VCA San Francisco Veterinary Specialists

Behavior

What Is A Veterinary Behaviorist?

A veterinary behaviorist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of behavior problems in pets. The importance of dogs and cats and other small companion animals as pets has made their misbehavior the focus of many veterinary behaviorists. A veterinary behaviorist must always consider the possibility of underlying medical illness in the evaluation of any patient. Medical problems almost always have behavioral consequences, but not every behavior change is due to a medical illness. For example, a dog or cat with inflammation or infection of the urinary tract may develop house soiling problems, but not every pet with house soiling has underlying urinary tract disease.

The specialty of veterinary behavior is the equivalent of psychiatry, and veterinary behaviorists are the equivalent of cat or dog psychiatrists. Veterinary behaviorists, like psychiatrists, use behavior modification techniques, lifestyle change, and psychoactive medication as appropriate to each case. Psychoactive medications are sometimes used to complement other treatment recommendations, although these may not be necessary if the pet responds to behavioral and environmental changes.

Veterinary behavior is a board-certified specialty that requires many years of training and clinical experience. It goes far above and beyond basic obedience training. There are many nonprofessionals who claim to be experts in the field, but they cannot compare to the expertise of a veterinary behaviorist. For example, dog trainers and dog whisperers may be well qualified to teach obedience or agility training. In contrast, a veterinary behaviorist might include specific application of obedience skills in a treatment program designed to curb aggressive behavior.

In this example, it is essential to first define the type of aggression that is the problem and make an outline of specific steps to resolve it, with or without psychoactive medication. Only veterinary behaviorists are trained to provide you with the correct diagnosis and state of the art treatment of your pet's behavior problem.

Your general practitioner veterinarian can diagnose and treat many routine behavior problems, however, many behavior issues require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive training in veterinary behavior in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet. The treatment of behavior cases require a very careful accounting of the pet's past history, medical and behavioral, as well as his or her current lifestyle. It is important to really understand your pet's emotional and psychological needs and deficits in order to gain insight into the solutions to the issues that concern you.

By delaying a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist for your misbehaving pet, you may become even more frustrated and fall further out of love with your pet. A veterinary behaviorist is trained to save the relationship you once enjoyed with your pet and improve the quality of both of your lives.

Why Does My Pet Need A Veterinary Behaviorist?

While your general practitioner veterinarian can handle many aspects of your pet's care, just as in human medicine, sometimes there is a need for the attention of a specialist. If your pet has a complicated or difficult behavior problem, your pet may need the care of a veterinary behaviorist. Your veterinarian knows when to refer you and your pet for more specialized diagnostic work or treatment, and cares enough to ensure your pet receives the highest standard of care by referring you to see a veterinary behaviorist.

While in some cases, your veterinarian may be able to simply consult with a veterinary behavior specialist about your pet's care, in other cases it is necessary to actually refer you and your pet to the specialist for more advanced diagnostics and treatment. Ask your veterinarian for help or for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist!

Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?

Your veterinary behaviorist will advise your veterinarian of any recommended treatment and your veterinarian will continue to be involved as part of your pet's total veterinary health care team. Your general practitioner veterinarian will still oversee all aspects of your pet's care, but with the added, specialized input of a veterinary behaviorist. For example, if a veterinary behaviorist discovers that your pet has thyroid disease, this clinical diagnosis is relayed immediately to your general practitioner veterinarian, who will treat your pet's thyroid disease. The veterinary behaviorist will also give you a treatment plan to follow that will help to resolve the behavioral problems your pet exhibited that were associated with the discovered medical condition.

What to Expect in a Behavioral Consult

Download an intake form prior to your visit!

Click here for Dr. Leslie Larson Cooper's intake form.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Specialized Training Does A Veterinary Behaviorist Have?

Just like a psychiatrist, veterinarians who specialize in veterinary behavior acquire additional, intensive training to become a specialist. Prestigious specialty status is granted by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB). There are only a few dozen veterinary specialists in all of North America. A veterinarian who has received this specialty status will list the initials DACVB (Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists) after his or her veterinary degree. The word �Diplomate� typically means the specialist has achieved the following:
� Obtained a traditional 8-year veterinary degree (four years of college plus four years of veterinary school).
� Usually has completed a one-year internship in small animal medicine and surgery.
� Completed an additional residency in veterinary behavior at a university veterinary hospital.
� Completed the credentialing application process established by the ACVB, which includes publishing credits, case reports, and a resume.
� Passed a rigorous, 20 hour written examination conducted over 2 days.
After completing and passing all of the above, his or her peers recognize the veterinarian as a board certified specialist in veterinary behavior. As you can see, when your pet needs the specialized care of a veterinary behaviorist, the intensive training and additional education will provide you and your pet with the best treatment and the greatest chance of successfully resolving the behavior problem you are trying to overcome. Forming a team with an experienced veterinary behaviorist is the best way to deal with a misbehaving pet.
 

What Special Problems Does A Veterinary Behaviorist Treat?

Routine behavior problems can frequently be handled by your general practitioner veterinarian. The conditions listed below, however, frequently require the attention of a specialist.
� House soiling or house training problems
� Litter box refusal or rejection
� Destructiveness
� Aggressiveness toward people, including children
� Aggressive conflicts between housemates
� Nipping and unruly puppies or kittens
� Difficulties introducing new pets
� Separation anxiety syndrome
� Fears and phobias
� Compulsive behaviors
� Seizure-related behavior problems
� Geriatric behavior problems in aging cats and dogs
 

Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?

Your veterinary behaviorist will advise your veterinarian of any recommended treatment and your veterinarian will continue to be involved as part of your pet's total veterinary health care team. Your general practitioner veterinarian will still oversee all aspects of your pet's care, but with the added, specialized input of a veterinary behaviorist. For example, if a veterinary behaviorist discovers that your pet has thyroid disease, this clinical diagnosis is relayed immediately to your general practitioner veterinarian, who will treat your pet's thyroid disease. The veterinary behaviorist will also give you a treatment plan to follow that will help to resolve the behavioral problems your pet exhibited that were associated with the discovered medical condition.
 

What Do I Bring to My Referral Appointment?

Be sure to bring any relevant medical records or information to your first appointment. Your veterinary behaviorist may require copies of any recent medical tests, imaging studies, x-rays, or laboratory panels. You also can do your part to maximize your pet's recovery by strictly adhering to the recommendations of your veterinary team for the scheduling of any follow up appointments.
 

Did You Know?

� Crate training a puppy or dog is not the same as house training? Crate confinement should be viewed as DAMAGE CONTROL; it restricts a pet's movements when you are unavailable to supervise him or her. Dogs may not be able to control their urges to urinate or defecate for prolonged periods and if they are confined to a crate, they may soil themselves. NEVER punish a pet for a house soiling accident anywhere in your home.
� Cats can have Separation Anxiety? We've known for a long time that dogs suffer when separated from a preferred companion, but we now understand that many cats do too. The most common signs of SAS (Separation Anxiety Syndrome) in pet cats and dogs are house soiling, destructiveness, and excessive vocalization like meowing or barking. Pets with SAS misbehave because of real distress, not out of maliciousness or revenge. If your pet is showing any of these signs of anxiety or agitation when you leave home, for example, please understand that he is really asking for help.
 

Does your facility provide parking for clients?

Yes we do!  

Option #1:  Street parking in the area is available throughout the day with no 2 hour parking limits (Overnight parking subject to street sweeping 12am-6am, see posted street signs for specific limitations.)

Option #2:  Erie Auto Body - Adjacent to the side of our building at 3014 18th Street at Harrison St. we have 4 designated spaces for client use.  Simply pull up into any of the 4 stalls being mindful not to block the entrance to the auto body shop's garage door.

Option #3:  Parking Garage - If you still cannot find a spot pull up into the white loading zone directly in front of our main entrance, check in at the front desk and we will give you directions to our garage.  It is merely 2/3 of a block down the street at 660 Alabama.

Please note parking for longer than 10 minutes in the white loading zone is not advised as San Francisco Department of Public Transportation frequently patrols the area and will ticket your vehicle.

Veterinarians in Behavior

CLOSE CLOSE

General Practice

We have over 600 animal hospitals in 41 states and 4 Canadian provinces that are staffed by more than 3,000 fully-qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 400 being board-certified specialists.

The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments such as wellness, spay/neuter, advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, dermatology, cardiology, neurology, boarding, and grooming. Services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

Find a VCA General Care Animal Hospital near you:

 

See all VCA Animal Hospitals >

CLOSE CLOSE

Emergency Care

In an Emergency ...

1. Contact your general veterinarian's office. They may be more closely located and available to assist you.

2. If it is after hours or VCA SFVS is more conveniently located, call us at (415) 401-9200 and provide the client service representative with:

  • Your name and your pet's name
  • Your location and estimated time of arrival
  • Your pet's emergency

3. Get support to safely transport your pet to VCA SFVS. If you have medical records related to your pet’s emergency, please bring those with you.

24/7 Urgent Care and Emergency Services

  • Complete intensive care unit (ICU) laboratory
  • Endoscopic foreign body removal
  • Full range of blood products
  • Oxygen therapy
  • 24-hour ICU monitoring by veterinary nurses trained in critical care, surgery and internal medicine
  • Emergency surgical service
  • Around-the-clock access to SFVS specialists
  • Post-operative care for referring veterinarians' surgical cases

We are committed to keeping your trusted primary care veterinarian informed and in the loop!

CLOSE CLOSE