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How to Guide Veterinarians Toward Fear-Free Practice Benefits

By Pam Foster
March, 2016

Last summer, we published a Vet Advantage article on the growing Fear Free™ Practice trend.

This trend was launched — and has been championed by — Dr. Marty Becker. You've probably noticed that he speaks on this subject at most major veterinary conferences.

Everywhere he speaks, Dr. Becker explains, “As a profession we switch from focusing just on a pet’s physical health to being committed to look after both the pet’s physical and emotional well-being. By taking the pet out of petrified ... we put pets back into practices.”

When we ran that article back in June 2015, we noted that this nationwide initiative involves a collaborative effort between pet owners and veterinary clinic staff to provide a low-stress, friendly environment for all patients. This allows clinics to offer a more satisfying experience for patients and their owners as well as clinic staff (and therefore increase patient visits and product sales).

Now, the question for you is — how can you help clinics in your region become Fear-Free™ Practices where everyone wins (including you!)?

Dr, Becker has said in interviews, "This initiative relies on protocols, products, and procedures designed to reduce or remove stress, anxiety, and fear from trips to the veterinary clinic and other pet service providers."

Vet Advantage photo: Dr. Marty Becker help clinics thrive by showing them how to become Fear Free Practices

AHA! Protocols, products and procedures.

Let's break this down to see what you can offer clinics along these lines.

PROTOCOLS

First, as your prepare for clinic visits, check on your customers' websites to see if they already promote themselves as Fear-Free Practices. Many have joined the intiative, which is great.

If any of your clinics HAVE joined in, applaud their efforts and make sure they have everything they need to maintain that status. Ask if this transition has made a difference in their business growth. Make sure they have the products, client education tools and more to keep up with that growth.

If NOT — if there's no online evidence that a clinic is a Fear-Free Practice — introduce the conversation during your next visit. You could start by asking, "Dr., what do you know about the Fear-Free Practice initiative?"

If there's very little awareness, you can discuss the many benefits and explain how it's helping other practices bring in more patients.

Then, introduce protocols to help the practice adopt this highly valuable trend. (Find out how various manufacturers support Fear-Free Practices, and also check out and recommend the articles, handouts and other tools in this DVM360 online resource.)

PRODUCTS

Pet owners and clinics can embrace pet wellbeing before, during and after visits with help from a variety of products. Here's just a few examples we've heard about.

  • Pet carriers: One of the first principles of a Fear-Free practice involves getitng to the clinic. Dr. Becker recommends, "The owner should condition the pet to the carrier or restraint device and to car rides long before the day of the veterinary visit. Cats should be allowed to use their carriers daily as a resting place so that the carrier is familiar and comfortable." So let's say that pet owners would like their veterinarians to recommend the best carriers. Why not have some available to purchase in the practice and make a profit from those sales?
  • Pet calming products: Today, many practices carry a line of dog and cat calming products, from natural pheromone solutions to prescription medications. Explore the many options and mention additional ideas such as cozy exam-table covers that are less stressful to a pet than cold stainless steel. Discuss the merits of each product and make sure your customers have enough on-hand.
  • Pet treats: One great way the clinic team can make pets comfortable is by offering a treat when pets first enter an exam room (when appropriate). What kinds of treats can you offer from your catalog?
  • Clinic equipment for a more Fear-Free experience. When clinics consider adopting the Fear-Free initiative, they may have to make some changes to the building and layout, such as cat-only entrances or waiting areas, cat-only exam and treatment rooms and recovery areas, etc. For instance, introduce side-by-side cat condos so cats in recovery don't have to face each other. In addition, clniics may be interested in exploring quiet hydraulic-lift tables and other modern conveniences that support a calmer experience for pets. Consider doing a practice walk-through and discussing modifications that can make a huge difference. Then look at equipment options, such as tempered-glass kennel doors so dogs can see out, room dividers for separate areas, new treatment room equipment, light dimmers, products to reduce clinic noise, etc.
  • Gentler vaccine alternatives: Becker recommends offering "vaccine options that use small-gauge needles or a reduced dose… or options that can be administered via a less stressful route" (oral, for example).
  • Sedation if needed. Ask the practice about their current sedation techinques and explore alternatives that reduce stress on patients and staff.

PROCEDURES

Today, there are all kind of medical devices that support a more gentle approach to treatment procedures. A few examples are laser therapy treatments, laser surgery equipment, quieter modern tables, no-slam cabinet and cage doors and many, many others. And that's just for treatment!

All procedures — from checkin to checkout — can be transformed into Fear-Free experiences.

Be sure to investigate all the opportunities in your catalog as Fear-Free practice options for your customers. Then you can provide a winning combination of ideas that will help your customers' clients, pets and staff… and you! 

Sources:

  1. Today's Veterinary Practice interview with Dr. Becker
  2. DVM360 article written by Dr. Becker
  3. DVM30 Fear-Free Resource

Topics: Fear-Free

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