10 Ways Veterinarians Can Contribute to Your Dog’s Overall Behavior Treatment Plan


©Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC

"I've found that the majority of veterinarians are helpful contributors to the treatment plan team."

People rely on their veterinarian for their dog’s physical health. Vets can also be counted on to play a role in a dog’s behavior treatment plan.

In moderate to severe behavior cases it may be necessary to use psychopharmaceutical medications (see “The Truth About Doggy Downers”) as part of the behavior treatment plan designed by a certified behavior specialist.

The probability of a successful outcome for a treatment plan is improved if the veterinarian is properly involved in finding the best psychopharmaceutical drugs for the client’s dog.

I like to tell clients they are part of an all-important three-member team: dog owner, behavior specialist and veterinarian.

Your veterinarian plays an important role by:

  1. communicating well with everyone on the team. In other words, the vet makes it easy to give and get information from his or her office.
  2. getting information from client’s animal behavior specialist about behavior observations and assessments before prescribing any medications. And the vet’s office will make these notes part of the dog’s health record.
  3. engaging in a dialogue with the client’s dog behavior consultant about medication considerations before any prescriptions are written.
  4. ensuring the client is not overpaying for medications by offering competitive prices at the vet’s in-house pharmacy or writing prescriptions that can be filled at competitively priced human pharmacies.
  5. writing prescriptions for outside pharmacies if the appropriate medication is not immediately available at the vet’s in-house pharmacy.
  6. staying in touch with the dog’s owner to adjust dosages either up or down and assisting in tapering off the drugs when appropriate.
  7. informing the clients about the possible side-effects of medications.
  8. administering any physical rule-out tests deemed necessary by the vet or requested by client or behaviorist (e.g., thyroid profile, blood chemistry panel).
  9. not wasting resources on inappropriate or ineffective over-the-counter remedies that are frequently more expensive than tested and proven prescription medications.
  10. fully supporting the treatment plan created by the behavior specialist.

I've found that the majority of veterinarians are helpful contributors to the treatment plan team. However, if your dog has a serious behavior issue and you find that your veterinarian is not an enthusiastic and positive contributor to your dog’s treatment plan, frankly, you may want to consider finding another vet.

The team approach to behavior modification in serious cases works extremely well; I’ve seen many dogs make exciting and inspiring improvement using this model.