Veterinary Behaviour Services

Behavioural issues can severely impair the human animal bond and are cited as the number one reason in dogs and second most common reason in cats for relinquishment (surrender and/or euthanasia) from their homes. It is imperative to treat serious behaviour issues just as a serious medical condition would be.[1] Behaviour problems are medical problems like arthritis, diabetes and dental disease. They are mental health issues. There are no magic treatments for behaviour problems; they require long-term treatment regimes.[2] However, behaviour problems such as anxiety, aggression, house soiling and property destruction respond to medical treatment because they are medical problems. [3]

Generally, pet behaviour has only received attention when it becomes a problem, such as aggression, anxiety leading to owner property destruction or house soiling. Mental health issues affect the welfare and quality of life of animals affected by these conditions, along with the owners of these pets and other pets in the household. These issues can be managed so that ones pet can have an excellent quality of life.

Behaviour problems are not due to a lack of training or inappropriate training or owners not being assertive enough. They are due to neurochemical problems in the brain and training will not solve the problem. Obedient dogs can have behaviour problems and not be enjoying life. Your pet’s behaviour is determined by: genetic disposition (genes got from its parents), learning from previous experiences and the environment at that time. None of these factors act in isolation, so all need to be taken into consideration.[4]

Many of the behaviour problems commonly presented in the domestic cat are due to two main factors: First the result of the constraints of domestic life on animals that are not truly domesticated. Second, a result of human misinterpretations of natural feline behaviours.[5]

As a pet owner, don’t expect any behaviour professional to be able to give you an accurate assessment or predict an outcome in a brief phone call or conversation.[1]

We strive to foster the bond between you and your pet and understand the stress associated with behavioural problems. The behavioural consultation is designed to identify the source of the behavioural issue and design a treatment solution to improve your pet’s quality of life.

What To Expect At Your Pet’s Behavioural Consultation

To maximize the effectiveness of the behavioural consultation, it is important that everyone in the family participates in the consult, including other pets in the household. A minimum of three business days before your appointment, your pet’s pre-work must be completed and submitted to the office, which includes:

  • Dog Questionnaire
  • Cat Questionnaire
  • Referring Veterinarian Medical History
  • Videotaping a day in the life of your pet

Dr. Copland will review the information prior to your consultation. During the appointment, Dr. Copland will observe the pet and any pertinent information will be clarified. We will discuss the likely diagnosis and proposed treatment plan, which may require prescription medication. To ensure the safety of your pet, a complete physical exam and blood work is required before beginning a prescription. Within two weeks, Dr. Copland will have a complete package of instructions and the treatment plan ready, which will include a recommendation for follow-up consults, as necessary.

Dr. Copland’s Interest In Veterinary Behaviour

After attending a lecture by Dr. Karen Overall in 2011 at the North American Veterinary Conference, Dr. Copland attended a five-day clinical small animal behaviour medicine course at the North American Veterinary Conference Institute. This hands-on interactive course is the only one of its kind in North America. It is taught by Board Certified Veterinary Behaviourists: Dr. Karen Overall, Dr. Kersti Seksel, and Dr. Martin Godbout.

After attending this course Dr. Copland completely changed the way she practice and handled her patients small and large. They experience anxiety and fear not different then us with the procedures that must be performed at times, however we cannot tell them that it is necessary and will be okay. Dr. Copland participated in the North American Veterinary Conference Institute again in 2012. Then completed a very intensive 10-month distant education course through the University of Sydney, Australia – Center for Veterinary Education in 2013. This course was taught by Dr. Kersti Seksel who is board certified in veterinary behaviour in Australia, North America and Europe. The course covered behaviour medicine of all species, small and large. It was completed with a weekend workshop in the land down under!! In 2014, Dr. Copland attended the Australia and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists – Science Week presenting to the Veterinary Behaviour Chapter: Perspective of Canadian Veterinarians about Small Animal Behaviour. November 2015 Dr. Copland completed Living & Learning with Animals: The Science & Technology of Behavior Change. Taught by Dr. Susan G. Friedman Ph.D.

July of 2016, Dr. Copland attained her largest goal since graduating from Veterinary Medicine. She was admitted to the Australia and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists with Membership in Veterinary Behaviour. This required passing a four and a half hour written exam and then an hour long oral exam.

A Veterinarian With Training In Veterinary Behaviour Can:

  • Assess if there are any medical conditions that may be contributing to your pet’s undesirable behaviour.
  • Assess if your pet shows abnormal levels of anxiety, stress, fear, hyperactivity, aggressive reactivity or impulsivity, which may be contributing to your pet’s behaviour.
  • Explain to you why your pet is behaving the way it does.
  • Develop an effective treatment plan tailored to meet the needs of you and your pet.
  • Provide ongoing support in modifying your pet’s behaviour.
  • Supply appropriate medication if indicated.
  • Give you an idea of the chances of improving behaviour.

How a veterinarian with training in veterinary behaviour differs from dog trainers?

  • Experienced and qualified dog trainers understand how dogs learn and how to teach them. A skilled trainer will understand how to manage and prevent the development of some behaviour problems. However, only a veterinarian is qualified to make a diagnosis, develop an appropriate treatment plan or prescribe and manage drug therapy for pets with abnormal behaviour.
  • Veterinarians with training in veterinary behaviour are skilled in identifying the causes of behaviour problems and developing a treatment plan. These veterinarians commonly deal with abnormal behaviours. These are conditions based on anxiety and aggression problems. These problems may be a result of genetics, medical conditions, learning experiences or environmental conditions.

In some cases a veterinarians may work together with a trainer or your regular veterinarian to help get your pet’s behaviour back on track.

[1] Moffat K. Behavior Medicine in General Practice. Western Veterinary Conference 2011

[2] Bowen J, Heath S. Behaviour Problems in Small Animals: Practical Advice for the Veterinary Team. Edinburgh: Elsevier Limited. 2005:13

[3] Seksel K. Understanding Learning Theory and Behaviour Modification: Changing Anxious Behaviours in Dogs. Clinical Behavior Medicine: NAVC Institute 2012.

[4] Seksel K. Understanding Learning Theory and Behaviour Modification: Changing Anxious Behaviours in Dogs. Clinical Behavior Medicine: NAVC Institute 2012.

[5] Bowen J, Heath S. Behaviour Problems in Small Animals: Practical Advice for the Veterinary Team. Edinburgh: Elsevier Limited. 2005:2