Pet behavior is a challenging and complex subject, which can make meaningful, productive conversations with your pet’s primary veterinarian difficult. This is especially true if your pet is receiving extra care, such as vaccines or wellness testing, at the same appointment. 

Much like you prepare your pet’s carrier or stool sample to bring to the veterinary clinic, the Veterinary Behavior Solutions team recommends that you write down any behavior changes or concerns you want addressed. This ensures you won’t forget any pertinent details that may aid in your pet’s diagnosis or treatment.

What brings you in today? Pet behavior talking points

Use the following outline to record important information about your pet’s problem behaviors. Don’t worry about using the correct terminology or description—simply write down your observations. Share the list with the veterinary team to be added to your pet’s records.

  • Behavior onset and duration
    Think back to when you first noticed your pet’s unusual behavior or personality change. This information helps your veterinarian establish a timeline for your pet’s behavior and may provide context that leads to a diagnosis or triggering event. For example, if your pet’s sound sensitivity and clingy behavior started during the summer, the trigger may have been a thunderstorm or fireworks.
  • Behavior frequency and intensity
    Record the frequency of your pet’s behavior and, if applicable, how long it lasts. Some behaviors may occur several times a day, while others are more sporadic or completely isolated (e.g., a one-time event). Is their behavior consistently mild or severe (e.g., disrupting you or your pet’s quality of life, or putting them or others in danger)? Understanding the frequency and intensity of your pet’s behavior can provide insights on how your pet’s wellbeing is being impacted.
  • Changes in your household, lifestyle, or your pet’s routine
    Disruptions in your pet’s environment or alterations to their normal routine can influence their physical and emotional health and change their behavior. Common disruptions include:

    • Relocation
    • Changes in household dynamics (e.g., new or departed human or pet family members)
    • Altered feeding schedule
    • Decreased exercise, play, or social interactions
    • New food, litter, litter box, or other pet supplies that were not gradually introduced
  • Video your pet’s behavior for greater visual understanding
    Video is an invaluable tool for pet owners and the veterinary team. Short clips of your pet’s problematic behavior can help your veterinarian understand and make a more accurate assessment. For extra help with a diagnosis, try to capture the behavior in different contexts or scenarios and from various angles. Nanny cameras or wireless home security cameras can help to record behaviors that your pet performs only in your absence.
  • Note what happens before and after your pet’s behavior
    Reflect on your pet’s behavior or review any videos to identify any preceding patterns or triggers, which can assist your veterinarian in pinpointing potential stressors or stimuli that initiate your pet’s undesired response. Examples include specific noises, visual cues (e.g., a dog walking outside the window), or interactions.
  • Share how you or others respond to your pet’s behavior
    This may include consoling your pet, distracting them with a treat, physically removing them from the situation, or ignoring them until the behavior stops. Your reactions tell your veterinarian whether you are accidentally reinforcing your pet’s behavior that therefore will more likely be repeated.

Additional pre-visit tips for beneficial pet behavior conversation

The following additional steps will help you make the most of your pet’s appointment and ensure you have enough time to thoroughly discuss your pet’s behavior.

  • Keep a pet behavior journal — Document your pet’s behavior on a regular basis, including the previously outlined details. This will help you prioritize your talking points and give your veterinarian a comprehensive overview of your pet’s daily activity.
  • Watch for patterns — Your personal relationship with your pet can help you accurately recognize patterns or consistencies in their behavior and can lead to more accurate diagnosis and targeted treatment.
  • Keep a list of questions — Get in the habit of writing down questions or concerns about your pet’s behavior as they occur, which can prevent you from freezing or forgetting something important.
  • Mention any previous interventions or treatments — Your veterinarian will need to know if you’ve tried other methods to reduce or improve your pet’s undesirable behavior. By understanding what has or hasn’t helped your pet, they can create a more effective treatment plan and save you time and money.

These conversation points will ensure you are equipped for a productive pet behavior discussion that will provide your veterinarian with critical information and insights. Your observations, along with your veterinarian’s clinical skills and diagnostic capabilities, will help you build a stronger working relationship with your pet’s veterinarian, who will customize your pet’s care, and ensure a healthier outcome for your pet. 

If your pet is experiencing a complicated behavior issue or has not responded to standard veterinary interventions, the Veterinary Behavior Solutions team can help. Contact us to schedule a consultation or request a referral from your pet’s primary veterinarian.