“Wellness is so much more than good health or absence of physical disease. In fact, at Vet24, we strongly believe that wellness is the full integration of both physical and emotional health.”
An alarming number of pets suffer from mental health disorders, which often manifest as problem behaviours. Left undiagnosed, untreated or managed inappropriately, this can significantly impact the emotional wellbeing of your pet and the bond you share with them. If your pet is showing behavioural problems it is advisable to seek help from a veterinary behaviourist, who is extensively qualified to assess if there are any medical conditions contributing to your pet’s behaviours, make an accurate diagnosis, determine an effective treatment plan and supply appropriate medication if indicated.
Dr Lucy van der Weide BScBVMS MANZCVS (Veterinary Behaviour), is a behaviour veterinarian who is really passionate about mental health and the impact of behaviour problems on both pets and their families. Dr Lucy can relate first-hand to the struggles of living with a special needs pet with behavioural problems. Dr Lucy has undertaken Memberships in Behavioural Medicine with the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Medicine.
At Vet24 Behaviour we are passionate about working together with you to optimise your pet’s emotional health so that they can be the best version of themselves, and that harmony is restored in the home.
Does your pet have an emotional health disorder?
Behavioural concerns are becoming more prevalent in our veterinary patients, in fact 1 in 4 pets have had a behavioural problem (often referred to as an emotional health disorder) over their life-time. This may be due to lifestyle and genetic factors, but certainly vets and owners have become increasingly aware of the mental health problems in their pets and the impact it has on their (and your) quality of life. It is important for vets and owners to work together to identify the pets, where intervention may result in happier and healthier pets and owners!
Generalised anxiety, noise phobias (including storm phobias), aggression towards other pets or people, separation anxiety, excessive fears, reactivity, resource guarding, hyper-arousal, obsessive compulsive disorders and age-related cognitive decline are some of the conditions that we commonly treat and manage in our practice. These conditions can also negatively impact physical health and there can be strong correlation between mental and physical health.
Emotional Health Disorders are not a simple training or obedience issue. Moreover, these conditions do not arise as a result of your pet trying to be the boss of you or dominate you. Unfortunately there are no quick fixes for emotional health disorders.
If you suspect your pet has an emotional health disorder, the best first step is an assessment with your vet. Trainers (even those who refer to themselves as behaviourist) are not able to diagnose, rule out any contributing medical conditions including pain or illness, or where appropriate, medically treat these cases.
‘It is interesting to note that dogs that are having trouble learning or responding to training may have an emotional health disorder interfering with their ability to learn, and are also best assessed by a vet.’
Experienced, positive reinforcement trainers can play an important role in many of these cases once a diagnosis is established, helping to facilitate management and behavioural modification in the home. It’s also important noting in particular that “board and train” style solutions are actually likely to be detrimental in the long term for any pet with an anxiety disorder. Similarly, please be aware and stay away from any trainers who use punishment in their approach, even when referred to as “balanced”.
Not all pets will require medications, this is determined by a case-by-case basis. Just like diabetic patients require insulin to help their bodies work properly, some animals need medications to alter specific neurochemicals within the brain to help their brain work properly. Understandably, there is a tendency for owners to feel concerned about using medications in their pet for behavioural management, however these concerns can be addressed with your vet.