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Fear Free: Transforming Veterinary Medicine and Pet Ownership


Fear Free is an initiative applicable not only for veterinary professionals, but also for anyone who has a pet. Listen HERE on Steve Dale’s Pet World, WGN Radio as I talk about this transformational way of thinking, which treats pets differently than we ever have, with Drs. Marty Becker and Michele Forbes.

Fear is the worst thing a social animal can experience, even causing permanent damage to the brain if that fear is chronic. And, if the fearful experience is powerful enough—even one experience—post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur. Drs. Becker and Forbes, of course, went into veterinary medicine to help pets. As it stands today, a surprising number of pets actually think that they are going to die when they visit the veterinarian. Cats may have those same terrifying thoughts the instant the carrier appears. And, pet owners pick up on that stress, which leads to fewer veterinary visits for pets.

Look: Everyone’s smiling, Dr. Becker, cheek-rubbing kitty, and pet owner

Many people experience epiphanies, but not everyone does something about them. Dr. Becker spoke eloquently about how he needed to do something, and it’s called Fear Free.

Dr. Forbes talks about how Fear Free has made a difference in her Ann Arbor, Michigan, practice.

Fear Free actually begins in homes. Here’s the video Dr. Becker spoke about of my dogs, Ethel and Hazel, dragging me into Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago.

Today, pet owners have tools that weren’t available 10 or 20 years ago, like pheromone products, such as Adaptil (for dogs) and Feliway (for cats), and nutraceuticals, like Zylkene (bovine-sourced hydrolyzed milk protein). Not to mention what we happen to know today about how drugs can help mitigate fear in pets.

Fear Free really begins with you in your home. Check out Fear Free Happy Homes for tips, including increasing enrichment activities for pets, carrier training for cats, and much more.


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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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