Did you know that your veterinarian can play an essential role in addressing your pet’s behavioral issues?
Behavior problems are the most common reason animals lose their home; however, many people do not realize that with the right intervention, most problems can be corrected. Sometimes an owner may not recognize a behavioral issue or perceive a specific behavior as a problem.
As general practitioner veterinarians, our doctors strive to provide total patient care for life. A large part of caring for our canine and feline patients is addressing behavioral issues, recognizing and evaluating deviations from “normal” behavior and suggesting solutions to behavioral problems.
Behavior problems can vary depending upon the life stage of the animal; puppies and kittens do not have the same behavioral issues as adults and seniors. Additionally, environmental and owner’s life changes can present new challenges at any time throughout their lives. Some of the most common problems reported in dogs include aggression, excessive barking, phobias, and destructive behavior. In cats, behavioral problems include inappropriate urination, aggression toward other cats, and anxiety.
Behavior evaluation often starts the minute the veterinarian walks into an exam room. We learn so much about a pet’s temperament, obedience, and relationship with the owner in those first few moments. Equally important is getting a thorough history of the presenting complaint. What is the nature of the problem and why is the owner seeking advice? Behavior problems can be very complex and multifactorial requiring a lot of time and inquiry to develop a plan of action.
One of the first things a veterinarian will try to do is exclude a medical cause for the undesired behavior. For example, a urinalysis will help us determine whether your pet’s inappropriate urination is due to a behavioral problem, or a symptom of urinary tract infection or bladder stones. If we detect pain during a physical exam, that might explain a pet’s recent aggression.
If the problem is determined to be a behavioral issue, a veterinarian can provide information on the diagnosis, along with helpful tips and numerous resources to manage your pet’s problem. Sometimes it may be best to schedule a separate appointment to address all aspects of the behavior problem.
It’s also a good idea to consider scheduling a consultation with a behavior specialist. We often recommend Dr. Wailani Sung of All Creatures Behavior Counseling. Dr. Sung is a veterinarian who has had special training in the behavior of dogs and cats and the treatment of problems, including pharmacological intervention to facilitate behavior modification.
Next time your pet is baffling or annoying you with his or her behavior, be sure to ask your veterinarian. After all, a well-behaved pet is a more enjoyable pet.