It could be said that veterinarians are not sufficiently expert or knowledgeable about cat and dog behavior. Research indicates that they don’t focus on it enough. Further, it has been said that regular veterinary visits can make a cat or dog who was already fearful even more fearful and therefore vets could unwittingly be contributing to cat and dog behavior problems which may result in abandoning the companion animal.
Veterinarians should discuss with their clients (the cat or dog’s caretaker/guardian) cat and dog behavior problems when they are raised by the client.
In addition, veterinarian’s could focus more of their energies on making the environment in a veterinary clinic less fearful because at present they are often highly functional to the point where that functionality can be a factor in making cats or dogs frightened.
It appears that vets only address companion animal behavioral concerns when they become a problem for the veterinarian. This is a reactive process. Veterinarians should be more proactive by discussing companion animal behavioral problems when they become a concern for the client.
Sometimes clients are looking for advice on behavioral problems. Research supports this. The research also supports the fact that when this happens vets often fail to discuss the matter adequately.
For example, in one study cat and dog owners asked their veterinarian about companion animal behavior on 58 occasions. Only on 10 occasions did the veterinarian discussed the matter.
One of the reasons for abandoning pets is because the owner believes that their pet behaves badly or unmanageably. Therefore, the veterinarian passes up an opportunity to save lives because abandonment often leads to the euthanasia of the pet.
A vet should be able to identify a cat or dog who is fearful and uncertain when they are young and secondly minimize the maintaining of that fear at the clinic.
A study identified that almost 80% of dogs were fearful while being examined. About 13% of the dogs had to be dragged or carry into the practice. Less than half entered the clinic calmly. Dogs who had recently visited a veterinary clinic had higher stress levels than those who were not visiting recently.
Distressed behavior in companion animals at veterinary clinics can interfere with a vet’s ability to assess patients.
It is said that a veterinarian should be able to tell the difference between patients whose fear is a “pathological diagnosis” and those whose fear has been brought on by the visit to the clinic. How cat a vet evaluate genuine early years behavior problems when the pet is fearful the clinic?
Is it possible that the delivery of veterinary care may unwittingly teach cats and dogs that people can be threatening? Is it possible that visits to a veterinary clinic can contribute to the worsening development of any behavioral problems mentioned by the client? It is vital that veterinarians address anxiety in companion animals at the beginning of the doctor-patient relationship.
The argument is that veterinarians should be expending more energy on creating “behaviour-centred practices”. This means calm environments, teaching (training) patients that going to the vet is not a scary experience and avoiding situations during which a cat or dog could see the experience as being punishment or frightening. The goal is to try and get the companion animal to see the experience as being fun and rewarding.
“If we (meaning veterinarians) take the few minutes needed to assess how fearful the pet is and if we change our clinics and our behaviours to encourage more and better cooperation, we are likely to save lives daily and engender an enduring loyalty and trust from clients.”
The quote is from Dr Karen L Overall and this article is based upon her article on this webpage. She is editor of The Journal of Veterinary Behaviour: Clinical Applications and Research and more than 100 publications and a new book, The Manual of Clinical Behavioural Medicine For Dogs and Cats.