Over the last years I’ve been extremely proud to be part of twhe teaching family at the Chi institutes in Fl and Costa Rica. I have been able to influence hundreds of students through my instruction of basic and advanced acupuncture as well as my lectures. I recently was asked to be a test instructor and I realized I was heavily invested in the outcome of my students tests. It felt as if with each one of them that passed the practical test it validated the time and effort I dedicated in the teaching of those points. I got to say that although being a teacher was not something I thought I could do, I discovered that it’s something I really enjoy doing!
I recently became certified in Fear Free level 2 training and I did it because I want every patient to feel welcomed at my practice. What is this Fear Free certification about?
A visit to the veterinarian should not be a stressful time for your pet. Stress can decrease the immune response, cause unnecessary traumas and affect future behavior of dogs and cats. There is a new initiative of many veterinarians to create a stress free environment at their hospitals. This is a voluntary animal behavior education and training culminating in a Fear Free Certification.
The advantage of having Fear free certified doctors and technicians is that the pets are able to have a pleasant experience while they get treated. It is safer to treat a happy, calmed animal than it is to treat an anxious, stressed and petrified one. The scared pets are in a defensive frame of mind that can result in injury to them, their owners and the veterinary personnel. We all want pets to have good associations with the vet’s office and we might use some classical behavioral training techniques like desensitization, classic conditioning and counter conditioning.
The main principles of a Fear free visit include a considerate approach, gentle technique and a touch gradient. That means nobody should ever jump on your dog, put a muzzle and then use a harsh restraint. The pet should have a chance to acclimate to the office, the scents and the people they meet. The doctors should use an array of tools to make the visit a pleasant one. Starting with the environment, the office should be clean, not noisy, and soothing scents like lavender or species specific pheromones should be employed. Using treats is essential to asses the level of anxiety, to distract from less pleasant procedures and to offer a positive association for your pet. Sometimes, the Fear free certified doctor will either postpone a treatment or utilize sedation to perform it. The decision of using sedation is for the benefit of your pet because the level of stress and anxiety is too high, or the expected procedure might be too scary or painful in an already petrified animal.
What are the signs of Fear,Anxiety and Stress (FAS)?
In cats obvious behaviors that indicated FAS include hissing and growling but less obvious sigs include dilated pupils, ears to the back,tail flicking, hiding and crouching. Sometimes the cats will “freeze” and the owners think the cats is calmed but in reality he is so scared that he has enter a state of helplessness. In dogs the obvious sigs of FAS are barking, backing away, growling and snarling but less obvious signs may include yawning, panting, fidgeting and refusing treats.
How can you help decrease the FAS before you take your pet to the vet?
Sometimes giving an over the counter calming treat or nutraceutical can help. walking/exercising your dog prior to the appointment can also help. For cats something as simple as spraying the carrier with a calming pheromone and putting a towel over it to decrease the sensory input can make a big difference. There are other ways that owners can work with their Fear free certified veterinarians in order to make the visit a pleasurable or at lest non intimidating experience, just ask them.