Aggression is not a diagnosis for your veterinary patients

November 2, 2017

According to behavior expert and Fetch dvm360 speaker Dr. John Ciribassi, many clients (and veterinary professionals!) fail to recognize aggression for what it really isa clinical sign.

Fetch dvm360 conference speaker John Ciribassi, DVM, DACVB, says that one of the most common behavior misconceptions he hears from clients and fellow veterinarians is the view that aggression is a diagnosis rather than a sign of an underlying problem.

Dr. Ciribassi makes an analogy to vomit-presumably so you can get a nice mental picture: "You don't say the diagnosis is vomiting. You say the symptom is vomiting. Now we have to find out, why is that occurring? Same with aggression," he says.

According to Dr. Ciribassi, thinking of aggression as a clinical sign forces us to dig deeper to determine its causes, such as fear, territoriality or a maternal problem.

“Your goal as a practitioner is to diagnose why that symptom is occurring and then address the cause,” he says.

More aggression resources

Dr. Ciribassi discusses fear-based aggression in dogs.

How to treat fear-based and conflict-related aggression.

This paradigm applies to both dogs and cats, though Dr. Ciribassi says the range of causes of aggression as a clinical sign is wider in dogs than in cats.

“But it's the same idea,” he says. “Cats display aggression for a few different reasons-fear and territoriality are probably the biggest. And then we can see pain as well in both species.”

Watch the video to hear more in Dr. Ciribassi's own words.

Dr. Sarah Wooten interviews Dr. John Ciribassi onsite at the Fetch dvm360 conference in Kansas City.