Animal Radio® is on 133 great AM-FM radio stations and SiriusXM Satellite Radio - 350,000 listeners every week! Animal Radio® Sponsors loading... Animal Radio® is on 133 great AM-FM radio stations and SiriusXM Satellite Radio - 350,000 listeners every week!
 Fear Free Expert Series

How Was The Ubiquitous KONG Toy Invented - Joe Markham  

KONG inventor Joe MarkhamJoe Markham, Inventor of the KONG dog toy and Fear Free advocate.

Joe Markham is the Founder of Kong Products. Chances are if you have a dog, you have a Kong product in your home. While the Kong dog toy is a great product, Joe explains that he can only take half of the credit for it, with the rest of the credit going to his dog Fritz.

Fritz was a rock chewing German Shepherd who actually brought what was a part of a Volkswagen suspension from underneath a workbench to Joe and dropped it on his foot one day. Joe saw what Fritz needed, because they'd been on a quest for a long time to find an alternative for Fritz to chew on, as about a third of his teeth were already worn down from the rocks.

This was years ago when Joe was a motorcycle guy. He didn't have a lot to do in the wintertime, so he worked on Volkswagens. VW's were air cooled and very similar in a lot of ways with the tools and things that he was already using. So there were some parts leftover from the winter before and Fritz went through them and found just what he was looking for.

How was the KONG invented? Joe Markham explains.If you notice, the traditional shape of Kong dog toy is actually like the suspension portion of VW. Joe explains that a 67 VW Bus has a strangely familiar looking part on it now that resembles a Kong! What Fritz brought to him that day also had a big metal bracket on it because it mounted on the top of the transaxle to keep it from bumping against the frame. Of course Joe pulled the metal bracket off and gave it to Fritz. This all took place in 1970, just to give you an idea how long ago it was.

Okay, we now have the toy but where did the name come from? Joe explains that some of his friends wanted to invest in his new idea of a dog toy. They were all looking at it and saying what should we name it? Someone said Bee Hive, along with other names, but they just didn't sound right to Joe. Then one kid had just come from seeing the remake of the movie King Kong and said that the toy should be the earplug for King Kong.

Joe says it's a Kong for sure! It's strong like him. So that's where it came from. It turned out that it wasn't trademarked in his class of trade, so he was able to secure the name.

Kong has gained attention worldwide and is sold in 82 countries and counting, with printing in 14 languages. Joe says they are trying to figure out how many they've sold. In Golden, Colorado, they've got fourteen presses running that are giant and twenty feet tall. They make about 700 pounds of Kongs a shift, and they are pretty much running 24/7. So he's thinking they've sold close to 100 million, basically one for every dog in the world.

The Kong started off as just a throwing toy for dogs to chase, catch and chew. You throw it, you get them interested in playing with it and it's a great toy like that on its own.

However, all kinds of things have been put inside of Kongs. This includes dog food by spraying a little moisture on the food and putting it in there and freezing it. People also put whatever their dog's favorite treats are inside by placing the treats underneath some food inside of the Kong to stimulate them to find the most valuable treasure inside. Peanut butter, of course, is the old standby. Joe has also made something he calls an easy treat, which is a kind of a take off on a sprayer. It's a real convenient spray that you can spray inside of a Kong. It comes out of the can very slowly and is like a liquid peanut butter.

This all happened by accident and it's turned out to be a blessing for all the dogs in the world, according to Joe.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Why Do Veterinarians Want To Run Blood Tests On Your Pet? - Dr. Fred Metzger  

Dr. Fred Metzger is on Animal RadioDr. Fred Metzger, Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners

Dr. Fred Metzger is the Medical Director of the Metzger Animal Hospital. As a veterinarian, he has to tell his patients a lot of things that don't necessarily make them happy. One of them is that there is an expensive blood test that needs to be done. What is so important about these blood tests and why should we whip out our wallets for them?

It's pretty obvious that animals can't talk, so in a lot of ways they're going to talk to us through blood testing. He says that the majority of the diseases that dogs and cats get are very similar to the ones that humans get. So blood tests are how you diagnose most diseases like diabetes, hypo-thyroidism and certain types of cancer. If you don't run the blood test, including a lot of times along with a urinalysis, there's just no way you can diagnose them. So one component of blood testing is diagnosing disease. The other is using it as an early detector for things coming on. In other words, watching certain analytes in the blood change over time as animals age, give us some ideas that something might be wrong.

When your veterinarian tells you it's going to cost $300 for these blood tests, are they padding the bill? Dr. Metzger says look at human medicine. For example, he is 58 years old and just went to his doctor last week for his annual. His doctor wants to test his blood every year. He says it's literally the same test as our pets get. So actually, your vet is giving you an unbelievable deal, because not only does the vet have to collect the blood and perform the testing, they also have to interpret it to the client.

One thing Dr. Metzger likes so much is that he is able to run the tests in his own hospital. That way he can discuss it with the pet owner and they can talk about what those tests mean and also what they're going to do. Again, think about human medicine. You get your blood drawn at a different location and then you hope someone calls you back, right? A lot of times you don't even know if the doctor looked at the lab work. Then the nurse or the technician calls you and says the doctor looked at the lab work and they said everything looks okay. Still, you're wondering, did anyone ever even look at the lab work?

In Dr. Metzger's office, he is there looking at your dog right then and in 15 minutes he can do the complete blood count, the biochemical profile and the urinalysis. He can then come back into the room while your dog or cat is still there and he can talk about what he found. He finds that very helpful and it's completely changed the way veterinarians diagnose disease. Unfortunately Dr. Metzger sincerely feels that you're better off being a sick dog or cat in this country than a person.

Animals that seem perfectly normal and look perfectly healthy should have blood testing done according to Dr. Metzger. The key is that you have to remember when you're looking at all these tests is the way the normal ranges are developed is the same in all humans. However for cats and dogs, you have to think about all the different breeds that they have to deal with and the different ages. There's quite a variability in the normal analytes testing. For example look at glucose or blood sugar. In people, it's a very narrow range, something like 80 to 90. However, in a dog or cat, It could be something like 70 to 140, which is a wide range.

So the reason he likes to run blood tests on pets when they're normal, is he can then determine what's normal for that animal. This is because we know a lot of the tests just are not going to change over time and that way he doesn't over-interpret. For example, his dog Sophie normally runs 130 on the blood glucose, which is kind of the high normal. But if he checks it every year and it's running 120 to 130, that's normal for her. It's very important to determine what's normal for your pet and that's why it's so important to run blood work on them when they're healthy so you can build really a photo. Dr. Metzger likes to tell people when he's drawing blood today; he's taking a photo of your pet's blood. And really what he wants to do over the lifetime is build a movie.

Dr. Metzger's dream, which will never happen according to him, is that the pet owners would let him perform a blood profile every year on every pet. The reason that would be important is to look for early changes, especially in things like kidney disease and blood sugar. We know right now that especially in animals over three years of age, about 25-percent of those animals are going to have a significant abnormality on their blood work and is frequently conditions we wouldn't be able to diagnose without the blood work.

Are there some diseases that a veterinarian can detect by just smelling the breath of an animal? Dr. Metzger explains that there are a few diseases they can smell on the animal's breath. He says you can usually smell dental disease. Also, in the old days, if you have diabetic Ketoacidosis, so that's a dog or cat that has diabetes that's very advanced, they produce these things called Ketone bodies (so do people if they're very sick), which has a sweet smell that you can smell on their breath. Dr. Metzger claims that we are way beyond that in veterinary medicine at this stage where we're not going to really worry about smelling the breath to diagnose something like diabetes.

So until our animals start speaking English to us, we're going to have to do the blood test to figure out what's going on with them. And when you look at what blood tests give us as far as an insight into our pets, it's an unbelievable amount of information and money well spent.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Dealing with Noise Phobias - Dr. E'Lise Christensen  

Dr. Elise Christensen is on Animal RadioDr. E'Lise Christensen, Fear Free and Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist.

We just got through the 4th of July Fireworks and are currently experiencing afternoon thunder showers in parts of the country, all of which can freak out our pets. The common signs of noise phobias are dogs that are clingy or hiding, panting and they might also whimper and cower.

Noise phobias are a common problem in our pets, both cats and dogs. There are a variety of different noises that animals can be fearful of, but thunderstorms can be one of the most challenging because we can't predict when they're going to happen. It also seems like a lot of these animals predict even faster than we ever could when a storm is going to happen. Sometimes we think they do this potentially through being conditioned to things like bariatric pressure changes, etc.

While it is common, there are lots of great treatments for noise aversions or fears related to specific noises. These include everything from traditional desensitization and counter conditioning, that's done with behavioral therapy by a skilled behavior modification person or a veterinary behaviorist, or you may even be using a medication, especially for noise phobias that are associated with thunderstorms. You just need something to help stop the panic.

For noise phobias, some people use body wraps, which are supposed to swaddle the dog and keep them calm. Dr. Christensen explains that there are some studies on a couple of these different items and it turns out that they can work for some creatures, but they won't necessarily work for every patient. A lot of times we see that the dog might come up to their owners and it looks like they're looking for attention. But when the owner tries to give them attention, it doesn't work and the dog just seems very restless. If a body wrap is not helping relatively quickly, within minutes, and you're not seeing a decrease in the intensity or the frequency of this clinical signs, you need to find an alternative. Because every time the patient is exposed and has these symptoms, it's toxic for their brain.

There are also things a veterinarian behaviorist can do. There is pheromone therapy for dogs and cats. For cats, there are a few different versions that may be helpful depending on other behaviors. For dogs there is a medication that's approved for noise version called SILEO, which can work in around 30 minutes.

Another thing you can do is desensitization. One of the tricks is making sure that whatever trigger you're using is something that the patient responds to. We know that even for storms, desensitization and counter conditioning, like playing storm sound at a very, very low volume, ideally one that the patient is not responding to at all, can work.

You can start out with a low volume and if you don't see any of that pacing, whining, cowering accesses, scanning, hyper vigilance, any of that stuff, then within one to two seconds after playing it you get food or initiate a game for one or two reps. Then when the patient is comfortable with that level of the trigger, of at least five reps, then you can go ahead and increase the intensity of the sound.

When you're working on that, at the same time the patient may actually be exposed to an actual thunderstorm. That's where using tools and behavior therapy come in handy, like perhaps teaching the animal to go someplace where they feel the safest. Surprisingly, a lot of dogs choose the bathtub. If you know they like the bathtub, you can make it super awesome. You can practice sending them there and give them treats or maybe a food puzzle in the bathtub on a daily basis so that it's not only for storms. Then you could even layer on your desensitization and counter conditioning with that if you wanted to.

One of the problems with noise phobias, especially with storms, is that if we don't catch them and help these patients feel better; they can get worse over time. They can get worse not just with that trigger, but they can also do what Dr. Christensen calls "collecting triggers." First it's just the rain and the thunder that frightens them. Then it's becoming just flashing lights of any kind or even the sound of sirens. It can happen even when the family tries to close the blinds in preparation for a storm. Basically anything that might be associated with a storm or associated with other noises or light flashes can trigger their phobias. Unfortunately, we can end up in situations where these pups won't even go outside. But with a little patience and the right tools, you can help your animal work through their noise phobias and have a happy, calm and relaxed pet.

You want to deal with this problem in a positive manner. To find a board certified veterinary behaviorist, visit

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Managing Leash Aggression - Dr. Wailani Sung  

Dr. Wailani SungDr. Wailani Sung - Fear Free and Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist

Dr. Wailani Sung is one of 74 Board certified veterinary behaviorists in the United States and is currently the only veterinarian certified in clinical veterinary behavior in the state of Washington.

According to Dr. Sung, leash aggression specifically refers to a dog being really reactive when the leash is on them. When she says reactive, she's talking about barking and lunging and potentially even escalating to more aggression towards other dogs or other people.

Since this reaction is classified as leash aggression, we know one of the triggers is being leashed, which only occurs when the dog is on leash. When the leash is off, this behavior should not occur.

Leash aggression can happen in all breeds of dogs. Dr. Sung has seen leash aggression in every type of dog from a 5-pound Chihuahua up to a 150-pound St Bernard. Any breed can have leash aggression; it just depends on the underlying motivator for that dog to be reactive.

There are some things you can do to manage leash aggression depending on the size of your dog. When a dog is 20 to 30 pounds or under, it's much easier to restrain them on leash. However, if your dog is much bigger, you might want to think about using a head collar, which gives you control over their head. This makes it really hard for them to pull and pull you down, which happens frequently to people walking their dogs and can end up in injury to the person. So with a head collar, they can't get the momentum to pull you forward. When they lunge forward, the pressure of the head collar pulls their head to the side. It's the same concept we use on large animals, such as horses and cattle. So if you have a really big dog, maybe 50 pounds and over, you should consider using a head collar, a harness and a double ended leash. You can then attach one end to the head collar and the other end to the harness. This will allow you to have two points on them, which gives you 50-percent control over their upper part of their body.

If you have a dog with a leash aggression, you might want to avoid other dogs while walking. However, if you feel like your dog can be friendly and can meet other dogs, then you should be in an environment where you can take the leash off or have enough slack in the leash. Sometimes if the dog has a leash on but there's enough slack in the leash and they're not feeling the pressure from the collar, they are much calmer and they can successfully meet other dogs. Just be sure to choose an area where they can have a lot of slack on the leash. If you do choose to remove the leash, make sure it's in a safe area where you can do this. However, you should only take the leash off if you have good verbal control over your dog and are able to recall your dog back to you.

