Veterinary teams share Fear-Free strategies that work for them


At dvm360, we asked veterinarians and team members what theyre doing now to help keep fear at bay during veterinary visits. Here are 18 strategies that we compiled from their responsesthese ideas have been tested in the trenches.

Strategies for cats and dogs

“We try to teach clients how to get their pets used to handling during their first visits.”

“I approach only after the pet has quieted. It's important not to crowd or corner an anxious pet.”

“It's important to educate employees about the proper ways to approach a fearful dog or cat to diminish fear.”

“We track pets' individual idiosyncrasies in the practice software.”

“We sometimes have the pet owner leave the room. If the owners themselves are very anxious, pets respond to that. So when we have those owners leave the room, we sometimes get a completely different and calmer pet.”

“Our staff is very well trained on reading pets' body language, proper restraint, individualized restraint based on patients' responses and so on. We do use frequent treating with dogs, including peanut butter and cheese. (Although we try, cats are tougher to bribe.)”


“We use pheremone diffusers throughout the hospital and spray towels in cages. And we use Thundershirts  (even for cats).”

“Sometimes you can link a pet with a tech who has particular rapport with that patient.”

“Covering the animal's head with a small blanket can calm a fractious cat or dog, especially when you're administering dogs intranasal kennel cough vaccines.”

“A calm, quiet environment is essential.”

“I always ask the owners how they think their pet would be most comfortable-on the floor, on the table or in their lap.”

Strategies especially for cats

“We reduced lighting in cat exams and use rubber, woven drawer liners on cat exam tables so cats feel more secure.”


“We ‘dehiss' exam rooms if we see a number of unhappy cats in a row by completely wiping down the floors, walls, counters, exam table and so on, and then using Feliway in the room.”

“We use different towel wrapping methods for really anxious cats. We find that snug wrapping, and sometime minimizing visual stimulation, calms a lot of them down enough to get a thorough physical exam and even treatments and phlebotomy accomplished.”

“We put warm towels on the exam table for cats.”

“Our lobby doesn't allow for separate cat and dog space, so we put cats into our cat-friendly exam rooms on arrival. There are Feliway diffusers in the cat rooms and the rooms are equipped with everything needed for an exam, so cats are not moved to other areas of the hospital unless absolutely necessary.”

“We recommend easy-open carriers.”

One special strategy for dogs

“We encourage dog owners to show up for ‘happy visits' whenever they're in the area. We keep a variety of treats stocked at the front desk for these drop-by visits.” 

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