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  • Writer's pictureNAH Admin-Coordinator

What Does it Mean to be Fear-Free?

Did you know that multiple staff members at our Springhill location are Fear-Free certified professionals? This means that these staff members have gone through the Fear Free Pets training to know the best practices for alleviating fear, anxiety, and stress in pets. How do we do this? Let’s find out!

Fear-free starts before your pet arrives at our hospital

Preparing your pet for their visit to our hospital prior to their actual appointment time makes all the difference in their anxiety level while services are performed. While every cat and dog is different, there are some common anti-anxiety practices we may suggest, such as packing your car with your pet’s favorite treats and toys, spraying their carrier or collar with calming pheromones, and budgeting extra time for your travel so you don’t feel stressed about getting to your appointment on time (Stress that your pet can sense on you). Another suggestion your veterinarian may make based on your pet’s individual anxiety level is pre-medicating with anti-anxiety medications such as gabapentin or trazodone. These medications are extremely safe and are effective for calming the stress that your furry friend may associate with the animal hospital.

Fear-free is a major part of your pet’s appointment

When you arrive for your pet’s appointment, you may take note of some practices that have been implemented specifically for the purpose of relaxation. These practices include maintaining a quiet lobby area while minimizing wait times for exam rooms, using aromatherapy and calming pheromones to help pets relax, and using blankets and/or towels to provide pets with a non-slip surface on tables and floors during their exam. We also offer your pet high quality treats while receiving certain services that may induce fear, such as vaccines, blood draws, or nail trims. These practices allow our pet patients to feel more secure and safe in their environment and with our team, thus helping them feel more relaxed and comfortable for exams and services.

Fear-free helps our staff teach clients how to identify when their pet is stressed

A large part of the fear-free training our staff receives is centered on identifying the signs of fear and anxiety in pets. Every pet has a different anxiety level in new or uncomfortable situations, which means that every pet may also exhibit their stress in a variety of ways. There are, however, a few key behaviors our staff has been trained to look out for that tell us when a pet is beginning to get stressed. These may be:



Dilated pupils Brow furrowing Whiskers & ears pulled back Tail pulled tight to body or flicking Increased respiratory rate Hissing

Raised or tucked tail Fidgeting, unable to settle Ears slightly back or to the side Hair raised on back and tail Excessive panting Trembling Showing whites of eyes (whale eyes)

If our staff identifies any of these behaviors in a pet while we are trying to perform services, we may opt to take a break in order to let the pet decompress. Allowing pets a minute or two to pause and relax not only helps them become more comfortable within our exam rooms, but also helps the pet, their owner, and our staff stay safe by avoiding the pet going over threshold. Going over threshold, also known as Fight or Flight, happens when a pet has reached a level of anxiety where they feel they need to intervene to keep themselves safe. Once a pet reaches this level, it becomes nearly impossible to perform services on them. As part of the Fear-Free experience, this is a point where services on the pet would be halted and either rescheduled or sedation would be offered.

As an animal hospital group, our goal is for our pet patients to be excited for their visits and relaxed while receiving their services. We understand that not every pet has had this experience with their veterinarian, and are committed to helping those pets learn that Newberry Animal Hospital is a safe space for them through the Fear Free program. For more information on Fear-Free, visit


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