9 Reasons Why Your Vet Would Send Your Pet to a Veterinary Behaviorist

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Few owners are lucky enough to get through a pet’s entire lifetime without experiencing some training- or behavior-related issues.

And sometimes these issues can get intensely problematic, which is when board-certified veterinary behaviorists become an alluring alternative to your regular veterinarian’s ministrations.

Sure, trainers and nonveterinary behaviorists can be great — they often devote lengthy amounts of time to working on behavior problems — but there are some limitations. They don't have the medical training to know when physical issues may be causing behavioral problems, and they can't prescribe medications when needed. Plus, many concentrate their efforts almost exclusively on dogs, leaving feline lovers in the lurch.

But board certification means that all pet owners can rely on these specialists to help solve even the most impressive pet behavior problems.

Specialists like Dr. Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB, my go-to veterinary behaviorist who helped me come up with nine reasons why your veterinarian might recommend seeing someone like her.

1. You Need . . . Expert Insight

Sure, you’ve cried on your vet’s shoulder over the frustrating things that Fluffy is wont to do, but there’s only so much that he can help you with — general practice veterinarians know a good deal about a broad range of medical issues, but veterinary behaviorists are specialists who not only have veterinary degrees but also additional years of education just focused on behavior. So they have the expertise to dissect the important factors, and then make plans to address the unruly issues.

2. You Need . . . Help With Aggression

Aggressive behaviors are often accompanied by a physiologic response, and understanding how the physiology of the behavior affects what the animal does is essential to helping such pets. If your dog or cat has bitten someone, you should definitely talk to your vet about seeking help from a board-certified behaviorist. 

3. You Need . . . Medication for Your Ill-Behaved Pet

Medications can be very beneficial when used in conjunction with behavior modification and environmental changes. A veterinary behaviorist has extensive experience with such medications, and can monitor their effects in conjunction with other parts of the treatment plan, making adjustments as necessary.

4. You Need  . . . Truly Unique Advice

Let’s say that your pet has an unusual or uncommon behavior problem — like a dog who attacks photographs (I’ve seen this!) or who takes an amorous interest in household cats (yes, really). Who else to help you sort through such freaky issues than a veterinary behaviorist, who’s read all the obscure research?

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