Even if your dog doesn't have leash aggression, you should be careful when meeting up with strange dogs. Dr. Sung suggests to slow down when you get within two or three feet of another dog. She says it is a good practice to call out to the dog's owner and ask, "Hey, is your dog friendly," to make sure that their dog is comfortable. Even if they say yes, you should always evaluate the other dog's body language. Look at the other dog and see if it looks nervous or if it's eager to meet your dog. Is their head forward and is their tail medium height or elevated? If you do agree to let them meet, let them start out by sniffing each other, maybe two seconds maximum, and then call them off. If they are not naturally moving on their own, call your dog and take a step back and give both dogs a break. Make sure they can check each other out at a distance. If they seem like they want to sniff again, go ahead and approach the other dog and let them sniff a second time.

If you are dealing with leash aggression, there are many solutions available. You can try to work with your dog on doing a massive amount of counterconditioning by using a lot of treats or by using something else your dog is really willing to work for. Then every time they see another dog and you can get their attention focused on you, you can reward your dog for not being reactive.

If you do need more help beyond that, you can certainly engage the services of a certified trainer that has experience dealing with this problem.

There are also certified applied animal behaviorists. These are people that have advanced degrees in animal behavior. They either have a Master or a PhD in animal behavior. Or, you can contact a board certified veterinary behaviorist. These are veterinarians that have advanced training and have been through residency and completed certification that enables them to help you and your dog with your specific problem.

You want to deal with this problem in a positive manner. To find a board certified veterinary behaviorist, visit

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Heat Stroke in Dogs - Dr. Stacy Eckman  

Dr. Stacy EckmanDr. Stacy Eckman DVM, DABVP - Clinical Assistant Professor, Texas A&M - Chief Medical Officer, Small Animal Clinical Services.

It's definitely that time of year when the weather starts heating up. This also means that our pets can start heating up and get heat stroke.

While the most common way for our dogs to get heat stroke is from being left in a hot car, they can also get heat stroke from excessive heat and humidity if they are left outside. Environmental conditions can be a problem, especially if your dog hasn't really been acclimated to that type of weather.

There are also certain breeds of dogs that are more at risk. Dogs that have relatively short noses, or short muzzles, called brachycephalic dogs, are the dogs that are at the greatest risk. These include dogs like Pugs, Bulldogs, Shih Tzus and Boston Terriers, basically any dog with a short nose.

The first very first early signs of heat stroke that you'll see is that the animal is doing a lot of excessive panting. They act anxious. Sometimes people think that their pet is a little bit uncomfortable. You may see them kind of getting up and getting down and whining and pacing a little bit with excessive panting. They may even start to drool. Then signs and symptoms just kind of escalate from there. They will get a rapid heart rate and of course their temperature goes up. They can get really depressed as heat stroke progresses and end up with things like vomiting, diarrhea and shock, basically all of the kind of sequelae that goes along with it when it goes on for a prolonged period of time.

Keeping our pets inside in air-conditioning when it's really hot and humid outside is a great way to protect them from heat stroke, but there are other things you should do. You just need to be aware and recognize that it's hot and take steps to mitigate that.

Make sure that if it's getting to the hot part of the summer, or the hot part of the spring, that you give your pet time to acclimate to the weather. Maybe that's going to the park and spending shorter amounts of time out there playing, taking lots of breaks and making sure your pet has plenty of water and access to shade while they're there. All of these will help them acclimate and make sure that they don't get too hot too fast while they are doing so.

Be careful of the breeds that will just go all day long in any sort of heat like Labradors and Border Collies. These are the sorts of dogs that just won't stop and take a break. So you really have to be mindful and make sure that they are taking adequate breaks and have adequate water and shade.

There is no one size fits all and there is no certain temperature you should be worried about. For example, there are some dogs that live in Arizona in the desert and have acclimated to that weather with no problems. However, you may have seen dogs where you live where at even at 70 or 75 degrees, they actually struggle with it because they go out for prolonged periods of time and they're just not used to it. But still be aware for all dogs when out in anything over 80 degrees, as well as high humidity, which can also play a role in heat stroke.

If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke you need to get them to a veterinarian right away. There are things you can do in the meantime to help them, but the most common thing that people like to do, which is never recommended, is actually putting ice or ice water on them. You should never do this! Cool water is okay, but when you put the ice-cold water on an animal, it actually makes their blood vessels constrict down and that impacts how they're cooling. Ice or ice-cold water will actually keep heat internal. So cool water is great. If you have a fan and you can wet them down and then a blow a fan across them, this really helps. Also just providing them with shade and water will be extremely helpful.

Dogs don't actually have many sweat glands. They do have some sweat glands on their feet and maybe right around their nose, but they don't sweat and so their primary means of getting rid of heat is through panting. That's why you'll see them panting excessively. Dogs will even pant when it's cool outside if they're just running around, so it's the degree of that panting for that dog, which is a good sign that they're having trouble.

With a little awareness, you and your pet can enjoy the warm weather without any problems!

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

What To Do When You Can't Reach A Veterinarian - Dr. Dawn Crandell  

Dr. Dawn Crandall is on Animal RadioDr. Dawn Crandell, is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care and a Fear Free Practitioner

It seems like you always need your veterinarian when they are on vacation or you are on vacation! Dr. Dawn Crandell tells us what to do when you can't reach a veterinarian.

While in this day and age there is more connectivity, if you happen to be on a really remote camping trip, you might have a hard time reaching your veterinarian. Or, if you're in an area where your cell phone coverage is poor or absent, you might have a hard time reaching out to a veterinarian and be totally on your own. Fortunately, most of the time there is often a way to make a phone call to get some advice, which is helpful.

Dr. Crandell explains that veterinarians are obligated to provide you with 24-hour care. Obviously they can't always do that themselves, but they should at least forward you to another service that can offer you some care. Many veterinarians also refer their clients to overnight care clinics or 24-hour practices when they themselves aren't available to help you.

It is certainly wise to scout out the area that you're going to be traveling to ahead of time and find out what veterinary clinics are in the area, what their hours are and what emergency clinics might be servicing them in the off hours. You should have that contact information available so you're not trying to look it up if you're in a frantic hurry.

When traveling with your pet, Dr. Crandell advises that it's always a good idea to carry a pet first aid kit. A pet first aid kit is similar to a human first aid kit. However, the bandage material might be a little bit different in that it's hard to just often slap a bandage on a small cut on a dog. They usually need a little bit more bandage material than you would use on a human. As a result, you would probably want to prepare yourself with an abundant amount of gauze, squares and absorbent wrap along with some of that self-cling tape and adhesive tape.

Other things that are often useful in a first aid kit are medications. It's totally worth a chat with your veterinarian before you head off to know what medications would be useful for your particular trip and for your particular pet. Be aware that if there are any other things going on with your pet, this could affect what you would give them.

Some medications to think about would be over the counter anti-histamines, maybe even a starting dose of an antibiotic. You should even take generic antidiarrheal medications along. You might also want to take a topical eye antibiotic and a topical antibiotic ointment, as these kinds of things are actually pretty useful on a trip just to get started until you can get into see a veterinarian.

Another item for your pet first aid kit that you might want to think about would be tick pullers or fine tweezers. They make little plastic gadget to take ticks off pretty easily and those are pretty helpful. A pair of plastic gloves or latex gloves so you don't have to touch anything is also useful. If you're in porcupine country, you should have small needle nose pliers to take out any quills if your dog has just a few and they have a calm temperament. If your dog has a lot of quills, you should probably get a veterinarian to help you.

A bottle of eye rinse is also very helpful if your dog encounters a skunk, because that's a pretty nasty chemical they can get in their eyes.

And lastly, you might want to consider putting a muzzle in a pet's first aid kit. This is because dogs that are badly hurt will sometimes redirect a bite to whoever touches them. That's pretty normal behavior and not at all a comment on the friendliness of your dog. People should be aware of that and have a way to protect themselves if they need to.

So how do you know if it's just an urgent situation or if it's a true emergency? Dr. Crandell admits that that's always a hard call if you're trying to decide if you need to kill your camping trip and get out of there to see the veterinarian. If it's a true emergency, there are some obvious things.

If there's clearly a limb fracture, that's a true emergency and you need to get your pet to the veterinarian right away. If your pet is not willing or able to get up and move around, that's usually a sign that things are pretty bad and it's an emergency.

Dr. Crandell tells us that she has occasionally seen pets that are running through the forest super fast and they will actually impale themselves on a stick. That's a true emergency.

Also, bigger dogs tend to get a problem called gastric dilation volvulus, which can come up very fast and needs to be seen as soon as possible. Those dogs would have a nonproductive retching and vomiting, which means there is clearly something bad happening and they are clearly sick dogs. The have no energy and they really just don't want to be with you because they're so distressed. Their belly might be distended. This is definitely an emergency.

If there were significant bleeding or hemorrhaging, that would be something you'd, classify as a true emergency.

One thing owners should do ahead of time is to be proficient in assessing their pets when they are well so they have a sense of what is normal for their pet, says Dr. Crandell.

You should know what the gum color of your pet looks like when they are healthy so you know what is normal for your pet. When they're really sick, their gum color looks quite pale or gray and that's usually a pretty bad sign, which tells you a veterinarian should see them right away.

You should also have an idea of your pet's normal resting heart rate. If it's significantly faster than usual, that's usually a sign that things are not going well.

Also look at how they're breathing. If they have an increased rate of breathing or a clear increased effort, that's an emergency.

Another thing that you can check is the temperature of their paws. If it's not cold where they are, but their limbs are cold, that's usually a sign their circulation is quite poor and that truly is an emergency as well.

If you see any of these emergency signs with your pet, cut your trip short and get in to see a veterinarian right away.

The line between urgency and emergency is so delicate and thin; you might not even be able to see it. It's hard to make those calls sometimes if you're not a veterinarian, explains Dr. Crandell, so if you're at all concerned, it's worthwhile to make stop the trip and get your pet to a veterinarian.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Psychotropic Drugs and Fear Free - Dr. Lisa Radosta  

Dr. Lisa Radosta is on Animal RadioDr. Lisa Radosta, owner Florida Veterinary Behavior Service - co-author of From Fearful To Fear Free

Do you know that the same psychotropic (mood altering) drugs you might be using, your veterinarian might also be prescribing to your cat or dog?

Dr. Lisa Radosta explains there are some FDA approved antidepressants on the market for dogs and the commonly known Prozac is one of them. However, there’s actually another branded product called Reconcile that has FDA approval for use in dogs. Then there's a completely different anti-depressant, in a completely different drug class, called Clomicalm, also approved for use in dogs. These two medications are approved for use in dogs with separation anxiety.

However, dogs aren’t the only animals that need anti-depressants; sometimes cats need help as well. Dr. Radosta explains that there are lots of pet parents out there with cats and cats need some help too with better living through chemistry just like the rest of us.

The medications that are used in cats are called extra-label or off-label use. Cat owners need to know what that means, because a lot of the medications that your cat takes are extra-label or off-label. What this means is that the FDA has not gotten their fingers into these drugs so they are not approved for use in that species or for that problem. However, that does not stop veterinarians from using these medications, because there are studies out there looking at Prozac, Buspirone, Valium, Clomicalm and all kinds of what are called psychotropic medications for cats. While there is a lot of information, these drugs are not necessarily FDA approved.

So how do you know if your pet is a candidate for these drugs? You're going to look for help when your pet's quality of life is affected. So for dogs, let's say your dog has separation anxiety and they are at risk for hurting themselves while you're gone, they're destroying your house and they're panicking. A panic response, if you’ve ever had one, affects your quality of life. And if your dog is going through that every time you leave, or with every thunderstorm, his or her quality of life is affected. If so, you need to seek help.

Does your dog lunge at other dogs or people on the street? Think of this example. You are with your friend and you are walking down the street together. You’re going to go and have some coffee at Starbucks and your friend starts screaming at the guy across the street. They are acting like a crazy loon. That's what this lunging and growling is that your dog is doing. You're going to tell your friend that they need some help and that they need to go see a doctor. So it's that kind of thing that means your dog or cat needs help too.

You really need to be very critical if you have a cat. Many cat owners think that a hiding cat is normal. He's under the bed. That's normal. No, no, no. That's not normal. That means he's scared. So a cat who's under the bed a lot, a cat who bites you, who urinates or defecates outside of his litter box, these are the signs that help you to see your pet’s stress and that they need help. Not every one of these pets needs a medication, but they certainly need help because we all deserve to live our very best life. Even if we have four legs, we still deserve that best life, says Dr. Radosta.

It seems that veterinarians are pretty eager, more than they have ever been, to sedate or medicate animals. Dr. Radosta says this is true that veterinarians want to sedate more than ever when it comes to veterinary visits. They don't want animals to walk through their lives like zombies, which is the number one question she gets from owners when she talks about medications to improve an animals’ quality of life. They say they do not want a zombie. Dr. Radosta wants to say up front, that is not the goal. The goal is not to sedate the pet on a daily basis.

Now for a vet visit, it’s just like when we go to the dentist and the dentist is free with the drugs, aren't they? Dr. Radosta feels veterinarians should be just as free with veterinary medicine. There isn't a reason not to be trying to alleviate that stress during those visits. So, she wants to kind of follow the lead of those dentists who are saying, “Hey, if you're stressed, it's no problem. Let me help you with that.” Dr. Radosta feels that vets are getting the message. They're getting the message partially because there's a lot of continuing education. There's a lot written. So there are a lot of resources out there for vets.

There is also this incredible Fear Free Movement, with a new book out called, From Fearful To Fear Free, which outlines everything you need to know to take your dog from being scared to comfortable.

