What do you mean – Fear Free?

What do you mean – Fear Free?

Two cats relaxing together after surgery.

What do you mean – fear free?  Picture Sally, a young woman about to enter an office.  See if you can guess where Sally is…

Sally opens the door and sees that the walls are covered in warm and tranquil colors, she hears the sounds of trickling water and soft music humming in the background, and the air is filled with a hint of lavender that immediately puts her at ease. Can you guess where Sally is?

Most might imagine that Sally has just entered a spa. However, Sally actually just entered her dentist office. What made the dentist want to change their office to resemble a spa? Remember that Sally was immediately put at ease….ah ha – we might be onto something.

Did you know that dentist rank as one of the most feared places to go?  Dentists have spent a long time researching how to get people into their offices. We all understand that dental health is important, but getting us to schedule an appointment and actually go is a whole other story. The next thing is how much anxiety do you have while you are there. They learned that massage chairs, TVs, warm colors, tranquil music and sounds all help the body relax and stay calm. Many dentists have adopted these principles when designing their offices. They care about our dental health and if we are more likely to commit to going to the dentist if we have a good experience, then why not make the change.

So how does this relate to veterinary medicine and becoming fear free? If doctor and dental offices can create a stress free environment for their patients, why shouldn’t veterinary hospitals take the necessary steps to achieve the same comfortable fear free experience for their patients? Well, at Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital we are!

The Fear Free Initiative lead by America’s veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker, simply means we focus on your pet’s physical well-being as well as their emotional well-being. Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital believes a fear free initiative will allow us to continue to strengthen the human-animal bond.

The North American Veterinary Community and the American Animal Hospital Association have created VetFolio, a joint partnership. The Vetfolio team created an eight module certification program in conjunction with board-certified veterinary behaviorists, practice management experts, and veterinary technicians. The modules teach veterinary professionals how to create a calming fear free environment for patients, and educate clients on how to participate in achieving a fear free visit.

As the GVH team begins training to obtain certification, you may see some of the following changes designed to reduce stressful visits:

  • A blue towel sprayed with Feliway (a pheromone designed to help felines adjust to difficult situations) may be placed over your cat carrier or on the exam room table to calm our feline friends.
  • Music in our lobby and recovery areas will be kept below 60 decibels, which research shows is less stressful for patients.

  • Music selections will change to a more classical theme better suited to your pet’s sense of hearing.

  • Lower volume on phone ringers will be adopted throughout our office.

  • Our team may offer you a 5 minute “fun“ visit. To help reinforce that coming to the vet is not always a “bad” thing.

  • Our team may spoil your pet with treats as a distraction while performing certain procedures.




Pet Sitter: The Right Fit For You

Pet Sitter: The Right Fit For You

When preparing to go away, pet owners often find themselves wondering what the best care for their pet would be. While kennels are a great place for pets to be social, receive daily care, and are safe, they aren’t always the best option for all pets.  If your pet tends to become more stressed in social situations, doesn’t like other pets, takes medication or is elderly and needs a little more TLC, a pet sitter might be the best option for them. A pet sitter is also a great option for exotics.

As the previous owner, manager and pet sitter of a pet sitting company, I am excited to share some of my knowledge about the industry with you.

What are the advantages of having a pet sitter?

One of the biggest advantages of hiring a pet sitter is that you will know that your pet will remain in the comfort of your home while you’re away. I truly believe that the pet’s own home is the least stressful place and most comfortable place for them with everything around them looking, smelling and feeling familiar.  And because your pet is staying at home, you will not need to pack their bed, toys, food, or medications to take to the kennel. There’s also no need for them to have additional immunizations that are typically required by most kennels or pet hotels.

Pet sitters also offer an array of services to meet any pet owner’s budget from one short visit a day for a quick potty break and a walk to staying at your home 24/7 while you are away.

With at home care your pet will get one on one attention with visits typically including play time, exercise, feeding, fresh water, and lots of hugs and kisses. Even if a pet is not social, an owner can still benefit from having a sitter come into the house to see that the pet is doing well, change out the food and water, and take care of the home itself.  Most home care includes bringing in mail and packages, so it appears that someone is home, watering indoor or outdoor plants, or even shoveling the snow during those winter months to make it safe for the pet and owners when they return home.

You’ve decided to hire a pet sitter, now what?

