A vet and a behaviourist?

You do behaviour? I thought you were a vet?!

It used to be that animal behaviour was not the preserve of veterinary surgeons – vets dealt with the body and it was up to others to deal with the mind.

However in reality there is no clear distinction between mind and body, they are inextricably linked. How do you know that your animal is in pain? They can’t speak, you can tell by watching their behaviour. They become withdrawn, they stay in bed, they may be reluctant to be touched and you recognise that change in behaviour as being due to pain. In reality vets have always been reliant on interpreting behaviour to reach diagnoses. Thankfully now the importance of behaviour, as a reflection of mental state, is being appreciated, and increasingly vets are taking a role in this critical part of an animal’s welfare.

The privilege of having veterinary training as well as a behavioural qualification is that it enables you to look at the whole picture. Life isn’t simple and often an unwanted behaviour isn’t due to only one factor. There may be multiple elements to consider – changes in household, underlying temperament, past experience, as well as concurrent medical conditions such as osteoarthritis or diabetes. Addressing any one factor in isolation may not be enough to help with the problem, but consider the whole picture and you are in with a chance.

So yes, I am a vet and a behaviourist. Unwanted behaviours can have a real impact on the quality of life of a pet and their owner. Sadly many pets are rehomed, or even euthanised, due to behavioural problems, and so if this can be prevented it is a role I am proud to have.

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