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What is a Veterinary Behaviorist?
Veterinary Behaviorists have achieved board-certification in the specialty of Veterinary Behavior. Board-certified specialists are known as Diplomates. These veterinarians work with individual pet owners, other animal professionals, and facilities that care for animals in order to manage behavior problems and improve the wellbeing of animals. Behavioral problems can result from a neurochemical imbalance, a medical condition, learned fearful associations, or conflict over rules and social structure. A Veterinary Behaviorist is in a unique position to diagnose medical conditions that can affect a pet’s behavior, as well as treat conditions that are purely behavioral.
How does someone become a Veterinary Behaviorist?
Veterinary Behaviorists are licensed veterinarians who have graduated from a recognized college of veterinary medicine and completed at least one year of internship or primary care practice. They have also undergone additional behavior-specific training which includes at least 3 years of case supervision by an established Diplomate, conducting original behavior research which earns publication in a peer reviewed journal, authored 3 formal case reports that were approved by a review committee of Diplomates, and passed a rigorous 2-day Board Examination.
Why is behavioral medicine important?
Behavioral problems are a leading cause of relinquishment of dogs and cats to animal shelters in the United States. While animals with behavioral problems often are considered to “misbehave”, they may have a physical cause for the problem, be responding to inconsistent interactions with the people around them, and/or have had a poor upbringing. Behavioral problems are complex and can have many causes; and it takes a concerted effort under the guidance of a trained professional to bring about change. Behavioral medicine requires a broad knowledge of the physical and emotional health of animals, as well as the knowledge of how to help clients implement the prescribed treatment plan.
How does a Veterinary Behaviorist differ from a dog trainer?
Veterinary Behaviorists are veterinarians who are knowledgeable in all aspects of animal behavior. They are required to stay current on the most recent scientific findings through research and attending and presenting at professional continuing education meetings. Good trainers have knowledge of behavior, but not at the depth or breadth that is expected of a Veterinary Behaviorist. While a trainer may teach an animal to perform certain actions in response to a command, obedience training does not usually get to the root cause of a behavioral issue or solve the behavioral problem. Be aware that some training techniques are considered questionable and inhumane in their approach.
What kinds of behavioral problems are treated by a Veterinary Behaviorist?
Veterinary behaviorists are trained to treat behavioral problems in all types of animals, from dogs and cats to horses and birds. Below are some examples of the problems that are best evaluated and treated by a Veterinary Behaviorist.
What other animals do Veterinary Behaviorists treat?
Veterinary Behaviorists do not just treat dogs and cats, but also treat horses, birds, zoo and other exotic animals, production animals, and laboratory animals. They have the full breadth and depth of knowledge to understand the behavior of all animals, as well as the ability to diagnose and treat underlying medical problems that can be related to the animal’s behavioral problems.
What other things do Veterinary Behaviorists do?
In addition to treating owned animals, Veterinary Behaviorists also hold positions in Industry, Academia, and Animal Shelters.