Undesirable behaviors negatively impact the relationship we have with our pets. The goal of our Behavior Services is to create a better life for you and your pet by preventing and treating behavior problems using compassionate, scientific methodology that nurtures the human-animal bond.
**Please note that a behavioral consultation does NOT qualify for the $20 off first exam. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Dr. Moffat participated in a rigorous residency program in order to become certified and considered a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior (DACVB).
A veterinary behaviorist can evaluate a pet's behavioral problems, can diagnose medical problems that may be contributing to these problems and are licensed to prescribe drugs that may benefit these animals. The specialty of veterinary behavior is equivalent to human psychiatry, and veterinary behaviorists are, in effect, animal psychiatrists. Similar to human psychiatrists, veterinary behaviorists have received many years of specialized education and have passed a rigorous board-certification examination in order to treat your pet. Veterinary behaviorists use behavior modification techniques, environmental and lifestyle changes, and psychoactive medication when appropriate in order to manage behavior problems. As trained veterinarians, veterinary behaviorists also have the medical knowledge to determine whether an underlying medical condition is responsible for your pet’s behavioral change. Medical problems almost always have behavioral consequences, but not every behavior change is due to a medical problem veterinary behaviorists are uniquely trained to recognize and treat both. Your general practitioner veterinarian can diagnose and treat many routine behavior problems; however, many behavior issues require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive training in veterinary behavior in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet. The treatment of behavior cases requires a very careful accounting of the pet's past history, both medical and behavioral, and his or her current lifestyle. It is important to really understand your pet's emotional and psychological needs and deficits in order to gain insight into the solutions to the issues that concern you.
Veterinary behavior treatment goes far above and beyond basic obedience training. Trainers commonly teach commands such as “sit” or “stay.” To a veterinary behaviorist, however, teaching commands may be just a small part of a larger treatment program designed to address a pet’s behavior issue, whether it be aggression or house soiling. While a trainer’s primary goal is to get a pet simply to act a certain way, a veterinary behaviorist’s primary goal is to understand why a pet misbehaves in order to create a personalized, comprehensive treatment plan to address the underlying cause of the behavior problem. Addressing the fundamental reason for misbehavior, rather than attempting to “train away” the problem, typically leads to longer-lasting results. Veterinary behaviorists are qualified to provide you with the correct diagnosis and state-of-the-art treatment of your pet’s behavior problem. A veterinary behaviorist is also best able to determine whether your pet may benefit from behavior-modifying medication or if a medical problem may be a contributing factor. Many non-professionals claim to be “animal behaviorists” but lack the education, scientific knowledge, experience and training of a veterinary behaviorist. Unfortunately no governing body regulates who may call themselves an “animal behaviorist” or “trainer.” While some non-veterinary behaviorists and trainers are experienced and educated, there are many others who possess no formal education or proper understanding of animal behavior and may utilize unproven, outdated or even inhumane training techniques to achieve short-term results. By consulting and working with a veterinary behaviorist, your pet will be receiving the highest standard of care from a certified professional.
A pet owner should be cautious of any person who states that they "guarantee" fixing your pets behavior problems. Animal behavior is complex and results from a combination of genetics, prior experiences and learning, and the current environmental situation that the animal is placed in. There are many behaviors that we can modify and improve, some that we can learn how to work with and/or prevent and some that we can fully resolve. The results we see can vary depending on the safety of the particular animal/behavioral problem, the owner's ability to dedicate the time and effort into behavioral modifications and the motivational state of the pet. So, in short, success is not guaranteed, but always our goal.
There are some pets that would benefit largely from some simple training, but many behavior problems require much more than that. Animals, like people can develop a number of fears, anxieties, phobias, compulsive behaviors and aggressions that require an in-depth history and actual behavioral modifications (not training) to help resolve them. Sometimes trainers will employ aversive or punishment methods in attempts at resolving some of these behavioral problems which may actually aggravate the problem further. Training can however be an integral part of behavioral modifications, and often a good trainer will be employed or recommended to help the owner work with behavior modifications techniques once they have been prescribed and explained in the initial consult.
No, an adequate history and description of the problem is impossible to get quickly over a phone call and attempting to do so would provide you and your pet a grave disservice. If for some reason you cannot schedule a consultation, Dr. Moffat can work directly with your veterinarian to help them work with you and your pet. They can call her directly at the office for advice. Your veterinarian however needs to spend the time and effort to help you and your pet, so adequate compensation should be provided to them.
Behavior modification techniques are used to alter an animal's behaviors and reactions to stimuli using both operant and classical conditioning techniques. The most common employed techniques include systematic desensitization, reinforcement of more appropriate behaviors and extinction.
Appointments are seen at the VCA Mesa Animal Hospital (no house calls at this time) and the protocol is listed under the Forms section.
Appointments can be made by calling the main hospital number (see under Behavior Consultation Protocol).
The appointment is 60 minutes long and a $50 deposit is required to hold this appointment block. The deposit is refundable if the appointment is cancelled GREATER than 24 hours in advance.
The following documents are required to be sent in prior to scheduling the consultation: completed questionnaire, medical records for the pet, and referral form completed by your primary veterinarian.
The behavioral history forms on this page are tailored for either a dog or a cat. This history will provide detailed information on a variety of aspects of your pet's environment, activities, and behaviors (both normal and problematic). This is all vital information to receive prior to the consultation in order to give the clinician a basis to start the behavioral appointment and to focus the behavioral history once the consult begins.
Please send completed forms to either our email or fax listed below:
Email: [email protected]
Aggression in pets is an important behavioral problem and is the most common problem seen at animal behavior clinics. There are many different reasons that dogs and cats may act aggressively and our specialists will use a thorough history to learn more about your pet's aggressive behavior. Although there is no quick cure for dog or cat aggression, our veterinary specialists will give you methods and tools you need to control aggression in your pet.... Read more
Inappropriate urination and defecation can be caused by behavioral or medical problems. An appointment with our Internal Medicine department is the first step in diagnosis and management of these disorders. .... Read more
Our animal hospital offers grief counseling services for owners with very sick or terminally ill pets or for owners coping with pet loss. Grief upon the loss of a pet is a normal response and also a very individual one. Grieving is a complex process which includes a number of stages including, denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and resolution.... Read more