You may have heard of a recent movement in veterinary medicine called “Fear-Free.” This includes encouraging veterinary staff to observe and qualify a pet’s behavior (called FAS score). It also includes measures to reduce stress during veterinary visits such as by providing treats/snacks, the use of calming or anxiety relieving medications, as well as the avoidance of certain types of restraint (such as scruffing cats), among others.
This movement developed to reduce fear, anxiety and stress for patients during veterinary visits. To successfully accomplish this, we must first go back to the basics of behavior. First, remember it’s important to observe a pet’s behavior – this can tell you a lot about how they are feeling. However, some body language signs are more subtle.
For example, if your cat is vocalizing (hissing/meowing/swatting), this is an obvious sign that they are experiencing fear/anxiety. However, a more subtle sign could be frozen or hunched position or hiding.
And as another example, dogs that growling or have their ears pinned back are showing more obvious signs of fear/anxiety, but a more subtle sign could be panting or lip-licking.
Many veterinary care teams are becoming increasingly more aware of the importance of incorporating behavioral assessments into their appointments; however, as a pet owner, make sure you are also observing your pet (both at home) and at a vet clinic so you can help advocate for fear-free methods and positive experiences.
1) Veterinary Partner. Veterinarypartner.com