A Fear Free Visit

Living Room, to Exam Room, to Home Again...

Fear Free visits start before leaving your home for the appointment and continue until your furry friend returns home again afterwards.

Before the visit:

When calling to schedule your appointment:

Let us know if your pet is anxious or worried in general, or fearful of certain aspects of the veterinary visit. For example, perhaps your pet becomes stressed in the lobby and would prefer to go straight from the car into an exam room.  We have alternative entrances if your pet would rather not encounter the sights and sounds of other patients in the lobby.  Perhaps your pet has a preference for a male or female veterinarian, or would benefit from calming or carsickness medications before their visit. Are there any dietary considerations we should be aware of? These are just a few examples, and we welcome you to share your thoughts about what we can do to help decrease their stress before the visit. We are happy to arrange what works best for your cat or dog.

At Home:

Make your cat carrier the place to be! By helping teach your cat their carrier can be fun, safe and secure, travel will become less stressful for both of you. Leave your carrier out all the time. Offer treats, toys, and meals by the carrier to create a positive association with it. Place a familiar soft bed or towel in the carrier. And place a towel over top. This will provide the cat with a soft and safe place during the ride to the vet. The towel over top will provide a sense of security and smells of the home which can comfort your cat. Spray the carrier with Feliway (a spray that simulated your cat's natural pheromones to help them cope with stress) 30 minutes before use. Be sure to secure the cat carrier in the car with the seat belt through the handle or place the carrier securely on the floor. Bring a hungry cat (and their favorite treats and toys)

Tips on How to Choose the Right Carrier

Why Cat Visits are Special at AHNA

How to Get Your Cat Into Their Carrier

Cat Carrier: Friends not Foes


Traveling with your Cat

Help condition your dog to traveling in the car. Provide a secure area for your dog to travel in: carriers, seat belts made for dogs or travel pods. Adaptil (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) provides comfort to puppies and dogs and helps them feel calm and relaxed in situations that may cause fear and anxiety. Bring them hungry so treats will make an even bigger positive impact on their visit. Bring any special treats or toys they like to the visit. If your dog is nervous in the waiting room around other dogs or new people, let us know and we can arrange for you to come in an alternate entrance and straight into the exam room.


How to Travel with Your Pet (cat/dog)

How to Train Your Dog to a  Crate/Carrier

At the Visit:

  • Separate facilities for cat and dog patients greatly enhances the patient experience . Alternate entrance & exit for fearful pets
  • The feline ward includes play area & sunroom, Special padding and blankets for all patients, TVs in the wards, heated beds and separate sleeping and elimination areas, calming music and enrichment
  • Canine ward includes special padding and blankets, TVs in the wards, natural sunlight, calming music, enrichment, routine supervised access to eliminate outside in our fenced courtyard
  • More windows throughout for enhanced natural lighting for the patient feeling of well-being
  • Pheromones (specific to canine and felines) throughout the hospital to help decreased stress
  • Treats throughout the hospital and visit
  • Enrichment toys in the exam rooms
  • Soft and clean nonslip mats on floor, exam tables and scales, enhanced with species-specific pheromones, along with treats and toys in the exam room
  • Calming and carsickness medications can be sent before the visit once approved by your veterinarian
  • You get to choose your primary veterinarian for continuity of care 
  • Fear Free handling techniques
  • Fear, Stress, and Anxiety scoring as part of your pet's permanent record to monitor techniques effectiveness to decrease patient stress
  • Personalized plans of preference for each patient as part of the permanent record, including preference of exam location, entrance into the building, exam rooms, treat or toy preference, handling they enjoy and what they dislike
  • Certified and knowledgeable staff in low stress handling and Fear Free protocols
  • Attention to Pain Management
  • Soothing music throughout the hospital
  • "Open Door" Policy: Families have access to patients throughout the visit, during treatments and while hospitalized (except for during radiographs, chemotherapy, and anesthesia and sedation procedures)
  • We encourage you to bring personal items (beds, blankets or toys) to be kept with your pet during their hospital stay; smells from home to add comfort to a hospitalized patient
  • Thundershirts, anxiety reducing wraps during hospitalization
  • And much, much more!

Creating A "Happy Visit"

We encourage families to stop by the hospital for a quick treat and positive attention.  This is called a "Happy Visit” – a trip to the vet where only loving attention and treats happen.  These visits help your pet make a positive association with coming to the vet.

When planning your happy visit, feel free to call ahead and ask what times would be less busy so the reception area will be calmer (i.e. less stressful for your pet).  During low appointment times, we can even walk throughout the hospital with your pet receiving treats and making new friends. If your pet only comes in once a year for his or her wellness examination, consider stopping in a few times during the year to say "hi" and practice getting on the scale. These happy visits help to decrease your pet’s anxiety about coming to the veterinarian, which of course makes for a better experience when an appointment is needed.

If your pet is really worried about even coming into the hospital, it helps to break the visit down into baby steps.  For example, the first step may be to park in the parking lot, give a treat, and leave.  Once your pet is comfortable with that, the next step may be parking your car, taking a brief walk,  giving a treat then leaving.  Once that’s enjoyable for your dog,  you might work up to coming to the front door, give a treat, and then leaving. Finally, work up to coming inside and getting treats then leaving. We are happy to help with this process.

If you are fortunate enough to have your dog join your family while still a puppy, we also offer free Positive Puppy Socialization classes for puppies 8-16 weeks of age. These free socialization sessions are the ultimate “Happy Visits” that create a lasting positive impression on our preschooler graduates. They love to come see us!

And back home again...

Once your visit is complete, please let us know if you’d prefer to check out in the exam room (rather than the lobby) and leave through an alternate exit. We can also prescribe or refill medication to help decrease stress at future visits.

If you have cats who are unhappy with a housemate after a visit, click here for some great tips to reintroduce them and keep the fur from flying!

Video Tips for a Fear Free Visit