Our Fear-Free Movement!

‘Fear Free Pets- Taking the Pet out of Petrified’

Lexington Animal Hospital would like to congratulate Ashley, our licensed veterinary technician, on her recent certification as a Fear-Free Professional. Ashley is helping lead the charge in changing how we examine and restrain animals at the hospital. Founded in 2016, the Fear-Free movement is designed to help veterinary hospitals and veterinary professionals prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets when they come to hospital. Fear-Free professionals use a combination of knowledge about feline and canine body language and behavior as well as specific handling, restraint, and enrichment techniques to foster a favorable experience for the pet during exams. LAH has embraced the fear-free movement and would like to share some helpful tips for your pets.

Most owners of cats loathe the cat carrier as much as their cats: the carrier is the ‘prison’ that comes out once or twice a year and you have to fight an epic battle to get your cat into its carrier. We have the following tips to help bring your cat in for a happy exam:

  • Leave the carrier out all the time so your cat sees the carrier as just another piece of furniture in the home
  • Feed your cat a special treat in the carrier on a weekly basis so your cat looks at it as a favorable location
  • Wipe the inside of your cat’s carrier with Feliway, a pheromone that helps make your cat feel comfortable and familiar with the carrier
  • If your cat is particularly stressed, we can prescribe a mild calming medication, Gabapentin, that can be dissolved in some canned tuna or canned cat food. Many cats that were previously unhandleable at LAH are now able to be examined thoroughly with the help of gabapentin
  • When purchasing a carrier, buy one that opens from the top. Many times we can simply take the top off the carrier and examine your cat in the base.
  • Place a large towel in your cat’s carrier. With special techniques, we can gently restrain your cat in its own towel (with smells of home) which has calming effects on your cat
  • When driving to the hospital, the best place for the carrier is behind the driver’s seat on the floor. The carrier is least likely to slide around in this location.
  • Bring your cat hungry! And bring some of your cat’s favorite snacks! During our exam, we can offer your cat many small but delicious treats to welcome your pet, distract during procedures, and reward cooperation!

Most owners hate having to trim their dogs’ nails more than anything else. Despite their small 15 lb size, my two dogs’ nails are nearly impossible to trim without tips that I’ve learned from the fear-free movement. Instead of their monthly trims being a date that I dread, it’s now a day that passes with little incident. By administering trazodone, a mild anxiety relieving medication, two-three hours before the procedure, my dogs are relaxed and calm from the moment we begin. With a steady stream of easy-cheese that they eagerly lap up, both will stand for the procedure and allow me to lift one foot at a time and trim easily and more quickly. It’s amazing that by reducing the anxiety, we can do procedures faster with less restraint. It’s a win-win for the staff and the pet!

Lastly, for any dog that is fearful of coming to the hospital, we encourage you to stop by regularly and get a treat from our friendly receptionists, Jesse and Heather. The more the hospital is seen as a place of warm greetings and yummy treats, the more likely your dog will find the hospital an enjoyable place to visit.

Please feel free to talk to any of our staff or doctors about the Fear-Free movement, trazodone, gabapentin, and any other questions that you might have.


Dr. Meghan Ryan

Fear Free Pets

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