Once you’ve decided that hiring a pet sitter is the right choice for you and your pet now is the time to do some research. A great website to start your research is Pet Sitters International. This website lists all pet sitters who are accredited and reputable.  You can search by zip code and refine your search by what services you are specifically looking for.

After you’ve compiled a list of possible pet sitters, go to their websites if they have one and take notes.  Does the site look like the owner put a lot of thought and effort into it? Does it look up to date? Does it have referrals from other clients or reviews?  Next call and/or email them. Take note whether they pick up right away or return your phone call/email promptly. Can they answer any questions you have? Do you feel comfortable with them over the phone? Did they make an effort to get to know you and your pet(s), and schedule an at home consultation?

Preparing for the Consultation

Before the consultation write down a list of things you would like to go over with the pet sitter and questions you have.  Essentially, this is an interview.  The pet sitter should be prepared, and they should have questions for you as well.  Take notes to how your pet reacts to them and visa versa.  Are they friendly with your pet?  Do they seem genuinely interested in your pet?

Things to Find Out:

  • Do they have a contract? (a plus)
  • Is there an additional charge for bringing in the mail, watering the plants, etc.?
  • Do you need to put a deposit down or will they bill you when you return?
  • Is there a cancellation policy (especially during a holiday)?

Make Sure You Tell Your Pet Sitter:

  • The person of contact should you be unavailable and in the case of an emergency
  • The person that can make decisions for your pet
  • How to get in contact with you while you are away
  • Your veterinarian’s name and contact information
  • Show them the location of things such as: pet’s feeding station and food, where your pet sleeps, leash, fuse box should the power go out

You will need to give your pet sitter a key.  I always liked to have two keys – one to have on hand and one to have as a backup should something happen to the first.  I labeled each with a specific code so they couldn’t be traced back to the person’s home should they get lost. Do not rely on a garage door opener, keyless entry, or anything else electric in case these malfunction due to low battery or power outage.

Absolutely, make sure your pet sitter is insured, bonded and certified in pet first aid and are at least 21 years of age.  This protects the pet owner and the pet sitter should anything happen to the pet, home or the sitter themselves.

Once you’ve chosen your sitter and booked the dates you need them, it’s recommended that you call your veterinarian just to let them know someone will be watching your pet and they have permission to bring your pet in case of an emergency. It’s also important to notify any neighbors you trust so they don’t think someone is breaking into your home.

Now that you have found the best care for your pet, you can sit back and relax and enjoy your vacation, knowing you’ve made the right decision!

Jess, GVH Veterinary Technician



dog and cat on a couch
2015 Holiday Donations

2015 Holiday Donations

Holiday Donations 2015

Celebrating the Bond Between You and Your Pet

Thanks to your generosity during our holiday charity event- 

GVH was able to support SPCA & Animal House Project

to help less fortunate pets in our community!!

This year’s donations totaled more than 900 pounds including:

Dog Food (Dry): 452 lbs 8 oz. 

Cat Food (Dry): 120 lbs. 6 oz. 

Dog Food (Wet): 15 lbs. 9 oz. 

Cat Food (Wet): 41 lbs. 12 oz. 

Dog Treats: 87 lbs. 11 oz. 

Cat Treats: 9 lbs. 7 oz. 

Cleaning Supplies: 11 gallons 

Blankets: 111 lbs. 

Pet Care Items: 131 

Holiday Charity Donation

Todd and Michelle delivering our charity collections to the SPCA

Life with Chickens

Life with Chickens

I want a horse, a cow, couple of pigs, a few goats but CHICKENS??? That was never on my list.  But here I am at 32 raising and loving 8 wonderful chickens.  Last March my husband and I purchased a home with a few acres of land. We ventured out to Tractor Supply and found ourselves surrounded by bins of chickens.  “Chick Days” is what they call it when hundreds of birds are shipped in to be sold during Easter.  We left that day without chicks and went home to convert the dollhouse in our front yard into our chicken coup.  The following weekend we made a trip back to Tractor Supply and picked up our feed, heating lamp, feeder, water dish, metal bin and I giddily told the clerk I would like 4 chickens.  “Four – you have to get a minimum of 6”, said the clerk.  So I selected 5 and my husband selected 1 chick for us to take home.  Thus began our life with chickens.

