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Introduction

As a pet parent, understanding the intricate relationship between physical health and behavioral patterns in pets is of paramount importance. This paper seeks to delve into the often-overlooked medical causes behind behavioral changes in pets, specifically dogs and cats. It is a common misconception that changes in pet behavior are solely due to environmental or psychological factors. However, underlying medical conditions can play a significant role in altering a pet’s demeanor.

Our discussion will focus on three very common behavioral issues: aggression, inappropriate elimination, and fear. These behaviors not only affect the quality of life of the animals themselves but also pose significant challenges to pet parents and their families. Aggression, often perceived as a behavioral vice, can sometimes stem from undiagnosed medical problems. Similarly, inappropriate elimination, a common issue among pet owners, could be the result of various health complications rather than mere behavioral rebellion. Lastly, fear, an emotion that can drastically change a pet’s interaction with its environment and owner, might also have medical roots.

Understanding these connections is not just crucial for effective veterinary practice; it is also essential for pet owners who strive to provide the best care for their animal companions. By exploring the medical underpinnings of these behavioral issues, this paper aims to shed light on the complexities of pet health and behavior, providing a holistic approach to animal welfare. This comprehensive analysis will guide us through the pathophysiology of each condition, offering insights into how physical health can significantly influence the behavioral patterns of our beloved dogs and cats.

Medical Causes of Aggression

Aggression in pets is a multifaceted issue that can stem from various underlying medical conditions. Understanding these causes is crucial for effective management and treatment. This section explores three primary medical reasons for aggression in pets: hormonal imbalances, neurological disorders, and pain-induced aggression.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances, such as hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism, can significantly impact a pet’s behavior. Hypothyroidism, a condition characterized by an underactive thyroid gland, can lead to lethargy, weight gain, and notable behavioral changes. In some cases, pets may exhibit uncharacteristic aggression due to the mood-altering effects of decreased thyroid hormone levels. 

Hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s disease, results from excessive production of cortisol. This can lead to increased hunger, thirst, and urination, along with behavioral changes. A pet with Cushing’s disease might display aggression due to heightened stress or frustration, stemming from the physical discomforts associated with the condition.  They may suddenly start counter-surfing, stealing food from people, or aggressively guarding their food or stolen items.  Hyperthyroid cats may act the same way as a dog with Cushing’s disease.  

Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders, including brain tumors and epilepsy, can manifest as aggression in pets. Brain tumors can alter a pet’s behavior by exerting pressure on certain parts of the brain or causing neurological deficits. This may result in aggression due to changes in personality, perception, or pain. Epilepsy, known for causing seizures, can also lead to aggression. After a seizure, many pets exhibit post-ictal aggression towards people and other pets. This aggression is not only exhibited by the pet experiencing the seizure but can also affect other household pets. The erratic and unpredictable behavior during a seizure can be frightening or threatening to other animals, potentially leading to defensive aggression.

 

Pain

A toddler approaching a dog in pain, forcing the dog to choose between getting up and moving away, which hurts, or enduring whatever the child will do, can end up in tragedy.

Pain is a critical factor to consider when a pet exhibits aggressive behavior. Conditions such as chronic pain, arthritis, and dental diseases can make pets more irritable and sensitive to touch, leading to aggressive responses. A pet experiencing discomfort may react aggressively to actions that exacerbate its pain, such as being picked up or petted in a sensitive area. This type of aggression is often a protective mechanism against further pain.

For instance, a dog with severe dental disease may snap when its face is touched, or a cat with arthritis may hiss or swipe if its painful joints are handled. It’s important to understand that these reactions are not reflective of the pet’s character but rather a response to the pain they are enduring.

Medical Causes of Inappropriate Elimination

Inappropriate elimination, including urination and defecation in unacceptable areas, is a common problem faced by pet owners. This issue can often be attributed to various medical conditions rather than behavioral problems alone. Understanding these underlying health concerns is crucial for effective management and treatment.

