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.