Integrating Behaviour in a General Practice
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2014
Martin Godbout, DMV, MSc, DACVB
Groupe Vétérinaire Daubigny, Québec, QC, Canada

A brief presentation will be made on the advantages and disadvantages of offering behavioural services in the general practice. There are 4 levels of services that can be offered: 1) a behaviour-centered practice, 2) prevention of behaviour problems, 3) detection of behaviour problems, and 4) diagnosis and treatment of behavioural problems. Examples will be given to highlight each of those levels. Additional examples of a behaviour-centered practice will also be provided in the low stress handling presentation (day 2).

So Why Should I Integrate Behavioural Services In My Practices?

Who Is Knowledgeable About Behaviour?

According to clients, the veterinary team is knowledgeable about behaviour (Hawn, J Am Anim Hosp Assoc, 1998). However, veterinarians do not think that they are (Patronek, J Am Vet Med Assoc, 1999). In fact, the veterinary team knows more than they think. As examples, just think of behavioural changes that occur prior to the appearance of neurological signs, behavioural signs of pain, and signs of fear or imminent aggression.

What are the Client's Expectations?

The pet is a family member and must behave almost "perfectly." Information (not always valid) is widely available mostly through the internet. Pet owners are asking more questions than previously. Think of first-time pet owners in your practice and consider the ratio of behaviour questions as opposed to medical questions? Clients expect veterinarians to answer their questions about behaviour.

Can You Avoid Talking About and Addressing Behaviour Questions?

Behaviour is part of global health. The veterinary team is the most qualified and best suited to educate clients about their animal's health. When information is given from the veterinary clinic, it is done in a more standardized and appropriate way, based on scientific data (when available) as opposed to opinions.

What Happens If We Ignore Our Client's Questions and Concerns About Behaviour?

There may be decreased general satisfaction with the service offered at the veterinary clinic. This dissatisfaction can lead to decreased credibility of the entire veterinary team. Let's consider the potential costs of not offering any behavioural advice: There is loss of income from behaviour consultations, as well as loss of income from low client referrals to your practice. Additionally, there may be decreased income secondary to fewer visits to the practice and decreased compliance with recommendations given.

Professional Advantages of Offering Behavioural Advice

Quality Control of the Information Given to Your Clients

When you refer to non-veterinarians, where do you refer your clients? Where are your clients going? Have you ever listened to or seen how these trainers teach/train? Which techniques are they using? Are they based on learning principles (science based)? Are clients enjoying themselves? Are they only offering training or are they also giving advice on nutrition (selling food) and other products (to treat animals)?

Mission of Veterinarians

The quality of life of the animal is important. Distress can easily be under estimated. It therefore becomes an ethical question for cases in which animals with anxiety disorders are referred to non-veterinarians. Who is best suited to evaluate the emotional state of the animal?

If appropriate advice is given within your practice and the animal behaves well, there will be a stronger bond of owners with the animal and the practice. This will lead to a better quality of life for owners and pets as well as a decreased risk of relinquishment and euthanasia.

Educating the dog requires a few minutes of training and activity per day. As a result, the owner will no longer see his dog/cat the same way. The veterinary team can give a few simple tips that will enable owners to easily train their animals.

Protects Our Patients and Improves the Image of the Profession

What is the credibility of non-veterinary "behaviourists"? Where did they acquire their knowledge? Will they answer your client's questions? Of course they will! And they will give advice on nutrition, vaccination, surgery, medicine, products, grooming, dentistry, etc.

Behavioural advice is expected from our clients. Integrating behaviour in our practices will change the approach and handling of animals by taking into consideration the dog's or cat's emotional state. Owners will feel empathy. They will be reassured and the bond between the client, the patient and the professional will be strengthened.

Advantages for the Business

Increase in Number of Referrals by Clients

A satisfied client will talk and recommend your practice to others. More referrals will increase the number of new clients. Behavioural advice may require additional visits to the practice which allows for more advice and recommendations given to the client. Credibility of the practice and confidence in the veterinary team will lead to a stronger bond of the client to the practice and better compliance. Better compliance in turn will result in more satisfaction for the veterinary team.

Personal Advantages

The team will be working in an environment in which positive reinforcement and positive comments are emphasized. The environment ideally will become less stressful (better) for the animals, and the clients. Clients will enjoy their experience and the team will have pleasure working. Animals will become easier to handle, restraining will be reduced (without reducing safety), and there will be fewer injuries.

Low-Stress Handling

This presentation will be based on video clips showing alternative ways for handling our patients.

Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

Martin Godbout, DMV, MSc, DACVB
Groupe Vétérinaire Daubigny
Québec, QC, Canada

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