Is yours a fear-free veterinary hospital? Clients today aren’t just looking for a veterinarian that can give check-ups, shots and the occasional surgery. They want their trip to the vet hospital to be a good experience. That means low-stress and fear-free for both the pet and the client. And a good experience translates into regular return visit year after year—where real practice growth takes place.
What Is a Fear-Free Veterinary Hospital?
To put it simply, fear-free is when your veterinary practice implements steps that will help take the stress out of a trip to the veterinary hospital. Some of the steps are relatively easy and inexpensive to apply to a practice, like having an assortment of dog and cat treats on hand. Other steps, might take some more planning and money, such as painting the walls a more soothing color.
Unlike humans, animals don’t always know what’s going on. That trip to your hospital for a simple toenail clipping might feel like the end of the world for even the most laid back dog. Or an annual check-up for a cat might be the most traumatic event he/she experiences all year.
The following are ideas every veterinary hospital can use to make animals feel more comfortable during every visit and grow the practice at the same time.
Run on time and rethink the waiting room. A great deal of stress is generated while waiting to see the veterinarian, especially when the dog or cat is crowded into a waiting room with unfamiliar animals. Keeping the waiting time to an absolute minimum is a first step in solving the problem. Many animal hospitals have organized appointments to ensure that clients and pets can be escorted directly to an exam room when they arrive, eliminating the fear-inducing experience of seeing other animals.
Replace fluorescent lighting. Although humans might not always hear it, fluorescent lights make a constant humming sound. Dogs and cats, with their very keen ears, can be greatly annoyed by the unaccustomed buzzing noise.
Offer favorite treats. Keep a large variety of treats on hand for cats and dogs. You can even make a note in their chart that says what their favorite treat is so you can have it ready when the client arrives for the appointment. Like comfort food for humans, a good treat can help soothe an animal’s nerves and help you make friends.
Use pastel colors. Animal hospitals don’t have to have that white, sterile, clinical feel to them. In fact, it’s that very look that can really scare animals. Dogs and cats don’t see colors the same as humans. They see white as a very bright, glowing color, which is scary to them. Consider using softer pastel colors, both for your veterinary hospital’s paint and your staff’s scrubs. Pastels are much easier on the eyes for pets and also more soothing to their owners.
Replace cold, slippery exam tables—or get on the floor. While stainless steel exam tables are convenient for you and your staff for cleaning and exams, they are extremely uncomfortable for the animals. Some practices have used yoga mats as an alternative. Others cover exam tables with special non-porous mats to make the table more comfortable for the animals. If your knees can take it, getting on the floor for the exam will make some pets more comfortable than being hoisted onto a stage.
Encourage the use of comfort blankets and toys. When clients make their appointment invite them to bring their pet’s favorite blanket or toy. The little piece of home will be both a comfort and a distraction in the strange and foreign environment of the veterinary hospital.
Use support tools. If the client owns a Thundershirt for their pet, encourage them to suit him up him for the trip. If you have loaner Thundershirts available and stocked for purchase, you could even add to the bottom line through product sales. Feliway synthetic pheromone wipes and diffusers can help calm stressed-out cats and should be a regularly stocked therapeutic item.
Don’t forget the music. Like humans, the right type of music can have a calming effect on animals. Consider playing pet-friendly music in your practice. There is a CD called “Through a Dog’s Ears” that has been specifically made for dogs. “Through A Cat’s Ears” is also available for veterinary hospitals that focus more on our feline friends. Both have been clinically tested to reduce pet anxiety.
Fear-Free Veterinary Hospitals Benefit Everyone
Growing your veterinary practice involves more than just trying to get as many clients in and out the door each day. Keeping your furry patients happy and relieving stress from their human companions will greatly benefit your bottom line by keeping them coming back without hesitation. Clients will also be more likely to talk about their good experience. And word-of-mouth advertising is free—and golden!