Veterinary Behavior at Illinois

FAQ about Veterinary Behavior

Frequently Asked Questions

Dr. Ballantyne and catQ: What is a veterinary behaviorist?

A: Veterinary behaviorists are veterinarians who are knowledgeable in all aspects of animal behavior. They are required to stay current on the most recent scientific findings through research and attending and presenting at professional continuing education meetings. Veterinary behaviorists are trained to address behavioral problems, as well as underlying medical conditions, that may either cause or contribute to behavioral concerns.

Q: How does someone become a veterinary behaviorist?

A: A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian and has therefore completed a four-year veterinary degree (DVM or VMD). In addition, he or she has treated hundreds of complicated behavioral cases during the residency training program, which may take from three to eight years. A veterinary behaviorist has also published a peer-reviewed research project in this field, written three case reports, and passed a two-day board certification examination. By the time a veterinarian is board-certified in behavior, they have dedicated anywhere from eight to 12 years to studying the medical and behavioral issues that can affect many species of animals, including dogs, cats, birds, and horses, to name a few.

Q: Do you see cats?

A: Yes we do! We see cats for a variety of behavioral concerns including house soiling, aggression, fear, and anxiety.

Q: What happens during the appointment?

A: Once you have scheduled your appointment you will complete a history form. This allows you to detail your concerns and tell us what you’ve already tried to address the problem. We will review this history form prior to your consultation so we have an understanding of what you hope to accomplish. Our initial consults are typically 1 1/2 to 2 hours long and include additional questions and discussion. We are dedicated to developing a treatment plan that works best for you and your pet, so initial consults are more like family counseling than a training class. During the appointment we may demonstrate exercises that will be used to address the problem, but the structure of the appointment will depend on what appears to be the best way to address your concerns.

Q: Can I have my initial consultation with you over the phone?

A: Unfortunately we cannot provide phone consultations. We are a veterinary practice which means that we must follow the legal requirements of the Veterinary Practice Act.  The Veterinary Practice Act requires that a valid veterinary client-patient relationship is established in person before a diagnosis or treatment recommendations can be given.

Q: I have seen several trainers for this behavior and we still have a problem. Should we give up?

A: Don’t give up hope! Most of the pets that we evaluate have completed training classes or have had one-on-one sessions with trainers. Our practice is dedicated to providing evidence-based and humane treatments for behavior problems that help to improve your bond with your pet. We can work with you to develop new options or refine previous techniques for improved success.  We can also discuss any barriers you may have faced in implementing previous recommendations.