Make behavior counseling an integral part of every visit


Make behavior counseling an integral part of every visit

A typical Monday at your veterinary clinic...

Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB, MS
9:00 a.m. Mrs. Henry brings in Muffy, a 10-year-old spayed female Maltese having trouble breathing because of congestive heart failure. Mrs. Henry is unable to medicate Muffy because the dog often bites her. The late Mr. Henry was able to medicate Muffy.

10:00 a.m. Charlie, a 3-year-old castrated male cocker spaniel, is brought in for an otitis recheck. The owner says Charlie's ears are no better. With further questioning, you determine the owner hasn't been able to get any medication into Charlie's ears.

11:00 a.m. Herbie, a 2-year-old intact male fox terrier, is presented for suturing of wounds he received at the dog park that morning. The owner also decides to have you castrate Herbie, hoping it will make him less aggressive toward other dogs.

Noon While eating a sandwich, you evaluate urinalysis results from Fluffy, a 7-year-old spayed female domestic shorthaired cat with recurrent urinary tract inflammation that is unresponsive to medical management. You pore over your notes from the recent lecture you attended on feline interstitial cystitis.

1:00 p.m. Ginny, a 12-week-old spayed female German shepherd mix, is in for her second series of vaccinations. With her tail tucked and hiding behind her owner, Ginny seems worried about being in the office. When questioned, the owner says Ginny runs away when she or her husband yell at her for urinating in the house.

2:00 p.m. Figment, a 5-year-old male Moluccan cockatoo presented for a routine check-up, has feathers only on his head.

3:00 p.m. You meet with a pharmaceutical representative offering a new flea and tick product containing amitraz.

3:30 p.m. You meet with a pharmaceutical representative offering a new medication to treat separation anxiety.

4:00 p.m. Thelma and Louise, two 10-week-old kittens, are in for their first vaccinations. "They are a handful," says the owner, adding that they continually chase her older cat.

6:59 p.m. Hershey, a castrated male Border collie who frequently escapes from his yard, is brought in after being hit by a car.

What do all of these visits have in common? They all involve behavior issues, which should influence how you treat and follow up with these patients. In addition, you must be mindful of specific drug interactions since there can be serious side effects due to drug interactions with some of the behavior-modifying medications.

Behavior is an important piece of the fabric of veterinary medicine. We need to be knowledgeable about the effects of behavior on a patient's welfare, stress levels, and medical problems and on the human-animal bond. Problem behaviors are the No. 1 reason for dog relinquishment and are the second most common reason for cat relinquishment.1 It is estimated that six million animals enter U.S. animal shelters every year and that about three million are euthanized.2 If an infectious disease emerged that killed that number of cats and dogs every year, there would be a huge uproar from veterinarians and pet owners.