We have access to many things that help us with animals that are so anxious they have resorted to aggressive behaviours. These include asking owners to assist us with examinations, using Bluetooth equipment to limit how much a patient needs to be handled, and using anxiolytic medications to improve the level of calming hormones in the brain, prior to visits. Your Fear Free professional will discuss and introduce you to these options if required, having assessed your pet in a Fear free session.