If there's one book you pick up this year about your animals, pick up From Fearful To Fear Free. It will open up the world to your animal in so many ways that you could have never imagined.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

From Fearful to Stress Free - Dr. Marty Becker  

Dr. Marty Becker is on Animal RadioDr. Marty Becker - America's Vet and Founding Father of the Fear Free Movement

There are many things that might stress your animals out, some that you don't even know about. Take for instance LED lights that you've placed all throughout your house. They are actually flashing lights, which dogs can see, but we can't. Can you imagine what it's like to see a flashing light all the time? Our animals may also be able to hear the noises that our household machines make. Then there's separation anxiety. You know how it is when you leave your house and your dog starts whining and then you come back and you find all the destruction that it's done while you were gone? You might feel sorry for them and go over to them when you return and you hug them and love them, but that really actually creates more problems. By doing this, you are actually telling them that it's okay to be that way. These can all stress them out.

Our animals might be under a lot of stress, but the most important thing is what this stress can do to their health. Besides driving them crazy, it could also drive them to be sick. That's why Animal Radio is so behind the Fear Free program. It's a program that started in veterinary offices and now has extended to trainers and into homes. Do you have a Fear Free Happy Home? You should! There is now a guide for that, which was written by five great people that know the industry, that know about animals and the Ring Master is Dr. Marty Becker. He's really the father behind the Fear Free Movement.

Dr. Becker tells us about a new little dog that he adopted. His new dog is a distemper survivor. Unfortunately these dogs have a greater chance to have neurologic problems. He used to think it was endearing when his loyal little shadow followed him everywhere. This dog would even wait by the door for about an hour after he left the house. It actually became pathologic to where it actually affected his dog's health. The dog got so depressed when he travelled, that he had to put him on what he calls chill pills.

Before his "awakening," he spoke with Karen Overall, a Board Behaviorist, about what this fear was doing to our animals, and that literally a hundred percent of dogs have some level of fear, anxiety and stress.

In the past, when Dr. Becker did his examinations on cats, he felt like he was stretching them out to where their head was in Idaho where he practices and their other half was in Montana, the next state over. He would also have to hold a dog down to get a blood sample. He tells us this one time where a dog actually pooped in his pocket. He felt it was a little warm down there and he reached in there and there was a dog turd in his pocket. He says he literally scared the poop right out of this poor little dog.

Besides starting the Fear Free Movement, Dr. Becker has come out with a new book, "From Fearful to Fear Free." It's a comprehensive guide to the Fear Free Movement and how to make your home fear free.

He has sold over 8,000,000 copies and written twenty-five books, with one of those books being Chicken Soup For The Pet Lovers. This book helped people realize there are other people out there that felt just like they did with regard to their pets. Other books he has written are, "Your Dog, The Owner's Manual" and "Your Cat, The Owner's Manual." These books are great for somebody starting out with a new pet, but literally there's a hundred books like this that he has on his bookshelf and that a lot of people have many pet books on their shelves as well. He tells us that there's probably a hundred books that are just as good for starting out with a new, a new dog or cat, but this is the first book that's ever been done on the emotional well-being of dogs.

Dr. Becker says this is a unique thing because he's a well-known veterinarian that started this movement and is a representative of the 220 some individuals behind it, and that two boarded veterinary behaviorist are also co-authors on this new book, along with a well-known trainer. Most people don't even know there is such a thing as a boarded veterinary behaviorist. There are 75 American College of Veterinary Behaviorist that are certified. Fifty-nine of them are part of the Fear Free Advisory Group. Dr. Becker tells us he hitchhiked on their education, their training and their experience.

Television has changed, because when he first started doing Good Morning America 22 years ago, the segments were eight minutes long and then they went to six and then to five and then to three and then to two. Funny thing with books, they've changed too and he has had to change with it. He informs us the book is really well done because it's like bite size. There are pictures, there are stories and you can read a few pages and get some ideas and not feel like, okay, here's another page and another page and another page. It's done for kind of a modern reader.

A lot of traveling is involved in his career and he tells us about when he was going to the International Association Animal Behavior Consultants Meeting; right after his new book came out. He was at the airport with a lot of trainers and there was a baby crying as it got on the plane. He noticed everybody turn, himself included, because it wasn't hysterically crying like spoiled crying, it seemed the baby was just upset. Everyone was looking and was forming their own opinions of thinking maybe the baby was hungry, had gas, was tired or had a dirty diaper. You go through the things you always know and everybody feels empathy. Can you imagine nobody caring when a baby cries and just thinking who cares, suffer away little baby and cry your eyes out!

We always want to solve it and the point Dr. Becker is trying to make, is that pets are the same way. They don't cry like a baby, but they can show vocalization, there can be a change in eating habits, there can be a change in activity or bathroom habits or just a change in body language. We just need to know the signs. That's the first thing. If you got a dog that is shaking, panting, lip licking, yawning, drooling, trying to hide, those are pretty obvious. The more subtle signs are ones that avert their eyes, they wrinkle their forehead, they pin their ears back, they fidget and they show the whites of their eyes.

One of these things that got him when he was practicing medicine, was that he always thought dogs that went into the exam room and laid down and closed their eyes like they were going to sleep we're calm and that that was the best it could be, when actually it's the worst it can be. They actually have what's called collapsing immobility. So there's something called the defense cascade and the first thing is alert. Like if we were to hear a gunshot or scream or if a dog heard another dog in distress or maybe heard something it becomes fight or flight. So alert, fight or flight, and when it gets down to the end it is collapsing immobility. Three examples of this is one, you are in World War II, there's a trench of dead bodies and you're standing there with a firing squad. Why don't you run? It's because you're in collapsing immobility and you can't move. Two, you're in Syria, you're in an orange jumpsuit and you hear Jihadi John behind you and a film crew, why don't you run? And third, people that have had been assaulted, raped or other kinds of assaults, why don't they run? Their body just gives up. So a cat that's frozen or a dog that goes in and lies down with their eyes closed, that's as bad as it can possibly be.

What was the most important thing he learned in writing, "From Fearful to Fear Free?" He informs us the most important thing he learned would be that every pet has some degree of fear, anxiety and stress and that we need to take the time to parse out the triggers. For example, if you have a dog that's freaked out by thunderstorms, it's not okay for it to think it's going to die every time there's a thunderstorm. There are solutions, there are some training solutions, there are some more natural products, what he calls chill pills, there are some FDA approved products and the veterinary community has an obligation to tell pet owners about these.

Dr. Becker explains that now when he sees a pet he always asks if there are any pets at home that have behavior issues that the person would like to improve upon. He tells us that when you go back to these pets, fear is caused by something painful or something disturbing. So when a dog comes in a veterinary hospital, let's say it's been mauled by another dog, it got hit by a car, it ran through the woods and scratched it's eye, it's ear is a fire-pit, it's gums are inflamed, it's got severe arthritis, these all cause fear just by pain.

You need to think of the similarities of a dog and a one-year-old child. You can't explain anything to them. If you go to the doctor with them you can't tell them we're taking a blood sample, we're going to test their kidneys or they need tubes in her ears and it will hurt. You just can't explain to them why the procedure benefits them. The same thing with pain. They can't anticipate or expect the relief of pain even if it's moments away. And so for that reason, we're not going to manhandle a child and have six people hold a toddler down to do a procedure. It's the same thing with animals.

For 62 of his 64 years, and until writing this book, Dr. Becker states he has not petted a dog the correct way. Every time he'd see a dog on the street in New York or in his hometown of Bonners Ferry, Idaho or the veterinary clinic or wherever he was, he would start gushing telling the person that their dog was gorgeous or ask what their name was. He'd then put out his hand and let the dog sniff it. He would usually then pet the top of their head. These are all the wrong movements. Dogs don't see very well up. They see laterally to the side and down, but not very well up. By petting them on their head, Dr. Becker was coming from a blind spot, was reaching with his hand and had direct eye contact, all wrong. He tells us these dogs have smelled us before we even see them. They don't need to smell your hand. The proper way to pet a dog is by turning sideways, averting your gaze and crouching down if you can. You should then let them approach you. He tells us who would have thought that the simplest of things were actually causing fear, anxiety and stress when you're trying to be somebody doing good. If you think about it, this really makes sense.

If you get one book this decade, and of course we live in an age where you know books are far and few between now because it's all digital (by the way, this book is also available as a kindle book) make it "From Fearful to Fear Free." This book will help you get along with your animal and it has the power to change their life and your life. Dr. Becker tells us that he's never been part of something that he felt stronger about than the emotional well-being of animals.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Starting Your Kitten Off Right - Dr. Elizabeth Bales  

Dr. Elizabeth Bales is on Animal RadioDr. Elizabeth Bales - Catvocate, Veterinarian and founder of the Feline Environmental Enrichment Design Company

Spring is kitten season and if you're getting a kitten, there's a right way to raise them and a wrong way. Dr. Elizabeth Bales, who's not only a cat expert, but also the inventor of the NoBowl Feeding System for cats, will explain the wrong and right ways.

So why is it always spring when we see all of the kittens being born? Dr. Bales explains that this is because cats are what are called "seasonal induced ovulators." This means based on the daylight cycle, they're ready to start getting pregnant in early spring.

So what is the wrong way to bring up a kitten? Dr. Bales explains it's more of neglect or just lack of good information, which is causing a lot of the problems that we end up seeing in adult cats down the road. Now we have so much exciting and new information on how we handle and expose kittens to new things that really help to shape the rest of our cat's life.

One of those new things is socialization. We use to think that only dogs needed socialization and cats just never hit the radar. But as it turns out, it's really crucial that we socialize cats in a calm and informed way to end up with the kind of cat that is going to be a great companion for life.

So are there socialization classes for cats like there are for dogs? Dr. Bales states that there are, but they're harder to find. The more that people start asking for them, the more you're going to find them. You might want to call your veterinarian, your local humane society or even a cat rescue and ask for them. The more they hear from everyone about how important it is, the more you're going to find that information out there.

What kind of benefits do cats get from early socialization? The most important time for a kitten is it pretty early on, between three and seven weeks. We normally get kittens at six, seven or eight weeks of age. So during that time, we want to just gradually introduce them to new things when they're feeling relaxed and happy. These include things like putting them in a carrier and walking around the house and giving him treats while they are in there. It's also touching their ears and their paws and opening their mouth and making them feel comfortable and happy with that. Even just simple, regular handling by grown-ups and by children is a great benefit. We can teach our kids how to pick up and carry a cat and get the cat comfortable with that. Ultimately, the socialization that we talked about with other cats and even with other species, again, in controlled and relaxed ways that don't start fear but that make our cat feel comfortable and relaxed, is extremely beneficial.

If we don't socialize kittens early, what kind of behavior problems could we see?
Just think about a cat that so many of us have come across later in life that hadn't been socialized. When people come over, these cats want to run and hide. They don't want to be carried. You try to pet them and they become afraid. When a cat is feeling fearful, their first instinct is to just get away from that fear by running and hiding. And if they feel that they can't do that successfully, then they can become aggressive and it's really just out of fear. They can also later that day or, or surrounding a stressful event, actually urinate or defecate outside the litter box. They may also be more likely to be aggressive or destructive towards our furniture and even our feet and toes, at a time different other than the stressful event.

What are some tips to enrich our cat's life? Dr. Bales explains that we want to go back to the basic needs of cats.

Cats need places to climb. This is one of those things that is so easily overlooked in our home environment. So the cats end up on the countertops or the kitchen table and other places we don't like. There are so many great options right now for cat shelves and cat trees. And if you have more than one cat, you want to offer multiple places in their favorite rooms for them to climb.

We also want to give our cats places to hide. A covered bed, even a simple box with a towel on the top, will do. You can even get some of those fancy beds that are covered. Just remember, you want to have something for each cat so that they don't have to get aggressive with each other over who gets what.

Our cats also love to play with us. Even as little as five minutes of play a couple times a day is really all your cat needs. Try to schedule two five-minute play sessions with your cat, one in the morning and one in the evening.

And then finally, you've got to give them ways to hunt for their food that doesn't involve us. Cats are actually solitary hunters. They want to hunt and eat alone.

So give your cat places to climb, places to hide, places to scratch, at least five minutes of play twice a day and an opportunity to hunt for their food in the house and you will have a happier, healthier cat.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Hidden Pain in Cats - Dr. Robin Downing  

Dr. Robin DowningDr. Robin Downing - Downing Center for Animal Pain Management

Why is it our cats don't show it when they're in pain? Dr. Downing gets this question from her clients all the time.

Dr. Downing states it all about cats being masterful at hiding their pain. In order to understand this, we need to consider that cats are predators and when predators can no longer hunt, they become someone else's pray. This is really an evolutionary holdover that contributes to our dilemma, because we have an animal that is used to being in charge and when they can't be in charge, their task, as far as they're concerned, is to prevent others from knowing that they are weak and to prevent others from even thinking that they are weak. So they'll hide that weakness. This means they'll hide their pain until they just can't hide it anymore.

Another problem is that cats don't just purr when they are content, which is actually something that contributes to Dr. Downing's dilemma as a veterinarian. This is because cats that are in pain will often purr as a form of self-comfort. This is kind of like thumb sucking in infants or children. If a cat is purring when they are in pain, the owner can actually be deceived into thinking that they're just fine and that they're purring from contentment.

When Dr. Downing talks about pain in cats and how to detect it, whether she's talking with her colleagues or talking with cat owners, it all really boils down to being alert to any changes in their behaviors.

So what kinds of behaviors might we think about that could change in the face of pain? The most common that she sees are cats that no longer want to go vertical. So these are cats that used to sit in the windowsill and look at birds, or they used to jump on the furniture or the counters in the kitchen, or they used to sleep with the owners on the beds and now they're not doing those things.

