Specialists can help with pet aggression, other problems
Pets’ behavior problems can be frustrating for owners. At some point, they may decide to relinquish the animal to a shelter or another home. Some choose euthanasia.
Veterinarians are often asked to solve these complex and challenging problems. Twenty-five years ago, a small group of vets created their own specialty group, the American College of Veterinary Behavior. This program is small — Only about 75 specialists worldwide are currently listed as members of the behavior college.
Previously, local veterinarians struggling with behavior issues had to consult a specialist by phone. If we wanted the patient seen by a behavior specialist, we would refer the animal to one in either Columbus, Ohio, or eastern Pennsylvania.
We now have a better option. Veterinarian Laurie Bergman, a Diplomate of the ACVB, is available for behavior consultations at the new University Veterinary Specialists in McMurray, Washington County. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993, she became a behavior specialist in 2003. She has held positions at Tufts University and the University of California and has been in private practice since 2008.
One of the most common behavior problems in pets is aggression toward people and other animals. Because of the potential for disaster, a specialist is preferred. Many owners want a simple solution such as medication, but that is not possible. Aggression can be difficult to understand, and multiple factors contribute to this behavior. Sometimes physical and psychological issues are to blame. After a comprehensive exam and complete history, a specialist will often recommend behavior modification and sometimes drug therapy.
Fears and phobias are common in animals. One in six dogs may suffer from separation anxiety, and some are terrified of storms and fireworks. With the summer thunderstorm season and the Fourth of July approaching, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. The older drugs such as tranquilizers that were used in the past have been replaced with better medications.
Urine marking and inappropriate elimination is a common behavior problem in cats, especially ones that share a household with other cats. Once the problem starts, changing it is difficult. Even figuring out which cat is responsible is a challenge. The solution usually involves providing a stress-free environment with multiple boxes that are very clean and filled with litter that every cat likes.
Veterinary behaviorists function like an animal psychiatrist by diagnosing problems, modifying behavior with various treatments and altering brain chemistry with medications. Having a behavior specialist close by is a wonderful addition to the local veterinary community.