Behavioural Advice



Behavioural problems can be due to behavioural causes, medical causes, or both. Our veterinarians will investigate behavioural problems by obtaining a full history and conducting a full examination (sometimes your pet may require blood or urine tests to rule out underlying medical conditions) to accurately diagnose a problem. Behavioural problems are often the combined effect of many factors, including your pet’s environment and learning.

Genetics can also predispose your pet to some behaviours, however the expression of those behaviours will depend on your pet’s early socialisation and training.

Changes in the environment may contribute to the emergence of behavioural problems. For example, changes in routine, a new member of the household (pet, baby or spouse), moving house, or the loss of a family member or pet can have a dramatic impact on behaviour. Any medical or degenerative changes associated with ageing may cause the pet to be even more sensitive to these environmental changes.

Learning also plays a part in many behavioural problems. Early training and socialisation is essential to have a happy, well-adjusted pet. Punishment of behavioural problems often worsens the situation and it is very important that professional advice is obtained as soon as the problem appears to effectively resolve it. Positive reinforcement is the preferred method for changing behaviour, however this also needs to be used carefully as it can encourage undesirable behaviour if used incorrectly.



How are behavioural problems treated?

There is no simple cure for any behavioural problem, so be careful when taking ''helpful'' advice. For example, many people with a destructive dog are given the advice to get another dog to fix the problem, however, they may end up with two destructive dogs! It is very important that the cause of the problem is addressed, not just the symptoms of the problem. For example don't chain a dog up because it is digging; find out the reason for the digging and treat the dog accordingly.

When it comes to your pet's behaviour, it is extremely important to seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian or animal behaviour specialist. Changing problem behaviour requires commitment on behalf of the whole family, as everyone your pet interacts with will be responsible for encouraging desirable behaviour. Some cases may also require medications alongside the new training techniques to get the best outcome.

For this and other behavioural problems we advise you contact us to make an appointment with one of our veterinarians. In some cases where problems are particularly complex or long standing referral to a specialist in Veterinary Behaviour may be required.

We work closely with Dr. Diane Van Rooy (BVSc MANZCVS – Veterinary Behaviour) who is able to provide both in-clinic and home visit appointments in animal behaviour.

Dr. Diane used to work as a Veterinarian at our hospital for many years before going on to complete her studies in animal behaviour. She is passionate about understanding pet behaviours and loves working together with families to improve any behavioural problems experienced in the home.

Home visits with Dr. Diane are highly recommended as she is able to observe your pet in their natural environment (which may also be less stressful for your pet than coming to the clinic). Home visits help Dr. Diane tailor a treatment plan specific to what she observes in the home. Dr. Diane will typically spend 2-2.5 hours at your house to inspect the environment, monitor your pet's behaviours, determine any causes of problems, supply you with a diagnosis and provide a highly tailored treatment plan which will include behaviour modification and sometimes medication which can be supplied by our hospital. After her home visit you then have the freedom to contact Dr. Diane via phone or email for the next 3 months for guidance and support.

In-clinic consultations with Dr. Diane are 1 hour long and are available for booking with us at Sunbury Animal Hospital. These consultations are generally recommended for less complex behavioural problems. During your appointment Dr. Diane will go through the problem(s) with you, provide a diagnosis and devise a treatment plan (however you may be referred to a trainer for further behaviour modification). If the problem is serious enough and found not to be something that can be sorted out in just one consultation; Diane may advise that a home visit consultation  be organised.