However, Dr. Downing does confess that she's had the occasional client tell her happily that their cat is no longer getting on the kitchen counter, but it bursts their bubble when they realize that they're not getting on the kitchen counter because they're uncomfortable.

Another important behavior for us to monitor that would lead us to think they might be in pain is unkempt hair coats. Cats are really fastidious creatures. They love staying clean. They love having a beautiful hair coat. But when they're in pain, they will either decrease their grooming, or they might stop doing it altogether. They start to look like they're wearing a rumpled suit and look unkempt. They might even develop mats in their hair.

Other things for cat owners to be aware of is that they might see changes in how their cats like to be handled. Dr. Downing will occasionally hear a cat owner say their cat doesn't want them to pet them or touch them in a certain place, or they no longer want to be picked up. Some may say that their cat used to sit in their lap and now they only sit beside them.

We may even see changes in eating or drinking behavior. They might not eat as well or as much or they might be off their drinking as well.

Another huge signal for us to watch for is their litter pan behavior. If it becomes uncomfortable for a cat to get in and out of a litter pan, even thought the cat may have been perfectly litter box trained his whole life, they may all of sudden start urinating in places they shouldn't or defecate in places that they shouldn't. We may also see cats that no longer play with their toys or with the other pets in the household. Oftentimes a well-meaning cat owner will just chalk it up to their cat getting older.

Dr. Downing wants to remind everyone that old age is not a disease and when we see changes we think might be due to age, they actually might be due to pain. We may have a cat who was previously very happy and now they're crabby, or we may have a cat who used to want to be right where the action is and now when the grandkids come to the house, the cat disappears into a bedroom.

All of that slowing down or any changes in their activities of daily living are all signals to us to really look carefully for the possibility of pain.

In order to treat cats for pain, the first thing we have to think about would be the most common causes for pain. It's only by understanding the cause of the pain that we can even make a rational choice about treatment options.

The most common reason that we would find pain in a cat is actually chronic pain from osteoarthritis. Dr. Downing tells us about data from a really elegant study that came out of Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine just a couple of years ago that lets us know that cats across all ages, so it doesn't matter if they're very young or very old, about 20-percent of those cats are suffering from painful osteoarthritis. Then the number gets really interesting when we get to 10 years of age and older. We now know that greater than 90-percent of cats who are 10 years of age or older have evidence of osteoarthritis in at least one joint on an x ray. That's a huge number of cats having chronic pain from osteoarthritis.

There are three other really important sources of pain for cats, and again, this is what leads us to understand that it's complex to treat cat pain, because we have to understand where it is before we can treat it.

The first is oral pain from periodontal disease. Cats have this unique phenomenon that can happen where their immune system turns against the cats own teeth and makes holes in those teeth all the way down to the nerve. Those resorptive lesions can be excruciatingly painful. So the periodontal disease by itself can be painful, but these lesions can be equally or even more excruciatingly painful. Cats also have a have a fairly high incidence of cancer in the mouth called oral squamous cell carcinoma, which is also really painful. A second additional pain phenomenon we see in cats is abdominal pain from either inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), pancreatitis, where the pancreas becomes very inflamed and super secretes digestive enzymes into the abdomen or kidney pain, because it is actually fairly common for cats to develop kidney stones, not bladder stones. Any human who's had kidney stones can tell you that can be very painful.

Finally, we have to consider bladder pain. A certain percent of cats will develop this condition that we now refer to as feline idiopathic cystitis. So breaking that down, idiopathic means we don't have a single cause that we can put our finger and cystitis means inflammation in the bladder. So idiopathic cystitis can leave cats with bladder spasms and incredible pain when they try to urinate and they can actually pass blood in their urine. This is a really challenging phenomenon to deal with.

The good news is that with appropriate pain medication and appropriate nutrition as well as stress management and by using tools like pheromones in the home, we can actually manage these kitties and restore them to comfort.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Skin Issues Are The Number One Reason For Vet Visits - Dr. Tom Lewis  

Dr. Tony Buffington on UTIsDr. Tom Lewis - Founder of Dermatology for Animals

You might not know it, but skin issues are the number one reason people take their pets to the vet. In fact, Dr. Tom Lewis explains that the number one problem dermatologists, and even general practitioners see, in both dogs and cats, is related to their skin. These issues consist primarily of allergies.

These allergies will cause not only the obvious rashes and itchy skin, but it can affect their ears as well. Surprisingly, in most dogs and cats who have reoccurring ear issues, the underlying cause is an allergy.

Some ear issues give off a smell like yeast. In fact, yeast and staph infections both certainly have the potential to make a lot of allergic, inflamed skin worse. However, typically these infections are like gas on the fire. It's important to deal with those infections, but it's even more important to deal with the underlying cause and get at the root, which usually is the allergy.

What can we do to reduce the incidence of dermatological problems in our animals? Dr. Lewis explains it all starts with a good exam. One of the challenges when an animal is nervous, anxious or stressed out, is that it is hard to look at their skin. Therefore, dermatologists schedule extra time for the appointment. This allows them to go slow throughout the process and build trust with the patient. If the patient's hiding behind the owners and struggling to get away, it's really hard to get a good look at their skin. Then from there, based on what they see physically, the clinician will come up with the list of concerns that they have and discuss with the owners some of the ways to treat whatever they're suspecting.

You might have seen food specifically labeled and marketed for healthy skin. Is this a marketing concept or is this something that you should buy? According to Dr. Lewis, it is a little bit of both. There's no question that diet is important to their skin and certainly a poor quality food with a low percentage of fatty acids is not going to treat their skin well. Having said that, many of the good quality brands have sufficient levels of fatty acids. Dr. Lewis sees value sometimes with prescription products when they're trying to diagnose and treat a food allergic animal. Unfortunately, many of the over-the-counter foods, even some of the big famous products, are not necessarily as pure as their labels claim. And with food allergies, they're worried very much about the particular individual ingredients. So in those cases, they'll use prescription products. But having said that, they see more value with basic supportive care of the skin. Dr. Lewis thinks you'll see as much, or more, value with frequent baths, for example, as you will with extra fatty acids, supplementation or specialty diets.

Allergies are caused by many things, including environmental, food and parasites. But can stress cause skin problems? Dr. Lewis’ experience is that stress is rarely the cause of the skin disease, but it sure can make it worse. If you have an allergic, itchy dog who’s also anxious, he feels that that does make the overall sensation of that itch worse. Dr. Lewis tells us about another disease called acrylic granuloma, which is primarily induced by stress where a dog, especially an anxious dog, will repetitively lick an area on his body and create sometimes some just horribly deep infected lesions, which can be really a long-term battle to resolve.

Dr. Tom Lewis is also a Fear Free Veterinarian and explains that this has helped him do a better job at what he does. One the reasons it helps, is that if his patient is struggling to get away, he just can't do a proper exam and the owner picks up on that experience. Unfortunately, so much of what they do in animal dermatology is really done by the owner. There's so much home care involved with successfully treating a dog or a cat with a skin problem. So if the owner's distracted, it just doesn't go as well. But in that fear free or reduced fear environment, the owner is more able to focus on the discussion they're having. The doctor is also able to do a better job of examining the patient and looking inside the ears, which again is such a commonplace for the allergy to manifest. Left untreated, this can lead to significant horrible pain and discomfort for patients. So getting all of that in a relaxed fear free session, which is not easy, is something they strive to do.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Urinary Tract Infections and Stress - Dr. Tony Buffington  

Dr. Tony Buffington on UTIsDr. Tony Buffington - Author and Emeritus Professor at Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Buffington explains that the two diseases are different and that urinary tract infections in cats are actually quite uncommon. However, the signs of a problem related to the bladder all look the same, because the cat pees blood, it pees outside the litter box; it sits in the box and screams, all those things. There are actually 30 different diseases that have been identified, which can cause that. They are not all equal and some are much more common than others.

In people, urinary tract infections are quite common and result in the same signs of pain and a constant need to go to the bathroom. The assumption is made that because the signs are the same the disease must be the same.

There is a link between stress and these issues in cats, according to Dr. Buffington, who spent his entire career learning about this. In the early 1990s, he received funding from the National Institutes of Health to study urinary tract problems in cats, as a naturally occurring model of a disease called interstitial societies in women, which is chronic pelvic pain syndrome. It turns out that as far as anyone can tell, it's the same disease in these two species.

What they did with the studies is that they had people who were going to have these cats euthanized, because they were not acceptable pets to them anymore, donate them to his research colony. The things they noticed when they came in, was first of all they didn't just have lower urinary tract problems, many of them had problems with their lungs, their skin, their gastrointestinal tract or their behavior. And after they got into the enriched environment of the cattery they were kept in, all of their signs went away.

This started making it easier, because the only way that those organs can communicate with the environment is through the brain. So the brain had to be reading something in that environment that it found threatening for long enough that the organs started to function abnormally.

Stress, however, is the cause in about two thirds of the cases. So it's the most common cause. People will notice that their cat is not using the litter box anymore, that they are hiding, or that when they pick up their cat, they'll try to bite them because their belly hurts. They may even go into the litter box 10 to 20 times a day instead of 2 to 3 times, which is normal. These would be signs that they're stressed.

So what can you do to lessen your pet's stress? Dr. Buffington states that the research done with cats points to changing their environment. When their environment changed, the animal got better. So he has a conversation with the owner to try to find out what's going on in the environment. For example, does the cat have a safe place where it can go? Is being bothered by other cats or the dog? Does the cat have chances to climb and opportunities to scratch in places that are okay where the owner is not yelling at them, throwing a can at them or squirting water at them? So they restructure the environment and at the same time they try to talk to the owner and explain to them that cats are just a little bit different from other species. So if you put these things in the place and let them choose what they want to do, they often get better. For example, if we want to change the diet or change the litter, you don't just take the old diet or the old litter away and give them the new one, because the cat might not even know what it is. So you always change it by placing a separate container with the new items next to the usual one and let your cat chose.

Dr. Buffington also explains that cats are hunters by nature. That's what they were put on this planet to do. Unfortunately, when they came into contact with us a few thousand years ago, we changed their lives. Now he is a big fan of putting their food in different kinds of food puzzles so that they have the opportunity to hunt and find their food.

Doing both of these things really improves a cat's perception of control of their surroundings, because stress happens when you lose your perception of control.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Myths of Dog Training - Monique Feyrecilde  

Monique FeyrecildeMonique Feyrecilde - Vet Tech and Fear Free Executive Council

Monique Feyrecilde is a licensed technician and on the Executive Council for Fear Free.
She also does a lot behavior training and has handled many canine behavior cases. Monique tells us how good of a job she thinks most owners do training their dogs. Of course, she thinks that is according to how you measure doing a good job.

Most relationships between families and pets are pretty successful, according to Monique. People like their dog; they enjoy living with their dog. They have a nice relationship with their dog. Their dog stays with them for their whole life. She thinks that's probably a training success.

However, if we measure training success as to whether people understand that they're training or not training and if they're getting the behaviors that they want all the time from their animals, then maybe they're a little bit less successful.

Monique explains that puppy training should start immediately. Learning happens all the time with puppies. Their eyes and ears open around two weeks of age and they're ready to take in lots of new sensory information at that age. The sooner you start training the better. While you might not be training for something complicated like agility or competitive obedience or even service dog tasks until they're a little bit older, you can start teaching them good manners right away. These include things like being social with other animals and people. You can also start teaching them to be accustomed to a variety of different kinds of handling, like for when they need to go to the vet, when they need to be groomed or when they need to receive a pill. All that training can start right away. Not to mention the house training. Everyone would be disappointed if a puppy wasn't potty trained until six months of age.

A big mistake most people make when dog training, according to Monique, is that they fail to acknowledge right behavior and tend to respond to wrong behavior. Unfortunately when their dog is doing the right thing, but it doesn't bother the owner, they tend to ignore their dog. They seem to only respond to their dog or acknowledge them if there's a problem going on.

For instance, if we use the example of being in the kitchen and their dog is getting up on the counter. Generally if their dog is just wandering around the kitchen and doing a great job staying on the floor and keeping "four on the floor," most owners are going to ignore that really good behavior that they really want. They will only respond to their dog when he jumps up and puts his paws on the counter to try and do some counter surfing.

Unfortunately, some dogs might get a little bit of a boost from being reprimanded when they're on the counter. This is because they get touched and talked to and it generates a little bit of excitement. This can unfortunately promote the counter surfing behavior instead of getting rid of it. This is an example of a time where the dog was doing the right thing, but was ignored. The dog then did the wrong thing and got a bunch of attention. This is a missed opportunity to reinforce right behavior that was happening on its own.

Regrettably when a dog is behaving properly we don't give them the accolades they deserve and they don't get that boost. But, when they counter surf, we get all excited and they get the attention they are looking for, even if is is negative attention.

Another example is jumping. If we come home and our dog is staying on the floor and we get the happy wag, we ignore them until they jump up on us. Then we start saying, "Hey, what are you doing? Get off me!" Well, they got us to stop ignoring them and it was really effective. They got us to look at them, touch them and talk to them and even though we might have in our head, "Oh, I'm scolding the puppy for jumping on me!" We ignored the right behavior and we acknowledged the one that we didn't want. Monique thinks that's a really common mistake.

One tip Monique gives us is that training should be part of your everyday interaction and part of your relationship with your dog. It shouldn't be something you set aside on the calendar and hope that you get to those five, ten or fifteen minutes during the day. We're all so busy it's not going to happen. It's hard enough for people to get their kids to brush their teeth. It's asking a lot to set aside fifteen minutes to train a dog every day. So make training a part of what you're already doing. You're already feeding your dog, make your meal time a training session. You're already playing toy games with your dog, so make your toy games part of a training session. Take advantage. Leverage the time you're already spending building your relationship with your dog and build in some training exercises during those times.