We raised the chickens in the garage with the heating lamp and then slowly moved them out to the coup.  Once they were out in the coup we noticed that more than one looked to be a rooster.  4 out of our 6 birds were roosters and only 2 were hens!!! We knew this was not a good mix to begin our flock but we were not exactly sure what to do.

Here are a few lessons that I have learned since we began our journey of “life with chickens”.

  • Chickens are sweet social birds.  They are a product of their environment and no two flocks are the same.  Our current flock consists of 2 roosters and 6 hens.  We have added on to our flock to increase the rooster hen ratio and learned to order them online for better odds.
  • There is a pecking order and you better be on top if you want to survive a rooster.  Roosters are protective of their flock and their coup.  If you have more than one rooster the dominant rooster will decide the pecking order for the flock.  If the second rooster does not stand down and find a job, there will be trouble.  We are so far fortunate that our 2 roosters have found their place with the flock – though I am told by other “chicken friends” this may not be long term.
  • Integrating new chicks into an existing flock – no matter how small the existing flock is – takes time and patience to keep the new chicks safe.  We spent a few months slowing introducing the new hens to our 2 roosters and 1 hen so they are now living together as one flock.
  • Chicken people find chicken people.  Sharing stories, photos and videos of your chickens becomes the new normal in your life.   My phone now holds more pictures of my chickens than I care to admit.  Non-chicken owners will have a hard time understanding your newfound infatuation with your birds.
  • When it gets dark you will worry that your chickens are safe and if the coup is closed.  Predators at night are real; unfortunately we lost one of our birds to an overnight attack.  We quickly established better night security for the flock.
  • You will find yourself looking into the sky to watch for chicken hawks like a protective mamma, ensuring that your flock is safe.
  • Now when I go to the store I pick up extra blueberries for my chickens.  They love to eat blueberries, raspberries, sunflower seeds and happy hen treats out of our hands.  Unlike the cartoons that I watched as a kid, my chickens do not like worms but they love spiders and helping me close up the garden.
  • The recent time change had me concerned about the decreased amount of outdoor time my chickens would have to free range.  They put themselves to bed when the sun goes down so this limits there time on our property.  We are looking to extend their run to give them more room to play while we are at work.
  • The first egg is really exciting!  You will share it with friends, family and on social media like a proud parent.  We have several of the hens producing eggs – right now we are getting 6 eggs per day.


  • When visitors come over your dogs will bark and your chickens will crow.  Crowing is not only for the wee hours of the morning but also as an alert, like a built in security system.
  • Chickens are a lot of work!  Like any animal or pet that you own you must carve time out of your schedule to care for and enjoy them.

Tiffany N. Consalvo, CVPM – GVH Practice Manager


National Pet Fire Safety Day 2015

National Pet Fire Safety Day 2015

National Pet Fire Safety Day Logo

July 15th marks The American Kennel Club and ADT Security Services National Pet Fire Safety Day.  An estimated 500,000 pets are affected annually by home fires. What steps do you have in place to assure your pets’ safety?

There are many ways to help keep your pets safe in the event of a fire.  Here a few to get you started:

  • Keep leashes near all exit doors, that way you or firefighters can easily secure your pet and lead them to safety.
  • Provide pets with an escape route in the form of a pet door.
  • If your pet needs to be confined to a room or kennel keep them close to an entrance. This will make it easier for firefighters to find your pet.
  • Make a note of all the places your pet likes to hide or even take a nap. Pets are known to run to these places when in distress.
  • In instances where you need to evacuate, leave outside doors open. This gives your pet a way out. Once you are out safely, call your pet’s name so your pet will hear you and respond.
  • Alert firefighters to indoor pets by placing Pet Rescue Fire Safety Stickers in your window. Place stickers in your front windows to indicate you have pets inside, how many, and what kind. Free stickers/clings are available at many AKC events as well as through the ASPCA website.  Keeping these stickers updated and accurate, moving/removing when you relocate and general upkeep and maintenance are required for stickers to be effective.

fire safety pic Thomas Slater Jr. and Oscar

Fire Fighter Thomas Slater Jr. and Oscar

Steps to help prevent fires can be even more critical.  Nearly 1,000 house fires each year are accidently started by home owner’s pets.

