Fear Free Vaccines

By October 6, 2020Blog

Vaccines for Pets – The Fear Free Way

From our perspective (based on scientific data) vaccines save pets’ lives and are an important element of pet care.

From our pet’s perspective, however, based on their own past experiences, vaccines might seem something similar to this:

  1. Go through the huge portal to the unknown (vet hospital’s front door).
  2. Wait quietly as unfamiliar people, dogs, cats, smells, sounds, etc. come-and-go.
  3. Step onto the back of the big shiny alien (the scale).
  4. Stay still as a stranger touches me, then a different stranger holds me down, and then out of nowhere comes…OUCH! What the…?!!!

Our pets’ brain can’t help but learn through association that going to a veterinary hospital usually means discomfort or pain. And the next time that pet arrives at the hospital’s front door, their brain kicks-in the hormones usually reserved for truly life-threatening situations (think conditioned fight or flight response) and then our pet may experience fear, anxiety, or stress. Unless, of course, the pet is lucky enough to be a patient at CoastView Veterinary Hospital.

Can we change, or better yet – avoid, this conditioned biological response? Yes! We can. And we do.

Is it possible for pets to not only tolerate, but possibly (dare we say) enjoy their vaccination experience? YES! We’re making it a priority to do so.

So, how can we change this conditioned response – moving from fearful to Fear Free?

By honoring and following the Fear Free Philosophy and using a variety of proven tools and creative techniques to help “take the ‘pet’ out of petrified.”

Below you’ll find a few of the ways we create positive experiences for pets receiving vaccines here at CoastView Veterinary.


Low volume vaccines:

Many of our vaccines contain only 0.5 ml of fluid - compared to other vaccines that are manufactured in more standardized 1.0 ml volumes. This makes a difference in both the length of time it takes to administer the vaccine and also minimizes the discomfort the pet may experience from the fluid under the skin.

New, small gauge needles:

After the vaccine is drawn up by a veterinary staff member the needle is removed and replaced with a new small gauge needle (a tinier needle). Smaller needles are less startling to the pet and new needles are sharper - meaning less resistance against the skin. This reduces pain associated with the poke.

Touch gradient:

Using a touch gradient technique means we first touch your pet in a non-invasive area such as the shoulders or chest on a dog. Without removing our hands, we will gently move to the area where the vaccine needs to be administered. Pets are less likely to startle when they can feel our hands moving along their body. To desensitize the skin, we may gently pinch or rub the injection site - the area where the vaccine is going to be given.

Gentle control:

A veterinary staff member will use gentle control to hold your pet for their vaccine. Our goal is to use the least amount of control necessary to keep the pet safe and secure during the veterinary procedure. We recognize that every pet is an individual and may require different types of control. We will assess this and modify our technique so that your pet is comfortable.


Why are treats so important? Treats create a positive association for the pet. The pet learns that touch means treat! Poke means treat! Veterinary visits mean treats! So the next time they come in fear, anxiety, and stress are reduced because the pet is anticipating tasty reinforcement (happy biological conditioned response) following veterinary procedures.

With patience and consideration of the pet’s comfort, history, and favorite high-value rewards, we create numerous Fear Free experiences for pets (and their people) on a daily basis.

Are you and your pet ready to try the Fear Free Way? You can also learn more about our vaccine services here. We sure hope so and we’ll look forward to seeing you and your pet at the next appointment!

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