Monique also tells people to try and identify 50 to 100 right decisions that your dog makes every day. Watch your dog when he's going around the house, and if he doesn't jump on the counter, give him a treat. If he doesn't jump on you, give him a treat. If he is staying on the floor or on his bed and holding still, which is amazing, they get a treat for that. Recognize the activities of daily life that you need your dog to do and acknowledge and reinforce them when they happen in the situation.

On the other hand, we're doing lots of things right and we have lots of lots of happy people living with lots of happy dogs. One thing Monique feels a lot of people are doing right, that they maybe didn't use to do, is they're reaching out and asking for help when they need help. Help is so available. We're in the technology age. People can get on Facebook or they can get on social media. They can even watch videos. They can do all this kind of stuff and it's easier to reach out to a trainer than it ever has been before. Everybody has a website. Everybody is on social media. It's easy to get ahold of people. She feels that one thing people are doing right is asking for help when they feel like they need it and recognizing that help is available.

Monique states it can be sometimes difficult for owners to differentiate good versus potentially harmful methods when they're seeking help, but she thinks reaching out for help is something that dog owners are really doing a better job than they did in the past.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

What’s In Store For The Fear Free Movement in 2018? - Dr. Marty Becker  

Dr. Marty BeckerDr. Marty Becker - Fear Free Founder and America's Favorite Veterinarian

Dr. Marty Becker, America's Veterinarian, tells us its funny for him to think back when he was a little kid who always loved all animals. He was lucky, because grew up on a small farm in southern Idaho where his family had dairy cows, beef cows, chickens, pigs and horses. Surprisingly, all of their farm animals had names and his parents were really strict about everyone treating these animals really well.

Dr. Becker states he really doesn't have any regrets in life and if he could go back he really wouldn't change anything, but he does have one thing he would change when it came to the farm animals, the cattle in particular. He said it was common to use cattle prods. Being boys, Dr. Becker, his brother and their friends would take the cattle prods and shock each other. He said it didn't feel good and was way worse than a touching an electric fence, if you know what that feels like.

Today, Dr. Becker would no longer use anything on any animal that would harm or stress them out. As the founder of the Fear Free Movement, his mission is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them.

To date, over 25,000 individuals have registered for Fear Free Certification in 34 countries. They also have a Fear Free Training Course for trainers, allowing them to teach fear free training.

To understand more how the Fear Free approach works, Dr. Becker tells us about a boarded veterinary behaviorist in Detroit that wanted to do Fear Free Training and Positive Reward Based Training in their veterinary hospital. However the hospital she worked at used the Cesar Milan approach to dog training, where the person was the alpha and dogs need to be physically corrected. She couldn't get them to change their minds so she asked them to do a study. So for two years they looked at pets that were adopted from a shelter and went to this large veterinary hospital. They then tracked if a dog received training and if so, what kind of training did they receive? At the end of two years, only 34-percent of those pets were still in their homes. Two-thirds of the pets had been relinquished, mostly for behavioral issues. The veterinary hospital then realized they shouldn't be doing thing like the alpha rollover in their practice. They decided to instead embrace Positive Reward Based Training, and at the end of the next two years, 93-percent of those pets were still in their homes.

The new direction for the Fear Free Movement is putting together a Shelter Task Force, consisting of the top people in shelter medicine at places like UC Davis, the University of Florida as well as Maddie's Fund. Dr. Becker believes that in a year from now, by January 2019, you will be able to adopt a pet at a fear free shelter; that lives in a fear free happy home; that goes to a fear free veterinarian; and is referred to a fear free trainer.

At Dr. Becker's practice, they have been practicing Fear Free for many years. He states that most of those dogs that visit him now drag their owner into the hospital like they're delivering vaccine on the outskirts of Nome. This is because there's cheese, there's shrimp and there's turkey just waiting for them. As far as the cats go, Dr. Becker won't say that they are dragging their owners in, but 80-percent of the cats he sees will actually take treats from him.

There are always new stories about animals and the Fear Free Movement, and Dr. Becker tells us about one particular case that comes to his mind. He tells us that recently a new client came in with a Labrador Retriever named Joy. This dog purportedly had bitten four or five other individuals at different practices, and the owner was told not to come back because her dog was too aggressive.

Dr. Becker says, however, it was only fear-based aggression. He thought for a minute about muzzling this dog, because you can muzzle a dog in Fear Free, you just use a basket muzzle so they can breathe. The muzzle is also covered with pheromones and designed to allow you to give a dog treats while they are wearing it. Dr. Becker opted out of the muzzle and just decided to give the dog a choice of where it wanted to be examined. They ended up doing the examination on a yoga mat instead of putting the dog up on the table. When Dr. Becker came into the room, he also opted used his sanctuary voice not his game-day voice.

The owner also brought the dog in hungry so it would respond better to food rewards. Dr. Becker did have the owner give her dog a little chill pill, which was just a green tea extract. Meanwhile, everybody in the exam room was on high alert because this dog had a history of biting people. So again, he opted out of the muzzle and decided to avoid eye contact and to turn sideways to reduce his profile and let the dog come to him. Dr. Becker also threw down about three little baby shrimp. The next thing he knew, the dog's tail is wagging so hard it was lifting his back feet off the ground. The owner then broke down sobbing. This got to Dr. Becker, but more so were her words. She told she had never been married and will never be married. Her pets are her family and she always wanted to do good by them. She wanted to take her dog in to get its vaccinations, she wanted to get it parasite control and wanted to get its teeth cleaned as needed. Now she says she knows that she can help her dog but not hurt it.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Using Pre-Visit Pharmaceuticals for Vet Appointments - Dr. Natalie Marks  

Dr. Natalie Marks is on Animal RadioDr. Natalie Marks, Fear Free National Advisory Board, Practitioner at Blum Animal Hospital.

Veterinarian Dr. Natalie Marks sits on the Fear Free National Advisory Board. She's also a national educator helping other private practitioners develop Fear Free techniques. Dr. Marks will be discussing PVP's and why they are your pet's best friend!

Dr. Marks explains that A PVP is also known as a pre-visit pharmaceutical. It's for clients that have dogs and cats that exhibit fear, anxiety or what is called defensive reactivity. This is a pet that gets nervous when someone starts to approach it, or starts to restrain it, when they're at the veterinary office. They may start to react adversely by growling, biting and lunging. Luckily there are now strategies and medications that can be given at home by the pet owner to help reduce anxiety and fear and stress well before the vet visit.

So what's the difference between a PVP, sedation or even a painkiller? PVP's are more of an anti-anxiety medication. Medications like Trazodone or Gabapentin, traditionally lower the anxiety of the pet. Dr. Marks explains that there's a slight bit of crossover in that some PVP's can have some pain reducing qualities, but these are not meant to create tremendous sedation for those patients. Dr. Marks doesn't want her patients coming in struggling to walk or needing to be monitored. So they're not giving a sedative, per se, they're giving what they call an anxiolytic or a medication that removes or reduces anxiety.

While they do use things like Xanax on some of patients, explains Dr. Marks, there are a lot of different options depending on the patient's breed, age and underlying medical condition as well as what's worked before.

In order for some pets to have a Fear Free vet visit, PVP's are very important. Dr. Marks calls this the fear cascade. Take for example a cat that only leaves the house once a year to come to the veterinary office. Once that cat sees a carrier, they're going to get anxious or nervous if no one has worked with them at home to reduce the fear of the carrier. Then the car travel, which is only once a year, is potentially going to cause fear and anxiety as well. So by the time they get to the veterinary office, they're already sort of in this workup mode or this cascade of anxiety. Then by the time Dr. Marks sees that patient, she is far surpassed what she would consider a comfortable place for them to be. Not just for the cat or dog, but also for the pet owner too.

So Fear Free involves reducing fear, anxiety and stress in not just their patients, but also everyone who cares for them. This includes the client as well as the veterinarian and the veterinarian staff. Dr. Marks wants to make sure that everyone that's involved in the care of your pet can reduce fear, anxiety and stress because it really provides them the best chance to give the best medicine.

You might think that any medication given prior to a vet visit might affect any diagnostic tests that the veterinarian does. However, Dr. Marks tells us that it actually improves some of the diagnostic accuracy. It allows her to do a much more thorough physical exam. She says she has heard frequently from feline owners who come to her for a Fear Free exam and tell her that this is first time anyone has been able to look in their cat's mouth in a decade. Dr. Marks hears that all the time, because she's not only allowing them to relax and trust in the whole Fear Free experience, she is making it so that she can really do a thorough physical exam.

Dr. Marks tells us one particular dog where a PVP made a really big difference. Cali had been a patient of Dr. Marks for over a decade and is probably the epitome of the most anxious Wheaten Terrier that has ever existed. Her dad, of course, is madly in love with her, but very anxious, nervous and upset himself. It was always sort of a myriad of emotions when Cali would come to her practice, because before Fear Free, they didn't have a great strategy to help her tolerate and understand and learn new behaviors that would allow her to be less anxious. So in the past, and Dr. Marks believes this to be true for many veterinarians who are practicing this way, they've used e-collars, muzzles and other restraint tools when the patient was still anxious, which unfortunately just added to their fearful response.

Now with Cali, they have created a cocktail of PVP's that Dad gives to her two hours before she comes to the office. They've also created different strategies for her travel within the car, which includes her wearing a ThunderShirt along with pheromones supplementation as well. This has allowed Cali to finally come in after some happy visits and actually accept treats, do her obedience commands and be able to be physically examined in a comfortable way.

Dr. Marks states that this has taken many weeks and many visits for the owner and herself. However, it's incredibly rewarding for her to be able to actually now see inside Cali's mouth, where she recently just found some dental disease that she's addressing, for dad to be more relaxed and actually enjoy the experience of coming to the veterinary office and feeling sort of proud of his success, and obviously for Cali the most important part of this triangle, who feels a lot more comfortable because she doesn't have this kind of wind down miserable day after being there and they're not adding to that fear cascade. They're sort of changing her outlook on coming and allowing her to settle and learn new techniques that make her reduce fear, anxiety and stress. And that's the whole goal of Fear Free.

Dr. Natalie Marks obtained her bachelor's degree with High Honors in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1998, and then proceeded to obtain a Masters in Veterinary Medicine and Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine degree with High Honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. She has been a veterinarian at Blum Animal Hospital since 2006 and Medical Director since 2012.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

How To Make The New Year Better For Your Pet - Debbie Martin  

Debbie Martin is on Animal RadioDebbie Martin, Licensed Vet Tech and Certified Professional Dog Trainer

Debbie Martin is a certified Fear Free professional. She discusses New Year's Resolutions for our pets. Debbie is working on keeping her resolutions, as it's hard setting up a new routine and developing new habits.

So what particular resolutions and promises should we have for our pets? The first thing that comes to mind for Debbie, being in the veterinary field, would be making sure you're taking care of the physical well-being of your pets. However, she also works in the behavior field of animals, so she also sees the emotional aspect of it as well. Making sure you're taking good physical and emotional care of your pets is pretty important. Debbie thinks that part gets overlooked at times. We get busy with our lives and the dogs or cats are just kind of there. We're usually just meeting their needs with feeding them and taking them to the veterinarian or groomer when necessary. However, we also need to be making sure we're meeting their physical, exploratory and social needs, which are all really important.

The Fear Free movement has developed another part to their program, which is called Fear Free Happy Homes. They did this because they recognized that pets actually spend a very small amount of their life in the veterinary hospital and spend a lot more time with their pet owners at home. So Fear Free Happy Homes is working to provide up-to-date, new information about how we can make our house enriching, fun and fulfilling for our pets. They know pets need their emotional well-being taken care of as well.

At home, Debbie has four dogs and tries to make her home a Fear Free Happy Home. She does this by setting a routine with her dogs so that she is giving them physical exercise and is not exhausting them. Some people say a tired dog is a good dog, but according to Debbie that's not always necessarily true. Sometimes a tired dog is a sore dog or an irritable dog. So she takes her dogs out for a "sniff" walk, where they walk out on the back part of her property. She then lets them smell and take in all those scents that they are picking up. She wishes they could tell her what they smell and what's been there! This is their physical as well exploratory activity.

SnuffleDebbie also tries to rotate how she feeds them. Instead of just putting their food in a bowl, she uses a lot of different puzzle toys. One such toy that her dogs really like as a snuffle mat. It's really easy for her to just put the food on the snuffle mat, put it down and they get to eat it. It makes them use their nose to find every little last kibble.

Debbie also spends social time with her dogs, making sure that she spends several minutes every day, just one on one with each of her dogs, doing something that they enjoy. This gives them special time with mom and your time is the biggest gift you can give your animals.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Enrichment In The Home During The Winter - Dr. E'Lise Christensen  

Dr. Elise Christensen is on Animal RadioDr. E'Lise Christensen, Fear Free and Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist.

During the summer you take your dogs outside with you to the beach, parks, etc. But now that the weather has gotten colder and there is snow on the ground, especially in the North and the East, it's a little bit harder to exercise your pets. So what do you do with your animals during the wintertime? They can go bonkers with cabin fever. Dr. E'Lise Christensen is a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist, in fact the only board certified veterinary behaviorist in both Colorado and New York City, and she has tips on how to enrich your pet's life during the winter and why is enrichment so important in the first place.

Dr. Christensen explains that enrichment is really important because when we look at our domestic animals that live in our homes, the reality is that even though they may have been domesticated for thousands of years, they still have very basic needs that many of us don't actually meet on a daily basis. We kind of assume that because our life is busy and we are doing many things that we choose to do, that our animals are also being mentally challenged and getting to choose to participate in specific activities. But the reality is that animals that feel like there isn't that much to do, may either start doing a lot of stuff that you don't want them to do because it's interesting for them, or they may actually shut down and do nothing.

