Animal Medical Center of Chicago’s Fear-Free Initiative: a PAWsitive veterinary experience for you and your dog

Fear free veterinary care for dogs in Chicago.

To minimize stress and anxiety associated with your dog’s visit to our veterinary hospital, we recommend the following:

  1. Go for car rides. Many dogs associate car rides with visits to the veterinarian or groomer. Add some enjoyable rides to the park or beach in between those visits to dissociate car rides with potential stress. If your pet experiences motion sickness or has anxiety with car rides, please tell us. There are numerous pharmaceutical products that can help. For motion sickness, we recommend Meclizine or Cerenia. For anxiety, we recommend Trazodone or Alprazolam.

  2. Bring your dog hungry to the clinic. If a pet’s appointment is near a mealtime, feed a smaller amount or not at all (unless medically contraindicated) so that the pet will respond better to food rewards at the hospital. If your dog has a favorite treat, bring it with you. Don’t worry if you forget, we’ve got plenty of baby food, soft cheese, pretzels and dog treats to share with them. We want your pet to learn that going to a veterinary hospital is fun and tasty!

  3. Stay relaxed. Dogs sense when owners are anxious or nervous, and that makes them worse. Take a breath and relax. Don’t pull too hard on the leash: speak in a calm, low tone and act friendly toward all staff members. Your pet will pick up on these unthreatening cues. We’re here to help if your pet is anxious– so call us for advice.

  4. If previous veterinary visits were stressful, tell us! We may recommend nutraceuticals (like Solliquin or Zylkene) or pharmaceutical products, (like Trazodone or Alprazolam) to reduce your pet’s stress. These products must be given in advance of the visit to reduce your pet’s anxiety. Just ask us, and we will make appropriate recommendations.

  5. Drop by for treats. Stop in for a friendly visit between scheduled doctor appointments for a treat and a little positive attention. It is best to visit our practice during a quiet time of our day, such as noontime on weekdays. I’d recommend calling us and confirming that it’s a good time for your pet to visit. For a great experience, you can schedule a free friendly visit with a certified technician to engage in a brief training session in one of our examination rooms. This will help your pet see us as friends, not enemies.

  6. If your dog is dog aggressive or has stranger anxiety, tell us! Call us on your cell phone when you arrive at our parking lot and we will escort your pet directly into an examination room so that it avoids other pets and strangers.

  7. Would your pet be more comfortable waiting in the car rather than in the waiting room? Just let us know and we’ll be glad to accommodate you.

  8. Special calming chemical signals, called pheromones, are infused throughout our examination rooms and waiting room. These odorless pheromones are undetectable to humans and create a sense of familiarity and security in dogs. When you enter our clinic, please ask a receptionist or veterinary assistant for a bandana that has been sprayed with Adaptil (calming pheromone) if you feel your pet may be anxious. Simply tie this around your pet’s neck for it to be effective.

  9. We try to accommodate pet preferences. Some pets prefer to be examined on the table, others on your lap, or on the floor. We will try to accommodate your pet’s preference, so just let us know.

  10. Low stress handling techniques will be used to handle your pets. We will use gentle control techniques, innovative tools and medication when necessary to ensure your pet’s emotional health is not sacrificed for the sake of medical care. If we perceive your pet is stressed, we will pause the examination and re-evaluate the situation. If necessary, we may choose to sedate your pet or reschedule the visit after an anti-anxiety medication is given at home.

    We also use specialized distraction techniques to keep your pet focused on good experiences while we perform procedures, such as injections, that might cause brief stress or pain. Frequently, this involves distracting them by feeding them a highly palatable treat - so please let us know if your pet has any adverse reactions to foods prior to starting the examination appointment.

  11. Appropriate pain management is always on our mind. If your dog is painful, it may be more reactive and fearful. Please alert us in advance of performing any evaluation. There are a number of pain-relief options available for your dog to allow a more comfortable visit.

  12. We accommodate for doctor preference. Some dogs like certain people more than others. If your dog enjoys working with a specific veterinarian, I’d encourage you to schedule future appointments with that favorite doctor. It’s surprising how often we see this in our patients.

We understand that our pets need to be treated with care and patience in an environment that is designed with comfort in mind. We strongly believe that having calmer, less stressed and fearful patients is best for everyone involved and leads to better deliverance of veterinary medical care.

We hope you enjoy your next veterinary visit at Animal Medical Center of Chicago.


Donna Solomon, DVM & Staff of Animal Medical Center of Chicago