Top 5 Ways Fear-Free Veterinary Clinics Help Reduce Pets’ Vet-Anxiety

April 26th, 2016 by Daniel Mudrick

Going to the vet is a fearful, anxiety-inducing experience for some dogs and cats. Consider that they don’t understand why they are being taken to a strange place, with strange people touching them. They are just afraid.

Our veterinary hospital follows a pet-friendly set of practices to help alleviate those fears as much as possible. After all, your pet’s emotional wellbeing is just as important as their physical wellbeing.

These progressive clinics are sometimes referred to as “stress-free”, “fear-free”, “force-free”, or “pet-friendly”. However, these terms are currently not regulated in the veterinary industry so it’s important for pet parents to ask their vet clinic about their internal standards – even if they claim to be pet-friendly or fear-free.  

Here are the top five things true fear-free veterinary practices do to alleviate anxiety for cats and dogs:

1.     Create a Stress-Free Environment

Based on the latest insight into animal psychology, pet-friendly vet clinics strive to create a comfortable calming environment through:

  • Speaking softly and calmly around dogs and cats (they can sense humans’ tones and levels of tension!)
  • Handling all pets gently and without force

2.     Give Pet Parents Tips for Starting the Stress-Free Experience at Home

Here are some ways pet owners can contribute to a more pleasant veterinary experience:

  • Have your pet be hungry before coming to the vet so they will be highly food-motivated
  • Make the carrier fun through positive associations (click here for our tip sheet on transporting nervous cats to the vet)
  • Use calming items, such as Thunder Shirts
  • If your pet usually needs an anti-anxiety supplement or medication, give it 2-3 hours before arriving

3.     Minimize Stress Instead of Maximizing Restraint

There is absolutely no doubt that the less restraint, the better. Here are some of our top ways to minimize environmental stress at the hospital:

  • Lots of food treats during the appointment.
  • Pheromone diffusers throughout the hospital (Feliway and Adaptil).
  • Plastic E collars or air muzzles for cats and small brachycephalic dogs (resembles a diver’s helmet with an opening in the front so your pet’s head is safely enclosed but they can still see out).
  • Early use of anti-anxiety treatments for pets who need it.

4.     Use Effective Calming Products

There are many products available designed to minimize pet anxiety. A few of our favourites include:

  • Thunder Shirts: Drug-free, all natural “anxiety shirt” for pets.
  • Synthetic calming pheromone products: Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs.

5.     Administer Anti-Anxiety Medication

For pets who don’t respond to the above techniques, we recommend anti-anxiety supplements and drugs, which reduce the patient’s stress levels without making them less alert.

  • Trazadone + Gabapentin for dogs.
  • Zylkene + Gabapentin for cats.

Reducing Pets’ Stress Improves Emotional Wellbeing

Pets shouldn’t have to be scared of the vet. Evidence shows that stress and anxiety have a negative effect on the wellbeing of dogs and cats – and why shouldn’t it? Just like us, pets have an internal emotional state and can have trouble coping with certain situations. The only difference is they can’t tell us how they are feeling.

That’s why veterinary hospitals and clinics everywhere should embrace fear-free vet care and take care of their patients’ psychological state as well as their physical state.

Ask your vet if they are practicing stress-free visits – your pet will thank you!


Clarkson Village Animal Hospital is dedicated to using fear-free techniques to help pets feel relaxed. Book your appointment with us today!

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About Daniel Mudrick

I'm the owner and founder of Clarkson Village Animal Hospital, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital that's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Clarkson Village Animal Hospital has always been a dream of mine, and by caring for one patient at a time, the hospital has continued to grow. During those rare times when I'm not at the hospital, I'm at yoga, hiking, gardening, and spending time with my family. I also enjoy reading to stay current on the most recent advances in veterinary medicine.

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