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Pet Behaviour

Treating your pet's behaviour problems

Does your dog destroy your belongings? Does your cat spray inside your home? Find out how Veterinary Behavioural Medicine could help.

What is behavioural medicine?

In simple terms, veterinary behavioural medicine is the study and treatment of animals for behavioural disorders they have developed that may have a negative effect on their health and wellbeing, and on you and your home.

It’s about understanding what has caused their change in behaviour, whether it’s psychological, or related to pain or disease, and then working with animal and owner to overcome the problems and improve their behaviour. Veterinary behavioural medicine can also help you learn how to prevent certain behavioural issues from developing.

We can now refer your pet to The Mind Vet for a Behavioural Medicine consultation – read more about this below.

Typical behavioural issues seen in dogs and cats

As owners, we might think our pet is simply ‘acting out’ or trying to get attention, however, the problem could run much deeper and that’s where behavioural medicine can help. Your veterinary surgeon should first check your pet for any signs of pain or health problems that might be contributing to certain behaviours.

  • COMMON DOG BEHAVIOUR ISSUES: Generalised anxiety disorders (usually seen as very nervous, reactive dogs, although some of these patients can be incredibly shy and more prone to freeze/avoid confrontation); aggression (towards other dogs and/or people); noise phobias (eg fireworks); separation-related anxiety; destructive behaviour; and compulsive disorders (tail chasing, surface-licking, flank-sucking).
  • COMMON CAT BEHAVIOUR ISSUES: Inter-cat-aggression; house soiling/inappropriate elimination (urine and/or stool deposited outside of the litter box, or marking behaviours); compulsive disorders (like overgrooming); and generalised anxiety disorders.

The Mind Vet - Behavioural Referrals

The Mind Vet is a Veterinary Behavioural Medicine service that works on a referral basis, providing trustworthy professional help in the field to both referring veterinary surgeons and pet owners.

The concept is simple: your pet’s behaviour is the tip of the iceberg, it’s a consequence of an underlying problem rather than a problem in itself – so the goal should be to explore and address the reason/motivation behind a particular behavioural display, rather than focus on the behaviour alone.

For most patients, their abnormal/unwanted behaviours are but a sign of a deeper mental health problem (generalised anxiety disorders; phobias; compulsive disorders; lack of impulse-control to name a few). This is the behavioural medicine of the future – a positive, constructive, science-based approach to addressing mental health in our veterinary patients, helping them cope in a world built by humans (and for humans) and to live longer, happier, and more fulfilling lives.

The Mind Vet is run by our very own Joao Teotonio, outside of our veterinary practice. Joao spent three months in Australia learning Behavioural Medicine with Dr Kersti Seksel – one of the world’s top specialists in the subject. He then moved back to Portugal to write his Master’s thesis on fear-related disorders in dogs and his interest in behaviour never stopped growing. Joao has been providing behavioural support to pets and owners since 2016.

Learn more about The Mind Vet

A Referral to The Mind Vet

Get a referral from your Vet

Ask your veterinary surgeon to refer your pet to The Mind Vet for a Behavioural Medicine consultation.

Once your referral is received by Joao, he will contact you and ask you to fill in a behavioural questionnaire. This will give him an understanding of what’s happening with your pet before your consultation.

Remote Consultations

All Behavioural Medicine consultations are now done remotely via video-call. This helps keep everyone safe during these uncertain times, without compromising the quality of the services. In fact, having the opportunity to see both the family and the pet in their own environment but at a distance can prove more insightful than holding in-person consultations at the clinic.

What to expect

During your first Behavioural Medicine consultation, you will have the opportunity to discuss all the problematic behaviours your pet is displaying. You will be given a wealth of information to help you understand what is causing your pet to behave the way they are and Joao will create an individually-tailored management plan for you and your pet. You will be sent a report and written support handouts on everything discussed in the consult.

A humane approach

At The Mind Vet, your pet’s welfare is the main priority. Joao is a qualified Veterinary Surgeon, who uses the most up-to-date, scientific knowledge in the field and will help structure a management plan that is suited to your pet’s individual needs. Joao uses a humane and positive-reward-based approach and has a proven track record.

Follow up

Joao will schedule a second appointment 4-6 weeks after your first consult, to review the response to the management plan, and plan for the future – depending on yours/your pet’s progress, you may need more appointments.

Payment

Payments for behaviour consultations must be paid directly to The Mind Vet.

Things to Remember

  • Why do pets develop behavioural problems
  • Behavioural disorders are very common
  • Always enlist the help of a qualified professional
  • Pain and disease related behavioural changes

Why do pets develop behavioural problems

Behavioural problems are often related to mental disorders and they take time and commitment to change, so be prepared to work! However, helping your pet improve from such a complex problem couldn’t be more satisfying and your bond with them will be forever strengthened.

Behavioural disorders are very common

The importance of animal behaviour and psychological well-being is increasingly recognised in the veterinary profession. Behavioural disorders are very common in our pets, inducing suffering to the animals and damaging the affective bond with their humans. These are actually found to be the main reason for pet relinquishment and euthanasia in shelters.

Always enlist the help of a qualified professional

If you think your pet might have a behavioural disorder, it is important you seek the help of a qualified professional and you really dig deep into their certifications. Behavioural therapy is still a very recent, and therefore highly unregulated, industry and unqualified help could have a long-lasting worsening effect on your pet’s behaviour.

Pain and disease related behavioural changes

Behavioural changes can be due to an infinite number of reasons, including pain and unrelated diseases. Seeking the help of a veterinarian will allow you to rule out all of these before initiating an individual behavioural modification protocol.

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