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Does your dog need a behaviour vet?

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

What is a behaviour vet?

In Australia, a Veterinary Behaviourist is a vet who did extra studies in animal behaviour and passed an examination from the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Science (ANZCVS) in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine.

The vet must be registered to practice in Australia and has at least 4 years of clinical experience in general practice.

To pass the examination, in-depth knowledge of various domains is needed, including:

  • How the brain works (neuroscience and psychology)

  • How animals learn (learning theory)

  • How animals develop mental health diseases (development stages, diseases and other contributing factors)

  • How to diagnose a mental health illness in animals

  • How to treat a mental health illness in animals

Last but not least, just like undergraduate studies, the vet must learn and understand behaviour medicine for a wide range of animals such as dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, horses, sheep, pigs, cattle, goats, and alpacas.

It is an awful lot to study!

Do you or your pet needs to see a behaviour vet?

My clients usually see me because of some or all of the following reasons:

  • Feeling highly anxious about taking their pet to the public/ meeting strangers

  • Feeling a lack of control and trust in their pet

  • Concerning about bite risks and injuries to people and other pets

  • Quality of life is strongly impacted by the pet’s behaviour, such as can’t have visitors or just simply leaving their pet at home

  • Feeling concerned about their pet’s mental wellbeing regularly

  • Not able to help their pet because of their extremely fearful behaviour, such as basic grooming routines or going to the vet

  • Struggling to get improvement even they have consulted dog trainers and regular vets previously

  • Finding it confusing to gather the right information to manage their pet, as there are too much conflicting information and opinions around

With my 20+ years of working with pets and their owners, and the past 7 years focusing heavily on behavioural medicine, I have seen so many pet owners experience similar feelings. Friends and family don’t always understand if they have never come across a complex pet. Having a challenging pet can be very difficult and make people feel lonely sometimes. But it does not need to be this way. One of the reasons I do behaviour medicine is that I recognise these common issues that come with pet ownership. I strive to help these challenging pets and their owners to restore balance, calm and quality of life.

What is the process?

Dr Cathy will come to your home for a visit. It will involve discussing and working through an in-depth history of your pet’s behaviour. Behavioural and mental health problems often take time to develop and stem from many different influences and external factors. It is very different from an appointment at your GP vet or with your trainer, who focuses more on the immediate issue that needs to be addressed. During the appointment, Dr Cathy will do a thorough observation of your pet's behaviour to understand their personalities and preferences, to tailor a management plan for you and your pet.

In my experience, there is almost always some underlying problem that needs to be addressed. It could be the stressors in the environment, disharmony in the family/social group, inappropriate training/teaching methods, physical illness such as pain, and/or mental health illness. Therefore a home visit is ideal for the purpose as it allows Dr Cathy to assess most of the contributing factors that affect your pet's behaviour.

Dr Cathy is the only qualified vet behaviourist in Perth who provides home visit service.

Shouldn’t a good trainer be able to fix the problem?

Learning to communicate effectively with your pets is certainly a good start, a good trainer can certainly help pet owners and their pets develop skills for living together. But they cannot diagnose and treat psychological problems. Some trainers have extra training so they can work with pets with more complicated issues, and can help to implement the behaviour modification program prescribed by a veterinary behaviourist.

If you think you will benefit from some help from a vet behaviourist, you can easily book an appointment with us here.

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