Overland Park & Leawood

Veterinary clinic puts its focus on fear-free care

Trent Eddy (left) and Blake Dickerson own Ironhorse Veterinary Clinic in Leawood.
Trent Eddy (left) and Blake Dickerson own Ironhorse Veterinary Clinic in Leawood. Special to The Star

Your dog or cat needs to go to the veterinarian, but you hesitate to take your furry friend because it stresses them — and you — out.

Blake Dickerson and his business partner, Trent Eddy, understand that situation very well. Both pet owners and veterinarians, Dickerson and Eddy opened their own business, Ironhorse Veterinary Care in Leawood, focused on minimizing those fears for both animal and owner alike.

The vets opened their clinic in October 2015 offering what they refer to as a compassionate alternative to veterinary care.

Q: What services do you offer at your clinic?

“We do preventive care with examinations that include vaccinations, heartworm tests … and we can work up sick animals,” Dickerson said. “We do surgery and dental procedures using the latest equipment including digital X-rays. We do lab work in house and can send it out, if necessary.”

The clinic focuses on dogs and cats only; they do not provide boarding or grooming services.

“We are really big into preventive care,” Dickerson said. “We try to do a lot of education on what type of vaccinations to use, what pets need to be tested for. We recommend exams every six months to get to know the animal better and prevent problems.”

Q: What is this “fear-free” approach?

“We do everything we can to alleviate the stress for the dogs and cats that come in,” Dickerson said. “So we ask owners to hold off feeding before coming in and offer treats throughout their pet’s exams so they are happier…and they respond really well to that.”

These fear-reducing techniques are in place the minute a four-legged client enters the facility.

“We try to do everything we can to have them not just sitting in the waiting room, but get them into an exam room so they are not so stressed by other animals waiting with them,” he said. “The easier it is on the animals, the more comfortable the owners are.”

The clinic has separate exam rooms for dogs and cats to minimize stress.

“We use species-specific pheromones for dogs and cats and we have plug-ins with this that the animals can sense and it calms them,” Dickerson said. “For cats, we spray it into a warm towel and place it with the cat…. We try to do very little restraining, too.”

The exam rooms include soothing music — something that helps both pet and owner.

“We will sometimes send home a medication that they can use with their pet before they come into the clinic the next time to calm them.”

Q: How did you learn about these special techniques?

Dickerson and Eddy became familiar with these fear-free methods from Marty Becker, an Idaho veterinarian who started the trademarked movement. Becker has appeared on several national television programs talking about his fear-free philosophy with pets.

“We saw a talk by him last year and really decided when we started a clinic we wanted to follow this type of philosophy,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson and Eddy took a nine-hour course to become certified using Becker’s fear-free techniques. Ironhorse Veterinary Care recently was accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, meeting hundreds of standards set by the organization for top-level vet care.

“It was a big accomplishment because only 12 to 15 percent of vet clinics are accredited,” Dickerson said.

Q: What was your background prior to opening Ironhorse veterinary Care?

Dickerson and Eddy are 2006 graduates of Kansas State University’s veterinary program and worked in private clinics in the area.

Most recently, the pair worked as full-time veterinarians at Great Plains SPCA, a Johnson County-based animal shelter. “We gained quite a bit of experience, and we decided we wanted to open a clinic with our vision practicing high quality medicine and use these low-stress techniques,” Dickerson said.

Although Dickerson and Eddy had not been in business on their own before Ironhorse, things came together smoothly.

“It was pretty similar to any small business in terms of getting a loan and picking out all the equipment in order to practice high-quality medicine,” Dickerson said. They decided to locate their new venture in southern Johnson County for a reason.

“Johnson County seems to be growing so much,” Dickerson said.

The 2,200-square-foot facility is housed in a former pet hospital, but the veterinarians brought in all new equipment and renovated it to suit their practice’s needs. It includes a few clear holding kennels so the animals can see out, reducing stress.

Q: What is the greatest challenge you face in your business?

“Getting people used to the way we are doing things and our fear-free practices,” Dickerson said. “A lot of it has been word of mouth and through our web site…. We do work with a local rescue group so that is another way we can spread the word.”

In a nutshell

COMPANY: Ironhorse Veterinary Care

ADDRESS: 15110 Ash St., Leawood

TELEPHONE: 913-681-9700

WEB SITE: www.ironhorseveterinarycare.com

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