Urinary Tract Disorders

Urinary tract disorders, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder stones, and feline idiopathic cystitis, are significant causes of inappropriate urination in pets. UTIs can cause discomfort and urgency, leading pets to urinate more frequently and sometimes in inappropriate places. Bladder stones, similar to UTIs, can cause significant pain and irritation, leading to abnormal urination patterns. Feline idiopathic cystitis, a condition specific to cats, is particularly notorious for causing inappropriate urination. This stress-related bladder inflammation leads to frequent, painful urination, often resulting in cats avoiding the litter box due to associated discomfort. In fact, punishing a cat for urinating outside of the litter box not only doesn’t help, but it can also increase stress and make the problem worse.  In cats, there are very different treatments whether the cat is urinating inappropriately or spraying.  Spraying is a behavior issue that can often be resolved by neutering male cats (or causes exist, but almost all intact male cats spray), urinating inappropriately is a medical problem.  

Gastrointestinal Issues

Gastrointestinal problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can lead to inappropriate defecation. Conditions like IBD cause chronic irritation and inflammation of the digestive tract, which can result in urgency and increased frequency of defecation. Pets with these conditions may not always make it to the appropriate elimination area in time, leading to accidents in the house. Other gastrointestinal issues, such as parasitic infections or food intolerances, can also disrupt normal bowel habits and contribute to this problem.

 

Senility and Cognitive Dysfunction

In older pets, cognitive decline, often referred to as senility, can lead to a loss of house-training. As pets age, they may experience deterioration in cognitive function, similar to dementia in humans. This decline can affect their memory, perception, and learned behaviors, including house-training. Pets with cognitive dysfunction may forget the location of their litter box or previously learned routines for indicating the need to go outside. This condition can be particularly challenging for pet owners, as it involves managing a pet’s declining mental faculties alongside their physical needs.

 

Other behaviors in dogs with cognitive dysfunction include restlessness especially at night, lethargy, decreased appetite, getting lost or cornered in familiar environments, and whining or barking.

Other Causes of Inappropriate Elimination

Many medical conditions increase a pet’s hunger and thirst which can lead to inappropriate elimination.  As already mentioned, Cushing’s Disease and hyperthyroidism, as well as diabetes and kidney disease, cause a pet to drink a lot more water than usual.  Certain medications, especially steroids and phenobarbital, can cause increased thirst and urination.  If they can’t get to their potty area, they may have accidents in the house.  Some cats will not use a dirty litter box, and may choose to urinate elsewhere.  

Certain medications can cause GI upset, resulting in defecation accidents in the house.  Antibiotics disrupt the normal GI flora and may cause increased urgency to defecate, even if the pet doesn’t have soft stool or diarrhea.   

Medical Causes of Fear and Anxiety

Fear and anxiety are prevalent issues in pets, often leading to a range of behavioral problems. These emotional states can be triggered by various factors, including sensory decline, chronic stress, and specific phobias or psychiatric disorders. Understanding these causes is essential for effective management and care.

Sensory Decline

As pets age, they may experience a decline in their sensory abilities, particularly vision and hearing. This sensory decline can be a significant source of fear and anxiety. A pet that is losing its vision may become disoriented or startled easily, especially in unfamiliar or changing environments. Similarly, hearing loss can make a pet unable to respond to verbal cues or unaware of its surroundings, potentially leading to anxious behavior. It’s important to recognize that pets with sensory decline are not ignoring their owners; they are simply unable to perceive and respond as they used to. Patience and understanding, along with adjustments in communication and care, are key to supporting these pets.

This dog has vision loss and doesn't want to come down the stairs.

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress has a profound physiological impact on pet behavior. It can lead to hormonal imbalances, affecting the overall demeanor and health of the animal. Stressed pets might exhibit behaviors such as excessive grooming, pacing, panting, or even aggression. Changes in eating and sleeping patterns are also common. The source of stress can vary widely, from environmental changes like moving to a new home to the introduction of new pets or family members. Recognizing and addressing these stressors is crucial in managing these behavioral changes.

Phobias and Psychiatric Disorders

Dogs with separation, barrier, or noise anxiety, as well as boredom and frustration, can appear to have the same symptoms until we get video to see what is triggering the unwanted behavior.

