Whats the big deal with veterinary behaviour?

An alarming number of pets suffer from mental health disorders.  .  

Left untreated or managed inappropriately, many of these conditions can rapidly deteriorate resulting in: 

  (1)  suffering of the pet and ultimately comprised welfare
  (2)  break-down of the unique human-animal bond shared between you and your pet
  (3)  risk of serious injury to your pet, other pets or even you or the people you love most
  (4)  risk of serious financial loss and legal ramifications

Fact: Behavioural Problems are the number one killer of our pets. 

  +  Not cancer.

  +  Not infectious disease.

  +  Not systemic disease.

Wellness is so much more than good health or absence of disease. In fact, we strongly believe that wellness is the full integration of both physical & emotional health.  

Here at the Mindful Pet we are passionate about working together with you to optimise your pets emotional health so that they can be the best version of themselves and that pet-family life is more manageable.


signs your pet may be experiencing a behavioural problem or mental health disease:

  • Aggression
  • Barking
  • Fears and or phobias
  • Noise phobias (eg. thunder)
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Destruction of the home
  • Not coping being left alone
  • Repetitive or compulsive behaviours
  • Difficulties interacting with new people
  • Difficulties socialising with other pets
  • Being very timid or shy
  • Anxious or Fearful behaviour
  • Reactivity
  • Hyperactivity
  • Inability to settle down
  • Cognitive Decline
  • Loss of house-training
  • Toileting outside the litter tray
  • Spraying or urine marking
  • Excessive vocalisation
  • Excessive grooming or licking
  • Other inappropriate behaviour

What is a veterinary behaviourist?  Can't I just see a trainer?

Great questions, we are glad you asked!

Veterinary behaviour and mental health issues in our pets can be fairly complex.
And finding the right person to get you and your pet on track can appear to be equally complex.  

Pet owners source their behaviour information from a wide variety of places.  Some good.  Some bad.  Some super bad.

+  the internet
+  the breeder
+  your hairdresser
+  the lady at the dog park
+  a facebook group
+  their past (what they've always done!)
+  on the TV
+  Harry's Practice
+  the groomer
+  a trainer
+  a behaviourist
+  a vet

If you suspect your pet has a behaviour problem, or perhaps your pet is doing something that is bothering you, or you are worried about; 
The best starting point is talking to your regular veterinarian about your concerns.  Talking about your pets behaviour is an important part of all veterinary examinations.  

Veterinarians are qualified and extensively trained to determine whether your pet’s behaviour is normal or abnormal.  Furthermore, they can determine whether there is a underling mental health issue and you see a veterinary behaviourist (or even diagnose and treat the problem at the clinic themselves) or whether you should see an experience and qualified trainer or animal behaviourist (ie. obedience or management issue).  It is important to note that only veterinarians or veterinary behaviourists are qualified to make a diagnosis, develop an appropriate treatment plan and or prescribe and manage medication for pets with abnormal behaviour.

In Australia, a veterinary behaviourist is a veterinarian who has done additional training (post-graduate studies) in the field of veterinary behavioural medicine (VBM) and is better equiped to deal with the complexities of your pet's behavioural issue(s).  

Veterinary Behaviourists:

+  assess if there are medical conditions that may be contributing to your pet’s behaviour
+  assess whether your pet shows abnormal levels of anxiety, stress, fear, hyperactivity, reactivity, impulsivity or aggression which may be contributing to your pet’s behaviour
+  explain to you why your pet is behaving the way it does
+  develop an effective treatment plan tailored to meet the needs of you and your pet
+  provide ongoing support in modifying your pet’s behaviour
+  supply appropriate medication if indicated
+  provide a prognosis
+  in some cases work together with a trainer or regular veterinarian to help get your pet’s behaviour back on track


There are 2 levels of veterinary in Australia for VBM:

  (1)  Veterinary Behavioural Specialists
           Veterinarians awarded FANCVS or DACVS are behavioural specialists who have dedicated their career towards studying behavioural medicine.  These veterinarians have been assed through rigorous examination, been supervised by a specialist in hundreds of behaviour consultations and met other criteria indicating a high standard of practice in veterinary behaviour.  There are two registered specialists in Australia, based in Sydney and Melbourne.        

  (2)  Veterinarians with post-graduate Membership qualifications in behavioural medicine
            Veterinarians awarded Membership (MANZCVS) have undertaken post-graduate training and have successfully completed both written and oral/practical examinations in veterinary behaviour.  These veterinarians have a high degree of knowledge and experience in the field of VBM. 


Some behavioural problems can successfully be dealt with by a trainer or behaviourist who is not a veterinarian.  In fact, veterinary behaviourists commonly work along-side other trained professionals such as trainers or animal behaviourists.  However, if the pets behaviour problem involves or is caused by an underlying mental illness, a veterinarian should always be involved to ensure the correct diagnosis and treatment plan is implemented, as mental illness in our pets can not be diagnosed or medically treated by a trainer or animal behaviourist.  If you are working with a trainer, ensure they utilise positive reinforcement methods and avoid potentially harmful and often ineffective dominance based training or “dog whispering” methods as endorsed by Caesar Milan.

Please take note:  in Australia (and also many parts of the world) anyone can legally call themselves a "trainer", "behaviourist", "pet psychologists" or even "behaviour specialists" even if they do not hold any behaviour qualifications.