So does this mean that Dr. Christensen sees more behavior problems in the winter time because people are less likely to get out with their animals? She explains that the difference here would be unruly behaviors versus true behavioral disorders. Unruly behaviors are normal behaviors that are species specific that people don't like. So for instance, jumping up on people to lick their faces is a very normal behavior of dogs. That is part of their suite of behaviors that comes with them genetically and one of the things that we alternately punish and alternately reinforce, sometimes within five seconds. So that is a behavior. Those types of behaviors are ones that are particularly vulnerable to getting worse when enrichment is low, because all these normal behaviors have nowhere to go. So the dogs and cats find new places to utilize these behaviors and usually they do things that people don't like. So when people are not actively getting their animals out to explore the world or providing enrichment and play opportunities that are variable, you can definitely see these unruly behaviors escalate.

To enrich your pet's life, you can go out and buy toys and puzzles, which Dr. Christensen encourages you to do to play with your pet. But the great thing is that there are so many ways you can enrich your animal's life. Even things as simple, although some people might find this whole gross, as picking up something off the street that's new and interesting and bringing it in and allowing your animal to sniff it. This works specially for dogs, because they're very olfactory in nature. That is their major sense, because the way they see the world is through their nose. So if you bring in some things that are new and interesting to them, you've just opened up a book for them, literally. You can also give them an opportunity to binge on a TV show. Another thing is to give them things like toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls, as well as boxes, to play with. Of course if you have a pet that might swallow cardboard, you wouldn't do that. However, letting your dog rip open a box and solving a puzzle can be a really great way to enrich your pet - and it's free.

Dr. Christensen explains that even though it might be snowing, or it has snowed, there are still ways to provide enrichment outside. One way is to sprinkle some of their kibble around in the snow and let them look for it. You could even feed them their whole meal that way. This is really the true enrichment, because dogs would normally be searching for their food and spend a fair amount of time per day doing so. So anything you can do to help them spend more time looking for their food, is sort of like you walking an extra 15 minutes for the best bakery versus just going around the corner for a crappy one.

So what does the expert do for her own dog during the winter to enrich their life? Unfortunately Dr. Christensen's elderly dog recently passed away. But enrichment for her, because she was a small elderly dog with cognitive dysfunction, was very gentle. So what you want to do in the case of these older dogs or cats is to provide them enrichment at the level that they're able to do it. So for instance, if you are an older person and at age 73 you used to love doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, but now maybe you're 89 and it's just a little too much. So maybe we backtrack to something a little bit easier, where the reinforcement rate is higher, so you can answer those word puzzles very quickly. Same thing goes for our dogs and cats.

When you have older animals, you may give them something like a snuffle mat, which is a very soft kind of rug that's specifically made for animals for foraging behavior. You just sprinkle the kibble, or whatever treats you might be using, in there. You then ruffle it up so that they fall down in between the pile of fabric pieces. To get the food, your animal has to nose around, just like they would if they were a dog visiting a garbage dump. This is where dogs mostly hang out if they're lucky enough to be close to some high intensity resource like that and they would be shuffling around in there all day. We can now emulate that essentially by providing a snuffle mat, because nobody wants a garbage dump in their house.

These are all fabulous ideas and for those of you that are just sitting down and looking at your dog in the corner who wants to do something, go out and enrich their lives.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home Fear Free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Fear Free Trainer Certification - Mikkel Becker  

Mikkel Becker is on Animal RadioMikkel Becker, Lead Trainer for Fear Free Pets

Over the past year, there have been many veterinarians who have become Fear Free Certified along with pet owners who are making their homes Fear Free Happy Homes. Now, certified behaviorist and dog trainer Mikkel Becker is joining us to talk about Fear Free Training.

The Fear Free movement is trying to make veterinary care more like pediatric dentistry or pediatric medicine. This has changed so much from when we were younger and many of us were manhandled and manipulated, threatened and abused. Now, these offices are geared towards children to make them comfortable and relaxed to where they actually enjoy going. This is what they are trying to do for our pets.

The Fear Free Happy Homes movement is set to do two things. One is to reduce fear anxiety and stress in the home. The other thing is to increase enrichment activities.

Now, we have Fear Free Certified Trainers. It's directed primarily towards dogs and cats. However, the Fear Free Certified Training Course really encompasses all species. The course is for trainers that have gone through certain educational courses or have certain level of certification. This is done for the veterinary professionals who partner with the Fear Free animal trainer as well as for pet parents. This allows them to find a trainer who has those credentials and allows them to separate them from maybe those who don't have the same level of knowledge or the same type of commitment to protecting the pet’s emotional well-being. That’s one of the main reasons that they really wanted to find trainers that they could train in Fear Free, but who were also already at the level that they really wanted and knew that pet owners could trust.

Mikkel Becker is on Animal RadioSo what sort of pet owners should seek out professional training? Mikkel tells us that all pet owners should think about professional training. She states that training is very beneficial both preventively and also if you're dealing with an issue. Preventively, when you look at Fear Free, it's much better if you can teach your dog, your cat, your pig, or your bird, whatever it is that you have, to enjoy veterinary care and home husbandry care. This includes things like giving medication or just doing normal grooming and making everything positive from the start. So both preventively, but also if you're dealing with issues and you already have fear, anxiety and stress, the time is now, whether it's something that you do early on or if you're already tackling an issue.

How does the Fear Free message make a difference in training and behavior? Mikkel explains that it makes a huge difference because it's all about both the physical and the emotional well-being of pets. In the past, there has been some separation between veterinary professionals and trainers and the Fear Free Course encompasses both. It takes both those reputable trainers and veterinary professionals and merges them together. This enables them to form a collaboration and a partnership where pet owners are better served because their animals are receiving care both for their physical well-being through veterinary care and also their emotional well-being.

So how can you find a certified trainer? Mikkel says go to where you will find a searchable directory. You can then search by the professional type, whether you want a trainer or if you need a veterinary professional. You can also search by your location and find those that are closest to you.

If you are an animal trainer and would like to become Fear Free Certified, you can also go to to find information about the course.

Mikkel is very excited about this new course and says it has been months in the making. It has been a collaboration with a lot of really highly skilled professionals and there's some really good content for everyone.

Mikkel has many training tips and gives one of her favorite tips for pet owners. She says one of the best things that you can do when you are grooming your pet, whether it is a dog or a cat, is to have a non-slip surface on the bottom of the sink or the tub where you’re bathing your pet. Whenever a pet slides and slips, it's really scary for them. One of the easiest ways to make bath time less frightening is to have a non-slip surface underneath them, which will make them feel a lot more comfortable and calm.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

The Fear Free Exam Room - Dr. Julie Reck DVM  

Dr. Julie Reck is on Animal RadioDr. Julie Reck, Veterinarian and Author of Facing Farewell

Dr. Julie Reck opened the Veterinary Medical Center of Fort Mill, South Carolina in 2011. Her practice grew quickly and she now has a bustling practice with four full time associate veterinarians.

As her practice grew, Dr. Reck also wanted to cultivate the type of medicine and services that were offered. She worked hard to become AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) Certified, which is a voluntary action in veterinary medicine.

However, when the Fear Free Movement emerged onto the scene in veterinary medicine, she was really quick to see that this was a direction that the veterinary profession needed to head in. She quickly got eighteen people, everyone who is involved in handling animals in her office, Fear Free Certified. She is very proud to have achieved that. Now they are all getting ready to work on their level two certifications and get the practice officially Fear Free Certified when that launches in 2018.

Dr. Reck now has 'fear free exam rooms' in her office. So what does that mean? She tells us it's all about setting the stage for an excellent experience; not only for pets, but also for their clients.

It goes back to really good communication leading up to the appointment. So they go over important things like the benefit of bringing a stool sample in with each appointment. They may or may not use it, but now they don't have to be invasive and retrieve that from an animal. That's one very negative experience that they don't have to have every single time they visit the vet. So they certainly appreciate it.

Also, when an animal comes into their practice, they have their lobby and exam rooms full of what are called pheromones. These are little diffusers that they plug in. Dogs and cats have their own specific calming pheromones and receptors that are unique to each species.

Cats can't smell the dog ones dogs can't smell the cat ones. Humans can’t smell either one. These oftentimes have an immediate calming effect on their patients. They also have either bandanas for dogs or towels for cats that are infused with pheromones as well as calming scents like lavender, or chamomile essential oils that clients can pick from.

They put a bandanna right on the dogs they as soon as they arrive. So they're not only getting the layering of pheromones, they also get the pheromones dissipated through the air in the exam room and wearing that on the bandanas. For cats they have the pheromones on a towel. When they open up the carrier door, the towel also has catnip on it.

The other aspect of a fear for exam room is that they do very little of their exams actually on an exam table. Both Dr. Reck and her staff members actually get down on the ground with their patients. That's where they're most comfortable. Sometimes Dr. Reck has even examined pets in her client's laps or on the bench sitting next to a client. So ultimately the other big aspect of a Fear Free Exam Room is that the pet gets to choose where they're getting examined and what they're comfortable with.

When Dr. Reck learned about Fear Free last year, she made a decision that this would be a great thing for everyone in her practice to get some additional training on. She really just thought they were all going to go through these 10 modules and get on the same page with animal handling. It would be a little extra investment in all of their individual training and that would be fantastic. However, she said she really underestimated the fact that she was going to be embarking on massive organizational changes in her practice and what turned out to be organizational change in the best direction possible.

It’s also really completely changed the culture of her practice. The veterinary field is hard. They suffer from compassion fatigue and burnout, which can have a negative undertone. They’re always looking for ways in this profession to combat that. And what was so surprising was that she really embarked on her Fear Free journey for the obvious pet benefit. However, she had no idea that it was actually going to benefit them as professionals, make them fall in love with their jobs more, make them feel more fulfilled and more rewarded and have a positive impact in their practice. Ultimately to Dr. Reck, the real gem of Fear Free is not just what it can give their patients but what it can give them as professionals.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Fear Free for Pet Owners and Enrichment - Steve Dale  

Steve Dale is on Animal RadioSteve Dale, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant

Steve Dale, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and host of his own pet show, talks about the Fear Free Movement. The Fear Free Movement makes veterinary visits easier for your pets and now there's Fear Free Happy Homes. Steve provides us with tips on ways to make your home Fear Free too.

Before the Fear Free movement had it's name, Steve Dale and the other veterinary behaviorists, including Dr. Sophia Yin and Dr. R.K. Anderson, were practicing this type of veterinary medicine, but it did not have the marketing term Fear Free.

One day at a veterinary conference, the brilliant Dr. Marty Becker came up to Steve and said, "I have an idea!" His idea was the Fear Free Movement and Steve instantly got it. In fact, Steve is not even sure he let all the words fall out of Dr. Becker's mouth before he interrupted and said, "I get it!" because he had been talking about this sort of thing for a very long time.

What Dr. Becker did, however, was encompass the sorts of things Steve had been talking about, even the architecture of exam rooms in veterinary clinics with the latest research that's out there. This included what colors pets may prefer along with the idea of playing classical music in the clinic.

Steve tells is that the concept of Fear Free really begins in homes. He's so glad that Dr. Becker also began this notion of Fear Free Happy Homes.

One example of a Fear Free Happy home involves the cat. The carrier comes out and where is your cat? He's out of there! Steve says even if they do build that wall to Mexico, the cat's going to climb over it. And by the time, even if you can do it, run all over your house, grab the cat who's screaming and stuff them into the carrier (there are people that can't physically do that), but even if you can get that done, by the time you get them to the veterinary office there isn't much even the best veterinarian on earth can do to calm that cat down at that point. And in fact, Steve believes that many cats and dogs at the veterinary clinic believe they are going to die. That's how bad it is.

Now imagine this, the carrier comes out and the cat just hops in. Or, you drive to the veterinary clinic, you jump out of the car and your dog is actually dragging you into the clinic. Life can really be that way!

What can you do so that you don't freak out your cat every time you pull the carrier out? Steve says it is easier to train a young kitten, but it doesn't matter how old your cat is you can still desensitize them and counter condition them to the carrier.

Steve says it takes some patience, but what you do is take out the carrier and leave it out as if it is a piece of furniture. Your cat will probably take a wide berth walking around it. But eventually they get adjusted to the fact that the carrier is just there like the sofa is just there. Over time, begin to drop some treats randomly into the carrier, so the carrier becomes a treat dispenser. So now your cat will periodically investigate it and wonder if there's going to be something really good inside. Next you begin to do is feed your cat just outside the carrier and work up to feeding them inside the carrier.

When your cat is comfortable eating inside the carrier, you're actually going to close the zipper with them in it. Just walk all the way into the next room. Then let the cat out of the carrier and feed them. This shows them that good things happen after they have been in the carrier.

Fast-forward the clock a little bit. You've given the cat a tour of your house. You've gone upstairs and downstairs, to this room and that room. The cat gets fed. The cat is not complaining. The cat voluntarily goes into the carrier because the cat knows they will get fed afterwards.

After you've got your cat conditioned to walking around the house, next you take your cat down to the car. These steps are also slow. You just start the car but go nowhere. You go back to the house and your cat gets fed after being in the carrier in the car. Eventually you drive down the driveway. Then you drive down the block. Then you drive around the block. Then you go to the veterinary clinic, but nothing happens there except the cat gets a treat or two. You go back home and your cat gets fed. This does take some doing, but it's totally worth it.

