Indy animal hospital becomes first practice in the state to become ‘Fear Free Certified’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Say goodbye to the days of taking your pet to the vet for a checkup , just to watch him squirm the whole time in fear.

The Paw Patch Place Animal Hospital on Indy's north side is the first Fear Free Certified Practice in the state, where veterinarians are trained to ease the stress and anxiety associated with a trip to the vet.

"The problem with anxiety in a vet clinic is when they're super anxious, their heart is racing, their eyes are dilated, they're panting and they're tense," said Dr. Penny Dowden with the Paw Patch Place. "The physical exam can be very inaccurate."

The animal hospital has separate waiting rooms for dogs and cats, species-specific calming pheromones that fill the air, and plays relaxing music during checkups. The clinic also features soft, heated exam tables and special treats for furry patients.

Dr. Dowden said the Fear Free approach starts well before pets come in for their visit.

"It actually starts with the phone call when they call here," said Dr. Dowden. "My receptionist will say to take your cat carrier out three or four days before you're coming so the cat gets used to it being out."

Each staff member at the Paw Patch Place underwent nine hours of training and had to meet over 25 standards in order for the hospital to be certified as a Fear Free practice.


"Owners will say, 'they've never been this calm,'" said Dr. Dowden. "I don't know if it's the music, the pheromones, or the treats. We use a very quiet tone and there are certain ways we approach the animals that's less scary."

Dr. Dowden said the animal hospital is the 11th in the world to be named a Fear Free Certified Practice.

Fear Free was founded in 2016 by Dr. Marty Becker, known as "Americas's Veterinarian."

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