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  • Writer's pictureCuyamaca Animal Hospital

A Behind-the-Scenes Look At Cuyamaca Animal Hospital's Fear-Free Practice in Santee

As integrative veterinarians, we’re trained to look at the whole picture when evaluating the health, happiness, and safety of your pets. We know that the whole picture involves environmental factors as well as genetic and chemical factors, especially when it comes to pet stress.

Fear-Free Veterinary Hospital in Santee | Cuyamaca Animal Hospital | Best Vet near Santee

One of the most common stressors for pets is a trip to the vet. That’s why our facility employs the Fear-Free method, something that sets Cuyamaca Animal Hospital apart from other vet clinics in San Diego County. Our Fear-Free practices work to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS) while pets are in our care.

Environmentally, that means taking a number of important steps, like:

  • Releasing Feliway and Adaptil (cat and dog pheromones) into the air

  • Having separate wings and entrances for cats and dogs

  • Playing soothing music for pets

But Fear-Free isn’t just an environmental practice. There are a number of steps we take when working 1-on-1 with clients to eliminate traumatic stressors for pets and ensure their levels of FAS are as low as possible. Here are some of the many ways we provide Fear-Free support to clients:


Doctor-patient communication is essential, and it’s important between veterinarians and pets, too. At Cuyamaca, we look for signs of FAS in your pet and share everything we can observe with you, describing how we will be addressing those emotional and behavioral concerns during your visit.

We also ask a lot of open-ended questions to pet parents, getting the biggest picture possible when it comes to any and all of your concerns. Open-ended questions, reflective listening, and empathy are all communication skills utilized in the Fear-Free philosophy. Fear-Free vets understand that the goal isn’t just to reduce stress in pets, but reduce stress for pet parents, too.

Handling & Interaction

Have you ever seen a veterinarian or technician just “power through” when handling fearful or agitated animals? With the single goal of administering care, it seems easier to just utilize conventional handling techniques that will get the procedure over with and the pet out the door.

These kinds of practices can be ultimately traumatic for pets. The more resistance they exhibit in trying to get them to go to the vet, the less motivated pet parents will be to force them. And that means pets aren’t getting the treatment they need. Instead, we want your pet to have positive associations with the vet, making your life less stressful, too.

When necessary, we’ll provide distractions for your pet in order to get through an exam or procedure. We employ touching and handling techniques that respect your pets’ boundaries and feelings of safety. We also work to really get to know your pet and keep extensive records of their time with us. For instance, if your pet prefers a certain treat or method of eating, we’ll know to employ those same methods next time.


Being an integrative hospital also means exploring more conventional options when treating pets, and the same goes for the Fear-Free philosophy. Fear-Free practitioners will always ask themselves and the pet parent they’re working with: “What ways can we reduce or eliminate trauma and stress for your pet today?”

With some animals, the answer might just be in medication or pharmaceuticals. Particularly when a pet’s FAS levels are higher than usual. We have to also consider the safety of everyone involved: you, other pet parents, and the staff. In this case, the client and the vet will work together to decide if light sedation is a viable option so that everyone comes out of the appointment happy and healthy.

Other times, we consider things like pet anxiety at home. If, for instance, your pet’s anxiety is an isolated event, or can be addressed with at-home techniques and training, we can call it a day and be glad your pet is feeling better. Sometimes, though, pets suffer from clinical anxiety that disrupts their lives as well as their parents on a regular, ongoing basis. This kind of suffering not only greatly impacts the pet’s quality of life, but also keeps pets from working and benefitting from other things: nutrition, socializing, etc. These pets may need medication to help support the work they are doing to live the best lives they can.

There’s even more to learn about the Cuyamaca difference, what sets us apart when it comes to providing compassionate and affordable care. We know that when you visit us, you’re trusting us one of the most important things in your lives—your companions—and we don’t take that trust lightly!

If you’re ready to learn more about what a Fear-Free veterinary visit will look like for your pet and you, get in touch with us. We are ready and available to answer any question you may have about our practice!

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