If you have a kitten, Steve's secret is finding somewhere in your area where they have kitten socialization classes. Or take it upon yourself, if you happen to have a kitten between the ages of eight and fifteen weeks, as it's really easy. Kittens just don't care. Put them into the carrier and go to the vet clinic. Give your kittens some treats. Do it again and again. The kitten will be absolutely fine with that or enroll them in a kitten socialization class. If you keep this up throughout the kitten's life, as the kittens becomes an adult cat, you've got it made.

We also have some tools available to help our cat during stressful times, which we didn't have five or ten years ago. One is Feliway, which mimics a cat's natural pheromone. When cats rub their cheeks pads against the table leg or against your leg, what they're doing is depositing a pheromone. That pheromone, translated from cat language means, "Ooh, I'm comfortable and happy to be here." Feliway comes in either spray or wipes. You just spray or wipe the Feliway into the carrier about 15 minutes before the cat goes into the carrier for all these dress rehearsals and you've got a less anxious cat.

Steve has owned pets for many years, so how has his personal experience at the hospital changed?
Steve says he cheats, because he has been a behavior consultant, which has been a passion of his for a very long time. He believes that cats are under-medicalized in this country. He says there are many reasons behind that and he can define exactly what those reasons are. He states the biggest most considerable reason from a cat caretaker's perspective is simply getting them there in the first place, which is so very difficult to do.

He goes on to say that the best veterinarian on the planet cannot treat a cat or a dog that's not coming in. You just can't diagnose an animal you're not seeing, no matter how good you are. So getting them there has been of prime importance to Steve for years. Steve has also been teaching kitten socialization classes for a very long time now and practices what he preaches.

For dogs, if you have a local business in your area that offers cookies to the dogs, when the dogs go by that place they will drag you and take you for a walk to get there. Steve states that this is how his own dogs now feel about going to the veterinary clinic.

So once you have a Fear Free Happy Home, why is it so imperative that pet owners seek out a Fear Free veterinarian? Steve explains that there are so many reasons for that, with the primary reason being that they don't need to feel terrified or like they are going to die.

In Steve's career, he's met perhaps thousands of veterinarians and thousands of veterinary nurses. He's never met one that hasn't gone into the business to help companion animals. But when our pets are terrified, their hearts break and the hearts break of the people that are bringing them in. This leads to a stressed owner and a stressed pet. This vicious cycle doesn't even have to begin. We can do better than that. Doing better than that isn't only on the veterinary profession. It's on all of us as well.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Creating A Fear Free Happy Home - Dr. Marty Becker  

Dr. Marty Becker is on Animal RadioDr. Marty Becker, America's Favorite Veterinarian and founder of Fear Free Pets

Dr. Marty Becker is the father of Fear Free. While some veterinarians have been practicing this for a while, he's the guy who put it all together and is certifying veterinarians across the country. Now Dr. Becker is bringing it into your household so you can have a Fear Free Happy Home. He's doing this by teaching you how to enrich your pet's life.

The Fear Free Movement has been amazing. Dr. Becker states many veterinarians and veterinary technicians have become involved in this and are becoming certified. But there are things we can do at home to make our homes fear free happy as well.

It's no surprise that many people have behavior problems with their pets. They either know somebody, or they themselves have a pet that hates to go the vet and hates to go to the groomer. These animals have issues of emotional well-being, whether it's separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobias or some other kind of noise phobias.

What Fear Free Happy Homes is set to do is two things. One is to reduce fear anxiety and stress in the home. And the other thing is to increase enrichment activities.

Dr. Becker grew up on a farm and ranch in Southern Idaho. When you think of Southern Idaho you think of potatoes. And yes one of the crops he grew were famous Idaho potatoes. But back then dogs had a job to do. They had a utilitarian role and so did cats. The dogs herded cattle. They alarmed bark when somebody came over and they retrieved ducks for the hunters. The cats were barn cats, they were mousers protecting the grain. What has happened over the 40 years that Dr. Becker has been a veterinarian is that cats have gone from mousers to moochers and dogs have gone from guard dogs to lard dogs.

Think of this, the wild canine, like wolves, fox and coyotes, spend 80-percent of their waking hours in pursuit of food. Our dogs at home spend three minutes to eat. So the rest of the time they are bored. When we were growing up, we got the message that to have a pet you needed to have food, water, shelter and veterinary care. Shelter for pets sounds funny now, but years ago dogs and cats were mostly outdoors. Now we think of a doghouse as three bedrooms, a wide screen TV and a spa.

We've got our pets inside and now enrichment is the big thing. Unfortunately zoos do a better job of enrichment than we do at home with our pets. You go to a zoo, you go to a marine park, you see the focus on enrichment. We now have an obligation to do this for our family pets. What we are doing is not only returning a portion of what they give to us, but we reduce obesity, we decrease behavior problems, we just don't feed the body we also feed and stimulate their minds. Dr. Becker says he calls it helping pets live happy healthy full lives. ‘Happy' is fear free, ‘healthy' is high tech veterinary medicine and ‘full' is enrichment.

The first thing you need to do to achieve this is by throwing away the food bowls and using food puzzles or food dispensing devices. Dr. Becker's two favorites for dogs are Kong Genius and the Green Interactive Feeder. You can buy in both in pet stores or online.

The second thing he suggests is to teach them new tricks so you're constantly adding to their repertoire. Maybe there's a different trick every quarter. Frequently, and by this he means a couple of times a week, have them go through the standard tricks like to sit, to lie down, to play dead, jump through your arms and speak. Once you get your dog to do these basics, everybody will think about how smart your dog is. You can do the same thing for cats. Dr. Becker has a new little 12-week-old kitten. He claims it's like having a Cirque de Soleil performer in the house. Their little bodies are built for movement. They're very athletic. Their brains are exquisitely put together to detect, apprehend, kill and eat. So Dr. Becker is training his kitten to stand on its hind legs and to jump through his arms.

So the basics for a Fear Free Happy Home are using food-dispensing devices, making sure you do tricks with them and then try to find something to activate what's in their DNA. So if you have a retriever, retrieve. If you have a scent animal, do some kind of scent training. If it's a dog that likes to burn off calories, you might take it swimming or running. If you have a Labrador Retriever , there's nothing better than for them to retrieve a floating ball and a body of water.

The Fear Free Happy Homes website is really the only place on the web where you can find cutting edge resources to equip pet owners with everything they need to give their pets a full circle of a happy healthy and fear free life. It's the only place where the content is authenticated and based on clinical studies, not on a best guestimate or hyperbole, by two-thirds of the Boarded Veterinary Behaviorists and the Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists in the world.

Registration is free and when you're a member, you get these exclusive deals on Fear Free products as well as articles about enrichment, exercise and at home care.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Handling For Pet Owners At Home And At The Vet’s Office - Mikkel Becker  

Mikkel Becker is on Animal RadioMikkel Becker, Lead Trainer for Fear Free Pets

Mikkel Becker is a certified dog behavior counselor as well as a Karen Pryor Certified Training Partner. She also has certifications through different dog training organizations like the Association of Pet Dog Trainers as both a behavior counselor and a dog trainer.

Mikkel says she has been very blessed to be able to have that kind of educational experience. She states it's just something where she feels like you can never learn enough and that there's just so much to learn.

Even with all of these certifications, Mikkel says the biggest and most important certification that she has is the Fear Free Certification.

The Fear Free Movement is trying to make veterinary care more like pediatric dentistry or pediatric medicine. This has changed so much from when we were younger and many of us were manhandled and manipulated, threatened and abused. Now, these offices are geared towards children to make them comfortable and relaxed to where they actually enjoy going. This is what they are trying to do for our pets.

So how do you get a fearful pet to the vet? This is a big hurdle for lots of people. Mikkel claims that there's not just one way that is a quick fix. It really depends upon the animal in figuring out what it is that's distressing for them.

For some animals, especially for cats, it's the carrier. The carrier itself is very concerning and we need to make it more comforting to the animal. You should always leave it out, along with your other furniture, or what Mikkel calls “purr-niture.” You know how it goes, we take the carrier out from the closet and the cat knows exactly what is going to happen. They then run and hide. You can even make it your cat's regular bed, the place that they like to hang out in.

You also want the carrier to be a big surprise in what's going to be in there. You can have little Hansel and Gretel type treat trails or toy type trails leading into it or even catnip. You want your cat to want to go inside. You can also almost make it like a cardboard box. Cats love boxes and they love to hide and love to feel secure where they have comfort on all sides. You can actually use that natural tendency in the way of getting them more comfortable with their carrier before you actually have to use it.

Many veterinarians are now Fear Free Certified. One method to teach veterinarians to be Fear Free is for them to observe an animal's body language and figuring out how stressed they are. And of course those animals are not going to be as comfortable in a lot of situations, like during a procedure, as they may be at home crashed out on the couch where they're just super relaxed. Maybe they won't be to that degree of relaxation, but what we really want to see is that pet in a really comfortable state. So we don't want to see any elevated degree of stress. And if we do see that, what we do is attend to those signs and try and get the animal to feel more comfortable.

This might be working with them in a way that they are most comfortable with. So rather than invading their space, for instance, or going right up to a dog that might be hiding underneath the chair, its seeing if there's a way that we can get the dog to come out on their own. It also involves actually setting up areas that an animal will naturally just gravitate to. For instance, for cats we may even have a slightly warm towel that is placed on the counter. That can be really helpful. So what we do is we just attend to their emotional state, as there are different levels of fear, anxiety and stress.

What are some simple methods of gentle control that we can use as pet owners?

Mikkel states that one of the biggest ones is in how we pet our pets. Sometimes it's a big surprise when all a sudden a hand reaches out and touches an animal. Have you ever noticed that when you go to pet your dog or your cat, if they don't know you're coming, it can be like “whoa” and they might jump back? One thing that we can do is to give them a cue to tell them that we're going to pet them. Sometimes she uses the word “pet.” She will then start off in an area where the animal is comfortable.

For cats, she will usually go towards their cheek area and put her hand out and let them naturally rub into her hand or start in a more neutral area such as right behind their ears.

For a dog, that neutral area is usually around the chest area or the side of their shoulder. Once we have initiated that first touch, and a lot of times we're giving treats with it to make it positive, then we can start to slide to those other areas that we want to handle.

So rather than just immediately going for your dog's paws or your cat's paws for a nail trim, instead what you can do is to use a key word such as "pet" and start in that comfortable area where the animal is okay being touched. You can then slide down to the other area versus putting your hands off and on the animal. You should think of it like a massage, where the masseuse keeps one hand on you as they do the massage. This makes it less of a surprise when they move, because you have an idea of where they're going. Just like how you would handle and walk around a horse. You keep your hand on them and we can do the same exact thing with our dogs and cats. It's very helpful, less of a surprise, more predictable and we can make it a positive experience for them.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Fear Free Experience For Pet Owners and Pets - Dr. Kathryn Primm  

Dr. Kathryn Primm is on Animal RadioDr. Kathryn Primm, owner of Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, TN.

Dr. Kathryn Primm has the honor of being the first Fear Free Certified Veterinarian in the nation. The “Fear Free” movement, developed by Dr. Marty Becker, aims to “take the ‘pet’ out of ‘petrified’” and get pets back for veterinary visits by promoting considerate approach and gentle control techniques used in calming environments.

It was very important to Dr. Primm that she become the first to be certified because she really felt like the fear and the anxiety and stress in her patients was impacting every part of her job. She had longed for a way to make this better. When she heard Dr. Marty Becker talking about the whole Fear Fee idea, she thought it was a complete game changer and she couldn't wait to make it happen in her practice.

Think about it, years ago when you tried to take your dog to the veterinarian; you probably had to pull them, as they usually put the brakes on. You probably couldn't even get them into the car. They knew what was going on and then when they got there, it was just an unpleasant experience, but Fear Free has changed that. Now when you go to a Fear Free vet, it's a whole different experience that your dog enjoys and who knows, they might even put the brakes on when you try to get them out of there.

Dr. Primm explains that being Fear Free makes her day so much better because her patients are happy to see her and because she loves animals. Which is why she went to vet school in the first place.

What is the first thing that you would notice if you went to a Fear Free vet? Dr. Primm states that she’s not sure if there's any one thing, because each pet is an individual and they appreciate different parts of all the things that they do. But in her online reviews, people very frequently mention that they give a whole lot of treats. Dr. Primm tells her clients all the time that she’s not afraid to bribe the animals.

One of Fear Free’s quotes is “Putting Treat into Treatment.” So why is “treating” important for a positive experience? Dr. Primm states that if you think about the way memories are formed, you develop associations. She is always telling people that when she was 17, she worked at a toy store and served as seasonal help at Christmas. She claims there is nothing like a huge toy department store at Christmas time and the smell of that huge toy department store, even to this day, will trigger some associations for her. So we develop associations and a Fear Free veterinarian wants those associations to be good.

We know that dogs and cats love going to a Fear Free vet, but what do pet owners like about Fear Free? Dr. Primm tells us she receives a lot of really positive reviews on Google and several of her clients have mentioned that they like the fact that she’s willing to get down on the floor with their pets to do their examination. She loves doing that, because then she really gets to interact with the pet and she gets to love them, pet them, cuddle them and make them feel comfortable, and that's the best part.

When asked to give us one story that drove home the change Fear Free has made for Dr. Primm, she tells us about the most amazing story that just happened recently. She was in a room with a client who had a new puppy. It was there for its second visit. The client said to her, “Do you remember when I had my previous dog, I would always leave the room when you did things?” Dr. Primm really hadn't thought about it, but then she remembered that they had put an alert on her chart that she liked to leave the room. Everyone just assumed she was afraid of the needles.

