What is a Veterinary Behaviorist?

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Dr. Amy Marder, V.M.D., VP Behavioral Medicine & CAS

There are three groups of people that help people who are having behavior problems with their animals: veterinary behaviorists, applied animal behavior consultants and animal trainers. Veterinary behaviorists are veterinarians with a special interest in animal behavior.

What is a Veterinary Behaviorist?

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Some veterinary behaviorists have completed residency programs after graduating from veterinary school and some have passed an exam given by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. These veterinary behaviorists are “board-certified” diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Veterinary Behaviorists are trained and licensed to diagnose and treat problems in animals, whether they are medical or behavioral.

Being veterinarians, these behaviorists can understand medical problems that may be contributing to the behavioral problem of the animal. For example, a dog that is urinating in the house may be doing so not only because he has forgotten his housetraining manners. He may also have one of several medical problems that make dogs drink more water (diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease) or he may have a medical problem which makes it difficult to hold on to his urine (cystitis, nerve problems). A veterinary behaviorist would easily be able to consider these possibilities. Sometimes behavior modification programs are more effective if combined with psychotropic drug therapy (tranquilizers, anti-depressants).

A veterinary behaviorist is licensed to prescribe drugs and is familiar with the psychotropic medications, their uses and side effects. Applied animal behaviorists have post-graduate degrees (either Masters or PhD) in zoology, animal behavior or animal psychology. Certification is by the Animal Behavior Society and is based on education and experience. Animal trainers are usually self-trained. At this time there is no licensing or educational requirements to become an animal trainer. Many however have taken courses in animal behavior and have extensive experience dealing with behavior problems.

Courtesy of
ASPCA
424 East 92nd St.
New York, NY 10128-6804
(212) 876-7700
www.aspca.org

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