Behavioural issues in pets are unfortunately very common in today's society. Issues seen may include being extra 'clingy' to you or excessive barking, through to spraying urine around the house or destroying the garden. When it comes to your pet's behaviour, it is extremely important to seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian or animal behaviour specialist. If you have a pet with behaviour issues, whether it is a dog, cat or bird, please don't be afraid to seek help - we will not judge you for having an animal with a behaviour problem, and will be able to offer a lot of help. And please seek veterinary help early - don't allow yourself to reach the point where you have already given up and are saying 'nothing more can be done'. Early intervention is the key to resolving behaviour issues before the point when euthanasia is being considered.
Please call your veterinarian today if you have any behaviour issues in your pets that you would like to discuss.
How do behaviour problems start?
There are a number of reasons why pets develop behaviour issues, though they usually start because of a combination of several reasons, including:
- Genetics - many anxious animals have a genetic basis to their anxiety.
- Insufficient socialisation when young to introduce them to normal sounds and situations.
- Medical issues - pain or discomfort can lead to changes in your pet's behaviour.
- Stress - animals can be stressed by illness, loss of a family member, moving house, introducing new people or animals into the house, or through bullying behaviour from another animal.
- Improper training - if training isn't done correctly, you may actually make the behaviour worse.
Unfortunately, many older training techniques have been found to make behaviour problems worse by reinforcing anxiety and not treating the root of the problem. This is why we recommend seeking professional advice about how to best train your pet. Throughout the veterinary industry, positive reinforcement training is the preferred method of training.
At Gawler Veterinary Services, we are fortunate to have a vet who has a particular interest in animal behaviour to help you with behavioural issues. Dr Chalette Brown, who has completed her memberships for the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Science in Veterinary Behaviour, is able to perform in-clinic behavioural consults with you and your pet for any issues you may have. After a full health check and possibly blood work to ensure there is no medical cause of the behaviour problems, your veterinarian will organise for you to have a longer behaviour consultation with Dr Chalette if appropriate. Always working with you and your pet one-on-one, she is willing to work with all animals, from puppy preschool age for teaching basic manners to elderly dogs having difficulty adapting to new situations. She will teach you how to interact with and train your pet, and teach coping mechanisms for both you and your pet.
There is no simple cure for behaviour problems. However, with appropriate treatment and re-training, most behaviour issues can be controlled. Be prepared to pu in the extra time to make changes, and you will be rewarded with a closer, more understanding relationship with your pet.
How can vets help my pet?
With behaviour issues becoming much more recognised and understood, veterinarians are learning many ways in which they can help these patients. Your veterinarian will assess your pet, then work with you on an individual plan based on the behaviours seen and the underlying causes.
Your veterinarian can help you and your pet by:
- Checking for and treating any underlying illness that could have caused the change in behaviour.
- Helping to reduce your pet's anxiety. Since many pets with behaviour issues have underlying anxiety, it is important to treat this anxiety. Reducing their anxiety will help your pet be more responsive to training and other changes. This may involve pheromone sprays or collars that use a natural-based pheromone to produce a calm homely feeling, or anti-anxiety medication either for short or longer-term use.
- Providing training tips, tricks and plans to help you retrain your pet. The importance of retraining your pet cannot be underestimated. All changes rely on persistent training - we all know how hard bad habits are to break, and it is the same for your pet.
- Advising you on other changes you can make around your home that will help your pet. This may include changes in your routines, increased environmental enrichment, treat toys, different toys to keep your pet occupied while you are out, or changes to your pet's living space to help keep them calm.
- Offering support throughout the process whenever you or your pet may need some extra help.
There is a lot of information on the internet, but not all of it will be good advise or appropriate for your animal. However, here are some information pages that may be of interest to you: