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Laughs and tips for fear-free veterinary visits from CVC Kansas City


CVC Kansas City goes "fear-free" via late-night-style talk show hosted by veterinarian Marty Becker.

"America's Veterinarian" Marty Becker, DVM, channeled the late night talk show host buried not-so-deep inside himself at the Fear-Free Friday event at CVC Kansas City. He introduced the crowd to his latest experiment: creating a fear-free veterinary practice.

A series of veterinarians and animal experts joined Becker, a frequent dvm360.com contributor who makes regular appearances on The Today Show and Dr. Oz, on the stage and shared different tips and techniques to help veterinarians take the "pet" out of "petrified" and bring pet owners back to the veterinary clinic.

Marty Becker, DVM, chats with his daughter, dog-training expert Mikkel Becker (above) about fear-free tactics, including feeding dogs10 treats per minute during an exam. (PHOTOS BY GREGORY KINDRED)

Ernie Ward, DVM, kicked off the show with an opening monologue that poked fun at current problems in the profession. He touched on the oversupply of veterinarians, but made it clear that he was far from concerned.

"I know we're going to need as many veterinarians as possible—especially with the impending zombie apocalypse," Ward says. "You see, after the zombies have been defeated and order has been restored, pet owners will need someone to blame for the rising cost of pet care."

In the opening monologue, Ernie Ward, DVM, discussed giant school debt loads, the oversupply of veterinarians-and zombies.

(Ba-dum-CHING went the drum from the Fear-Free Band standing by.)

Soon after, Becker got real with the audience about simple ways veterinarians can make their veterinary practice a more welcoming place for pets. Some of the tips included:

> Play soothing music in your veterinary practice exam rooms.

> Dispense pheromones throughout the veterinary hospital.

> Spray down staff member's smocks and scrubs with pheromones an hour before each appointment. ("They think we've got Milk-Bone underwear on," Becker says.)

> Make Thundershirts available for pets to wear during the appointment.

> Use indirect lighting.

> Talk more softly and slowly in the presence of pets.

Later in the night, Margie Scherk, DVM, DABVP (feline), the past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), took a seat on the talk show couch and spilled some of her secrets to making cats less stressed during the exam.

"I've started examining them on the floor," Scherk says. "Cats don't like you in their face or looking down on them, so I put myself on their level and examine from the back to the front."

On the flip side, Becker's daughter, dog-training expert Mikkel Becker, revealed tricks to help keep dogs calm. Hint: Tell clients to bring pets hungry and use treats—lots and lots of treats. She even suggested feeding dogs 10 treats per minute during the exam. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVN, a nutritionist at Ohio State University who has conducted pioneering research on enriching indoor pets' lives, also weighed in and said he actually thought 10 treats per minute was a bit slow. He responded to concerns that this method of training might be unhealthy for the pet.

"The only way an animal is going to become obese with this is if they never leave the hospital," Buffington says.

dvm360 contributor Andy Roark, DVM, MS, was another highlight of the night, playing a crotchety old veterinarian in his video "Top 10 reasons you should NOT practice fear-free medicine." He brought up very legitimate excuses for being anti-fear-free like, "I just bought a new first aid kit and I plan to use it," and "I want to feel the excitement ... of excrement."

Becker ended the Fear-Free Friday night on a more serious note by sharing his fear-free strategy when it comes to veterinary medicine.

"I focus first on the emotional well-being of the pet and then I swivel my focus to the physical well-being and health of the pet," Becker says. "We need to practice competent medical care and compassionate emotional care—it's not an either/or situation."

For more tools and information on how to reduce stress in your patients and keep clients coming back to your clinic for an enjoyable—not fear-filled—experience, keep a close eye on dvm360.com/fearfree.

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