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4 ways to integrate behavior counseling at your veterinary practice


Pet owners were much less interested in talking about behavior issues in the exam room than veterinarians. Get tips on integrating behavior into your practice.

The 2012 Veterinary Economics Business Issues survey showed that veterinarians are more interested in behavior topics than clients. This is bad for veterinarians and pets alike, according to Dr. Ellen Lindell, DACVB, owner of Veterinary Behavior Consultations in Pleasant Valley, N.Y. Clients don't seem to know that some of the behavior issues they’re facing with their pets may have medical or solvable behavioral reasons. They don’t recognize veterinarians as an excellent source for behavioral advice.

“There’s something wrong when I hear clients and team members say, ‘I wouldn’t live with a cat that soils,” Dr. Lindell says.

It’s important to remind pet owners that they’re not necessarily doing anything wrong when behavior problems crop up.Better behavior practice at your hospital can keep cats and dogs in their homes. Here are a few of Dr. Lindell’s tips for better integrating behavior into general practice:

1. Talk about behavior without judgment. Wrong: “Are you following my advice for housebreaking? Are you doing well with it?” Right: “Is the house breaking going well?” and “Has there been any soiling? Sometimes cats will miss the litter box.”

2. Make time for behavior. “Sometimes the veterinarian isn’t excited about introducing behavior in a 10-minute consult,” Dr. Lindell says. “Remember, just because you discover a problem doesn’t mean you need to solve it that day.” Explain that behavior problems can often be fixed, but that you need more than a few minutes to figure out what might be wrong and come up with solutions that will work for that client’s household. Schedule another appointment when you have more time.

3. Get your team on message. “Receptionists should ask the right questions so listen for hints that the client’sdog needs basic training or whether there is growling or nipping in which case dog needs a behavior consult with a veterinarian,” Dr. Lindell says. Use your behavior knowledge, or increase your behavior knowledge, so clients see you as the authority in these issues, rather than seeking advice with the retail employee down the road.

> Empower a veterinary technician. Veterinarians don’t need to see pets with behavior problems every time. A properly trained technician can keep track of how restraining, muzzle and head collar usage, and desensitization techniques are going. Once a behavioral regimen is going, you can be a frequent but not a perpetual resource for the particular issue.

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