The client told her that she didn’t have a needle phobia, but that she had an anxious and horrible experience at a veterinary hospital as a child. After that, whenever she had to go to a veterinary hospital as a child, she would pass out. Now, as an adult, she doesn’t pass out any more. But ever since Dr. Primm implemented these Fear Free changes, she can be a part of her baby's health care and she can stay in the room because she knows her dog’s going to have a good time and she’s going to have a good time, and it has changed her life. The client even got a little bit choked up telling her about it and it even gave Dr. Primm chills. It made such a big difference for her client.

Dr. Primm would recommend all veterinarians definitely become Fear Free Certified.
She states not only does it help her patients it also helps her be happier as she now wants to go into those exam rooms because it's fun again. It's also good for her business because of all the excellent reviews that they've gotten and all of the positive changes they've seen because of it.

If you would like to find a Fear Free Certified professional in your area, you can go to and type in your zip code. It will tell you if you have a Fear Free Certified professional in your area. If you don’t, mention it to your veterinary hospital or your veterinary professionals and encourage them to become Fear Free.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Why Is Understanding Our Dog’s Body Language So Vital? - Debbie Martin  

Debbie Martin is on Animal RadioDebbie Martin, Licensed Veterinary Technician - Certified Dog Trainer - Fear Free Certified Professional Level 2

Debbie Martin teaches at the Karen Pryor Academy. She's a certified training partner and she knows just about everything about dog behavior and how to read your own dog's body language.

Many people are oblivious to actually understanding what our pets are saying with their behavior. Animals can't just yap out when they're feeling hungry or upset, but they do show it with their bodies. Unfortunately most of us don't know how to interpret that.

Why is it important understand your pet's body language anyway?

Debbie explains that its really important that owners can read their pet’s body language, whether it be a dog or a cat, because its their main mode of communication to humans. Animals communicate in a variety of different ways through vocalizations as well as smell or scent within their species. But their main mode of communication for people is really going to be body language. These are things that we can pick up on as pet parents and advocates for our pets so we can recognize when they're feeling relaxed and happy about something or when they might be a little bit nervous or anxious.

What are some common signs of distress and anxiety?

There are obvious signs that are going to happen when an animal is trying to get away from a situation. It could be that their tails are tucked really tight underneath them, they're frozen with fear, they're trembling or their ears are back. Those are very obvious signs that animal is distressed or nervous or anxious, but there can be very subtle signs that lead up to that as well. Its important that we're aware of these signs so that we can perhaps change the environment or the interaction that's happening so our animal doesn't become overly distressed.

Some of the subtle signs are such things like licking their lips, avoiding eye contact, maybe turning their head away or moving away slightly. It could be panting when they're not hot or being active. Sometimes we'll see dogs do things like the “wet dog shake” when they are playing roughly with another dog. They may all of a sudden stop and shake off even though they're not wet. This is kind of a stress reliever for them. So these can be kind of subtle things that are happening that could just say our dogs a little bit nervous or anxious or it could be higher arousal.

What's really important to realize is that body language tells part of the story. But the other part is context. Looking at the context of when it's happening. So for example, if a stranger approaches your dog and the dog looks away, licks his lips and maybe does a wet dog shake and starts to turn away from that person, your dog is probably saying, “Hey I'm not quite comfortable interacting with this person right now.” And we shouldn't force the issue.

So does a wagging tail always mean that a dog is happy and is approachable?

Not always. It depends how the tail wags, according to Debbie. Then again there is the context. Is it in the natural position that that dog will carry its tail? This can get tricky because dog tails come in a variety different shapes and sizes and carriage. Some dogs carry them naturally really high over their back and some don't even have tails, which make it even more challenging. But others are going to have just kind of normal tail carriage.

You need to be able to recognize your own dog's body language, like where their tail is when you come home and they're happy to see you. What does that look like? It should be kind of wag back and forth. That's a fairly neutral position and its not way up high over their back, unless that's how your dog normally carries their tail. There are breeds of dogs that their tails curl up over their back and so it doesn't always apply depending on the breed or the combination of breeds that your dog has within them.

There is one thing that Debbie always sees people do that she wishes they would stop. She states that there’s this misconception that we need to put our hand out for a strange dog to smell us so that they can kind of get to know us. However, dogs can smell us from a mile away. A dog can smell a human fingerprint on a pane of glass six weeks later. You don't need to put your hand out!

When you put your hand out, in dog language that is getting into their personal space maybe before they're ready. Debbie’s biggest tip for people is to play hard to get even with dogs that seem interested in you. Act very nonchalant. Avoid eye contact. Turn sideways and let them approach you on their own terms instead of trying to be their friend right away. Because even the most well intentioned friendly person can put a dog off very quickly by getting into their face and trying to be their best friend immediately.

Just think if you were out walking and someone said hello to you. You would probably say it back and that would be fine. But if they ran up right into your face and tried to give you a little hug, you would be pretty overwhelmed. It's no different with dogs.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Tips for Fighting Fear, Anxiety & Stress at Home - Dr. Lisa Radosta  

Dr. Lisa Radosta is on Animal RadioDr. Lisa Radosta, owner Florida Veterinary Behavior Service

Dr. Lisa Radosta explains what causes fear, anxiety, and stress in our pets? How does this fear, anxiety, and stress affect them? Why is it so important that we address the fear, anxiety, and stress in our pets? What is one simple thing we can do to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in our pets?

Do you ever wonder what your new pet, be it a cat, dog, bunny, etc., thinks about when they go into a veterinary hospital for the first time? Most of them will be naive as to what is going to happen and will probably be pretty open to the experience. They may think the vet seems nice and decide to just let the experience happen. But once they get poked and prodded, even in the name of helping them, they may think the doctor is up to no good.

Unless there is no effort, or even if there is just a little effort but not enough to immediate that fear, which can grow and snowball very quickly, most of the pets (about 80%) are afraid of going back. They also want to leave immediately after the examination is done.

So how does this fear affect our pets? Think about how it feels when you are scared. When humans or animals are scared, there is a physiologic stress response, which is outside of anyone’s control. It starts in the brain and the neurotransmitters in the brain control that entire body. It starts in a nanosecond and that entire cascade occurs in seconds. It feels like a tight chest, a stomach that is upset, tense muscles, panting and or a heart that is racing.

Your first response may be to just say get over it. But when it’s physiologic, it’s not a “get over it” moment. It’s a moment where we have to do something external to help the pet get over it.

Over time, this stress can wear a pet down. Imagine if you worked at a job you hated and there was no way you could quit. It’s outside of your control and you had to go every day. Think about how emotionally stressed you would be. Again, we go back to the neurochemical stress response, which snowballs into a chronic stress response. And yes, it beats an animal down. What Dr. Radosta sees, is that these animals have a shorter “fuse” over time, especially at the veterinarian’s office, and it takes less and less for them to act as if they are fighting for their life, to hide under a chair or to urinate or defecate on themselves.

The Fear Free Movement is trying to make veterinary care more like pediatric dentistry or pediatric medicine. This has changed so much from when we were younger and many of us were manhandled and manipulated, threatened and abused. Now, these offices are geared towards children to make them comfortable and relaxed to where they actually enjoy going. This is what they are trying to do for our pets.

We want our pets to live happy lives, as much as we want to live happy lives. There are many things you can do to help your pet, but the most important thing you can do is to understand your pet’s body language better. Our biggest fault as pet parents and as veterinarians is not reading the animal properly.

Dr. Radosta explains that there have been many times when she sat with an owner and told them that their dog’s tail was tucked, which meant he was scared. The pet parents were surprised and didn’t pick up on meaning of this. She states that these are great pet parents and people who truly care about their pets. They just have no clue what those fear signals are.

Dr. Radosta feels that if all pet parents could read their pet well, they would be aware of these signals and awareness is always the first step when you have a problem.

But what can you do at home? Remember, if your home isn’t fear free, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad pet parent. We all have places in our lives where we lack knowledge and this might be a place for a pet parent to grow.

Chronic stress in a home setting has also been linked to other emotional disorders in pets, but also to suppression of the immune system and to some dermatological problems as well.

The number one thing we can do for our pets at home is enrichment, for cats especially! For example, Dr. Radosta is a runner and if she doesn’t get to run, her family actually brings out her running shoes and pushes her out the door, because her attitude is poor. She actually needs this enrichment, and cats and dogs need that as well. Every age, every breed every species, can have an enriched life.

There are other things you can do as well for your pets. For cats, carriers can be left out around the house to become a natural part of the landscape, perhaps sitting out near inviting food or with the top off so that it becomes an intriguing box to investigate. This way, the carrier doesn't suddenly appear as a menacing object that's inevitably associated with a trip to the vet. For dogs, it may be things like basic training, daily walks and food puzzles to challenge their minds.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

Taking The Fear Free Movement Home - Dr. Marty Becker  

Dr. Marty BeckerDr. Marty Becker - Fear Free Founder and America's Favorite Veterinarian

Many veterinarians are practicing "Fear Free." Pets that like going to the veterinarian are generally healthier. Now, the Fear Free movement is coming to your home with ideas for enriching your pet's life everyday. Dr. Marty Becker is back to explain how your pets can live an improved lifestyle.

We have always been concerned with out pets physical well-being. Now we need to also look at their mental well-being. This is where "Fear Free" comes in.

For far too long the veterinary professional has just been focused on physical well-being. This included thinks like vaccinations, parasite control, clean ears and short nails. When an animal was sick or injured, a vet would take care of them.

However, the emotional distress that an animal had was treated like collateral damage. Yes, the owner might have had to literally drag them in; and yes, the cat might fly out of the carrier like a furry jack-in-the box, but they got the job down not matter what it took. In other words, the end justified the means.

Now there is the "Fear Free Movement," which currently is an advisory group of about 175 people. There are only 73-boarded veterinary behaviorists in the country and 53 of them are part of this advisory group. Other people on the board include icons like Temple Grandin, the head of animal cognition at Duke, the head of animal cognition lab at Columbia, the head of animal cognition at Barnard and people that know about the non-human mind.

What they are trying to do is make veterinary care more like pediatric dentistry or pediatric medicine. This has changed so much from when we were younger and many of us were manhandled and manipulated, threatened and abused. Now, these offices are geared towards children to make them comfortable and relaxed to where they actually enjoy going. This is what they are trying to do for our pets.

For veterinarians, there is an online training program that veterinarians can take to make themselves and their office more fear free for their patients. When the Fear Free Movement started, they had hoped to get 1,000 veterinarians and veterinarian technicians the first year. Now fifteen months later, they already have 18,000 signed up.

Dr. Becker tells us a story about a Cur Hound named Clyde. It was Clyde's last day, as he was set to be euthanized. However there is a group back east called the Underhound Railroad, who took Clyde from the south to the north, to a shelter in Pennsylvania. When a police officer, who was severely injured during an arrest and was on full disability saw Clyde, she fell in love with him an adopted him on first sight. This woman then took Clyde through the necessary training to become an assistance animal, like picking things up from the floor, answering the door and bringing her the phone. She also went though the training to have Clyde become a certified therapy dog. So now Clyde is both an assistance animal for her and a therapy dog for others.

However, as part of animal assisted therapy, before going in to nursing homes and hospitals, the animal must have a freshly groomed coat and short nails. The woman then took Clyde to her veterinarian, who she has been with for ten years, and asked them to trim Clyde's nails. She told them that it was very hard for her to do and they assured her that they could do it very easily.

They then took Clyde in the back while she waited. All of a sudden, she hears Clyde screaming, a scream she had never heard before. A few minutes later a technician came out drenched in sweat and looked shell-shocked. She handed her the leash and said Clyde does not like to have his nails trimmed and that it took four of them to do the job. She was then told that Clyde needs to go to a trainer. When she took Clyde to the car, he was covered in urine, feces, anal gland secretions along with the sweat of the people who held him down.

When she got home she called a trainer who had gone through the Fear Free Certification. She then decided to go to a local veterinarian who had also been Fear Free Certified.

Clyde went to the new vet office hungry, because they had really high value food rewards. They had turkey and cheese as well as bacon. Clyde got to go in and had a treat, while lying on a yoga mat infused with pheromones.

Dog with Food PuzzleSince they could gauge his weight, they gave him a small amount of sedative and he was perfectly relaxed. While they gave a pretzel stick with peanut butter on it, they trimmed his nails, and he never stopped wagging his tail. His owner couldn't believe it!

This shows you the difference. A veterinarian office that continues to treat animals like their feelings don't matter and that they need to restrain them with whatever it takes, needs to either change or go out of business.

The Fear Free Movement is being practiced in many veterinary offices, but you can also practice this at home. There is now the "Fear Free Happy Homes" movement.

If you visit a Fear Free veterinarian and even though your dog or cat has a great visit at their office, unfortunately they can still go home and have fear and anxiety. "Fear Free Happy Homes," is reducing fear, anxiety and stress at home and also increasing enrichment activities.

For example, for cats, carriers can be left out around the house to become a natural part of the landscape, perhaps sitting out near inviting food or with the top off so that it becomes an intriguing box to investigate. This way, the carrier doesn't suddenly appear as a menacing object that's inevitably associated with a trip to the vet. For dogs, it may be things like basic training, daily walks and food puzzles to challenge their minds.

Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on making your home fear free and to locate a Fear Free Veterinarian near you. Go to Fear Free Pets to become certified.

Listen to this Fear Free Segment

About Us | Airstaff | AM-FM-XM Radio Affiliates | Community | Home
Affiliate Lounge | Podcast | Contact Us | Advertising
Book Club Reviews | Pet Product Reviews | Newsletter
Copyright 2001-20 Animal Radio® - Animal Radio Network LLC. - Privacy Policy