  • Pets are notorious for knocking over candles, especially cats. In fact, be sure not to leave pets unattended around any open flame. Flameless candles are best.
  • Stoves are the number one piece of equipment involved in pet-started fires. Pets are drawn to it due to all the delicious smells. Removing stove knobs or protecting them with a cover decreases risk of fire.
  • Beware of glass water bowls. Never leave a glass water bowl on a wooden deck. The sun’s rays can heat up the water and ignite the wooden deck beneath it. As a best practice, use a ceramic or stainless steel bowl.

AKC studies show that 88% of households feel their pets are a valued member. Do what you can to protect your entire family in the case of a fire or emergency. Find additional information at the AKC website, ASPCA website or by calling our office for more tips and best practices.

Confessions of an Ornithophobe (Fear of Birds)

Confessions of an Ornithophobe (Fear of Birds)

Kat with Zazu

I have always thought birds, particularly parrots, were beautiful and captivating. As a young child I remember going to the Philadelphia Zoo and hand feeding the colorful Lorikeets. Although the experience was memorable, having 6 Lorikeets biting at my arm is something I wish to forget! From that moment forward I was an ornithophobe – I was afraid of birds.

Fast forward 11 years and I now find myself in a very precarious situation. I am a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) here at Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital and if you don’t know, we see a fair amount of birds here! In my first week at GVH, we saw 2 Macaws, a handful of Amazons and a couple of African Grays.  I realized quickly I would have to get over my fear of birds. Throughout my entire life, I have always conquered my fears by facing them head on….so, naturally that meant I would have to get a bird!

I started doing research online and talked to “bird” people I knew. One day I found myself at a local pet store that had pet birds for sale. A beautiful and very playful Sun Conure charmed me from the moment I saw him. His bright colors and sweet nature, how could I not fall in love?! After talking to friend who has had birds for over 20 years, I realized that the sweet Sun Conure was not for me! I decided to continue to do more research into characteristics that were important to me: size (not too big), friendliness, ability to talk, and an independent nature. After a fair amount of research I narrowed it down to 2 species – a Quaker parrot or Hahns Macaw. Now for those non-savvy bird people like I was, Quakers are illegal in the state of Pennsylvania so that left me with one choice. You might be asking yourself, “I thought she didn’t want a big bird?! Macaws are HUGE!” Alas, Hahns Macaws are also known as Mini Macaws since they are close in size to the Cockatiel.

Once I did my research on Hahns Macaws, I then had to start the search for a place where I could actually meet one! M & D Bird Farm in Delaware, exclusive bird and bird product retailer, was the one such place that had Hahns Macaws available. My husband and I drove over 3 hours to M & D just to solely interact with these mini Macaws. We spent another 3 hours in the store just talking with staff and interacting with one baby in particular. After a 3 hour drive home, more research, and slowly collecting bird items, I decided I would take the plunge and bring home the baby Hahns I had met 3 weeks prior.

Kalley with Zazu

Kalley, Client Care Specialist with Zazu

Once our girl was fully weaned, yes birds need to be weaned just like cats and dogs, we brought home Zazu! The 3 weeks leading up to Zazus’ homecoming I secured a cage, perches, toys and every thing I would need to make her happy and comfy! In the beginning it was all about her learning to trust me and realize I was going to be her protector now, her flock mate. Consistency and patience prevailed and Zazu became trustworthy of me, and I of her. Sometimes it has been challenging because she does have tantrums just like a 2 year old. However, I love having a bird now! I spend a lot of time taking Zazu with me all over to teach her to be social and not be afraid of others. It took a few months of repeating myself over and over but after about 3 months her vocabulary took off! I love having a pet I can talk to and have her talk back to me. I don’t think it will ever get old when I hear her ask me for a kiss and then she makes a kiss sound back to me. She loves saying: kiss, Bubba, whatchadoing, yummy yummy yummy, come here, upside down bird and more! She also helps me eat healthier too! Macaws have a very wide array of food items they can eat most of which are fruits and vegetables!

I can no longer say I am afraid of birds; ok I am still a little afraid of bigger birds. But Zazu has taught me so much more than I give her credit for – confidence, perseverance but most of all trust. There is a different bond I have with her than with my dogs and cats. I can see when she looks at me that she is taking in everything I do and sometimes she reflects it back to me. Every day she makes me laugh and smile. Sharing a bond with an animal that can associate with you and communicate is unparallel to anything else. Every one of my pets (I have 10) holds a special place in my heart; Zazu will always have her place!

-GVH Veterinary Technician

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