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Fear Free is a series of training protocols for veterinary professionals, pet owners, and trainers on reducing anxiety, stress, and fear in companion animals. At Laguna Hills Animal Hospital we are proud to be certified in Fear-Free and Low-Stress Handling.

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Fear-Free Certification

When veterinary professionals decide to become Fear-Free Certified, they are showing their commitment to providing their furry patients with veterinary care that strives to lower the fear, anxiety, and stress they may feel when going to the vet.

Our veterinary hospital is Fear-Free Certified and has taken on comprehensive training to create a calm and welcoming environment for cats and dogs. We also learnt how to recognize when an animal is anxious or afraid and requires a more gentle approach.

Our team has also been taught low-stress handling techniques and know how to handle patients in a relaxed, non-threatening way and how to build a calmer, safer and more secure environment for cats and dogs.


Fear-Free & Low-Stress Handling Techniques

Laguna Hills Animal Hospital is committed to lowering stress, anxiety, and fear in our animal patients while providing them with the best possible medical care.

Some of the small things we do to make your cat or dog's experience at our hospital more positive include offering treats, KONGS, mats, and places to hide, letting cats stay in their carriers, or allowing dogs to stay in their family's lap, pre-visit medications when required, as well as modifications in our handling techniques.

Larger Fear-Free and Low-Stress Handling principles have also been incorporated into the design of our animal hospital, including separate areas for dogs and cats.

We believe that following both big and small Fear-Free and Low-Stress Handling principles makes our delivery of patient care and services a more gentle and positive experience for both you and your beloved pet.

From the moment you enter our hospital, we want you to know that you and your furry friend are important to us!

We have worked hard to become certified in Fear-Free and Low-Stress Handling as part of our commitment to providing the highest-quality veterinary care.

We think that your pet will appreciate our Fear-Free and Low-Stress approach.

How We Implement Fear Free

Our hospital is trained in Fear-Free practices and philosophies; there for the basic principles of this approach are implemented throughout our entire clinic and is prioritized second only to the medical care of our patients.

At Laguna Hills Animal Hospital we blend Fear-Free practices with the Low-Stress Handling techniques of Sophia Lin to make sure all of our patients have a relaxed, stress-free experience every time they walk through our doors.

We work with you and your cat or dog to undertake the following steps before and during all of your appointments:

  • Good Communication Between Pets & People

    We begin by understanding and identifying how cats and dogs communicate signs of stress to us.

    These signs could include a handful of subtle and obvious signals, such as a tense expression, dilated pupils, growling, hissing, or tucking their tail — just share a few.

    We also talk to you about the known stressors of your pet such as sounds, scents, discomfort, disease processes and unfamiliar people.

    Getting to know our canine and feline clients and understanding what causes them stress, and how they communicate that stress, helps us better manage it at their appointments.

    We ask all pet owners to talk to us if there is something that causes fear, anxiety or stress (FAS) so we can help!

  • Planning Ahead

    An anxiety-free veterinary appointment begins at home. Let us know if your pet gets stressed going to the vet. We can provide you with suggestions on things you can do at home before your visit. There might be options to send home supplements or medications before your visit to help with car sickness or to help decrease the level of stress your cat or dog feels at the vet.

    Let us know if your pet becomes stressed coming into the lobby or meeting new people or other animals. We can have you wait in your car or at our outside waiting area so you can come directly into the exam room. We have several entrances to help.

    Let us know if your pet does better with male or female vets.

    Cats and small- to medium-sized dogs should come in their carriers. This can be accomplished by leaving the carrier out in an area of the home where your pet likes to be. ​Place a towel over the top of the carrier to help create a safe place with familiar scents.

    The carrier should be outfitted with toys, soft, comfortable bedding or a non-slip mat, and should have a top-off option to make it more accessible.

    You can also spray cat or dog pheromones in the carrier or, for larger dogs, onto a bandana.

    If you are transporting a medium to large dog, you must use an approved restraint device in the car. The drive to the vet can be kept low-stress with calm music or silence and avoiding hard starts or stops. 

    You can also bring your cat or dog's favorite treats or toys to your visit.

  • A Calm, Quiet Environment

    At our veterinary office, we do our best to maintain a calm, quiet, and positive atmosphere.

    To help lower your pet's stress in the waiting area, keep cats and dogs separate as best as you can. Cat carriers should be kept off of the floor and on a sturdy table or chair. Keep your dog on their leas and close to your side to minimize interaction with other pets in the waiting area.

    When you arrive, you and your pet will receive a warm and friendly welcome. We want you to know that you are important to us.

    As dogs and cats are often sensitive to loud noises and quick movements, during the appointment, our veterinary team will remain calm, speak in quiet voices and approach your pet in a slow, careful manner.

  • Treats & Toys

    To encourage a positive experience and decreased fear, stress  and anxiety during appointments, rewards such as treats, toys or petting/brushing can be used during an exam or when obtaining diagnostics as long as it is not contraindicating why your pet is at the hospital.

    We have treats throughout the hospital, but if your cat or dog is on a special diet, we suggest that you bring their treats or food with you to your appointment.

  • Sedation & Restraint Options

    We are trained in Low-Stress Handling techniques and a considerate approach. We use treats, petting, and toys as distractions. Owners can stay with their pets during procedures (excluding sedation, anesthesia, X-rays and while the hospital is closed). Our team will direct you on how you can play a part in your pet's treatment to help lower your pet's stress and to keep everyone safe during the procedure.

    Sometimes, we will reschedule a procedure if a become becomes stressed. This lets us send you home with medications before performing the procedures.

    If restraint is needed during a procedure, our trained staff might use a towel wrap, a muzzle, or an Elizabethan collar to make sure the patient is safe and comfortable during the process. A mild sedative might be recommended to ensure that the procedure can be completed safely and is less stressful for the patient.

    If you already know that your pet experiences anxiety or stress when visiting the vet, it could be beneficial for the veterinarian to provide you with a mild sedative to give to your pet at home before the appointment

  • Fear-Free Overnight Stays

    Our veterinary team has guidelines in place to minimize stress during overnight stays.

    We work to minimize smells and loud noises, and we place calming pheromone diffusers around the hospital.

    We also sometimes use soft music or white noise machines to interfere with any sudden noises. Lights are kept low and pets are given soft bedding and places to hide to make them more comfortable.

    If we need to move your pet around in the hospital — for an exam, procedure, or a walk outside — it is done slowly and calmly, avoiding interactions with other patients. Mild sedatives or anti-anxiety medications may be used in the hospital to reduce stress during the stay.

New Patients Welcome

Laguna Hills Animal Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our vets are friendly, experienced, and passionate about caring for the health of the cats and dogs in Laguna Woods. Contact us today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

Contact (949) 837-7333