How do we practice VBM?

In order to diagnose and treat behaviour problems a thorough knowledge of normal behaviour for each species of animal is required. A thorough understanding of veterinary medicine is also essential as many diseases affect behaviour. Additionally, knowledge of brain function, learning and memory, and developmental processes is needed to allow for the diagnosis of behaviour problems and to formulate treatment plans to help affected animals.

Each animal is an individual and has a different requirement for company, activity and rest, which must be supplied for their health and welfare. Recognising how they react to stress is also important to understanding their behaviour.

A VBM consultation is different from a visit to your regular veterinarian. You will be asked to fill in a comprehensive history form (download from our website) before the consultation and bring it, along with your pet, to the appointment. Appointments are generally much longer than regular visits to your veterinarian and usually take approximately 2–3 hours. The veterinary behaviourist will then spend a lot of time taking a detailed history in order to better understand your animal’s behaviour. For example, you will be asked to describe how your animal spends its days, the behaviour problem in detail as well as when it first occurred and when it tends to occur. Sometimes other problems are identified while the history is being obtained.

A diagnosis is made that describes each problem identified in the history. The diagnoses are explained thoroughly as understanding these are important to understanding how to manage your pet’s problem. Prognosis is also discussed and a treatment and management plan presented that is tailored to your individual situation.

Management has three parts: 1. Environmental management, 2. Behaviour modification and sometimes 3. Medication, which together take into account the animal and the environment in which it lives.

  • Environmental management involves altering the animal’s environment to minimise the potential to display the undesirable behaviour. You may be asked to alter your animal’s exercise program or block its access to parts of your house;
  • The behaviour modification program is designed to help manage the animal and help it learn calm, relaxed behaviour;
  • Some animals also need medication to help manage their behaviour. Just like diabetic animals need insulin, some animals need medication that alters specific neurochemicals within their brain. Using medication early in the management of a behaviour problem can maximise the animal’s response to treatment and minimise the chances of further problems developing.

Having an animal with a behaviour problem may be damage the bond between people and their pets and make living and working with these pets hard. Diagnosis and treatment can help. If you have any concerns about your animal’s behaviour, please contact us.

Why is seeing a Veterinary Behaviourist different to going to a dog trainer?

The focus of behaviour modification is very different from obedience training. A behaviour consultation is not a replacement for dog obedience training classes. While obedience training is still an important part of teaching your dog good manners, behavioural problems are not the same as training problems. Many highly trained obedience dogs still require a behavioural consultation as their problem is not related to training or lack thereof.

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