Behaviorist can help in a variety of pet issues

Q: Why do you insist on recommending a veterinary behaviorist every time you talk about pet training or behavior problems? They’re really expensive and hard to find. And anyway, isn’t treating behavior problems part of what regular veterinarians are supposed to do?

A: No pet owner is lucky enough to get through a pet’s entire lifetime without experiencing a training- or behavior-related issue. It’s part of the pet-owning landscape, after all. No exceptions. But sometimes those issues can get intensely problematic. It’s then that Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorists become an alluring alternative to your regular veterinarian’s ministrations.

Sure, trainers and nonvet behaviorists are great, but they’re limited. Not only do they concentrate their efforts almost exclusively on dogs (leaving feline lovers in the lurch), but the credibility of the veterinary degree, residency training and board-certification means all pet owners can rely on these specialists to help solve even the most challenging pet behavior problems.

Trouble is, it’s not always so obvious to pet owners that they should avail themselves of expert advice. All cats pee on furniture at some point or another, right? And most pups will chew up a few Jimmy Choos, too.

Still, there are times when nothing beats the kind of work a super-specialist can do. Here are a few reasons why you might want to check one out:

1: Does the problem require lots of time and attention? That’s their specialty!

2: Need meds? Like psychiatrists in human medicine, vet behaviorists are experts in medical management of behavior conditions.

3: Not making progress? Then you should probably step up your game.

4: Uncommon issues? Behaviorists are well-versed in the strangest behavior-related conditions animals can suffer.

5: Considering re-homing or euthanasia? Then you should ideally have a pet evaluated by a true behavior expert. Maybe there’s hope!

6: Injurious behavior? Aggression or self-trauma is serious enough to warrant expert treatment from someone who dedicates their career to behavior.

7: Quality of life issues? Deafness, blindness and old age are three issues with which a specialist might be able to make a unique difference.

8: Unsatisfied? Sometimes the answers or the recommendations that you get about your pet's behavior don't feel right or don't make sense to you.

Not sure where to find one? Check out the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists’ website at

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is Send questions to