Specific phobias and psychiatric disorders can also lead to fear and anxiety in pets. One common issue is separation anxiety, where pets exhibit distress and destructive behavior when left alone. This might include incessant barking or crying, which can be disturbing to neighbors, or destructive behaviors like chewing furniture or scratching doors. Noise phobias are another common issue, where pets become excessively fearful in response to loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks. These phobias can lead to panic-like behavior, including attempts to escape or hide, which can result in self-injury or damage to the home.

Key Points

  • Whenever a pet’s behavior changes or significantly worsens, it is essential to consider pain and medical conditions as potential causes. Veterinary evaluation, including a thorough physical examination and appropriate diagnostic testing, is vital in identifying these underlying health issues. Recognizing and addressing these medical causes can not only improve a pet’s behavior but also enhance its overall quality of life.
 
  • Inappropriate elimination in pets can be a sign of various underlying medical issues. Veterinary evaluation is crucial for determining the cause and implementing appropriate treatment. Addressing these medical conditions not only helps in resolving the elimination issues but also improves the overall well-being of the pet. Understanding the medical roots of such behaviors is essential for compassionate and effective pet care.
 
  • Understanding the underlying causes of fear and anxiety in pets is essential for providing appropriate care and treatment. Veterinary consultation is crucial, as these behaviors can sometimes be symptoms of deeper health issues. Tailoring the environment to reduce stressors, providing behavioral therapy, and, in some cases, medication, can significantly improve the quality of life for anxious or fearful pets. Recognizing these issues as medical concerns rather than mere behavioral quirks is the first step towards effective intervention.

 

Diagnostic Approach to Pet Behavior Problems

Diagnosing behavioral problems in pets requires a multifaceted approach, as these issues often have underlying medical causes. Veterinarians employ a variety of diagnostic methods, including physical examinations, blood tests, imaging, and behavioral assessments to identify the root cause of a pet’s behavior problem. Each diagnostic tool plays a crucial role in forming a comprehensive understanding of the pet’s health.

The diagnostic approach to behavioral problems in pets is comprehensive and requires a combination of physical, laboratory, imaging, and behavioral examinations. Understanding the interplay of these various factors is crucial in diagnosing and effectively treating the underlying causes of behavioral issues in pets. With accurate diagnosis, targeted treatments can be implemented, improving the quality of life for both the pet and the owner.

 

Physical Examinations

A thorough physical examination is the first step in diagnosing any health-related behavioral issue. This exam includes evaluating the pet’s overall condition, checking for signs of pain, discomfort, or abnormalities. For instance, palpation of the abdomen may reveal pain indicative of gastrointestinal issues, while examination of the joints can detect arthritis, a common cause of pain-induced aggression.

 

Sweet kitty enjoying her in-home Fear Free veterinary care from Dr. Meghan.

Laboratory Tests

We always start with a CBC (complete blood count), comprehensive chemistry profile, T4 thyroid test, and urinalysis to help rule out medical causes for behavior problems.  If the results of the screening tests and the symptoms the pet is exhibiting point to a specific disease, confirmation tests may be required.  For example:

  • Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression Test to diagnose hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)
  • Urine Culture to diagnose a urinary tract infection
  • Fecal test or a GI panel to find the cause of inappropriate defecation.
  • Complete thyroid profile to diagnose hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism

Imaging

Xray of a dog with severe hip dysplasia and secondary osteoarthritis. I'm sure this dog is quite painful unless she is on excellent pain management.

Imaging techniques, such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI, provide valuable insights into a pet’s internal health. X-rays can reveal skeletal issues, such as arthritis or bone tumors, which may cause pain and subsequent behavioral changes. An ultrasound might be used to examine internal organs for abnormalities, while an MRI is particularly useful in diagnosing neurological conditions like brain tumors.

Behavioral Assessments

Behavioral assessments conducted by veterinarians or trained animal behaviorists are essential in understanding the context and triggers of a pet’s behavior. These assessments help differentiate between behavioral and medical causes. Observing the pet in various scenarios can provide clues to anxiety, fear, or aggression triggers.

You as the pet parent are crucial in this step.  We have a long behavior history form that helps us understand what the problem behavior is, when it happens, and the severity of the issue.  If you can video your pet’s unwanted behavior, that helps immensely.  But please do not put your pet in a scary situation or one that could result in you getting hurt just to obtain a video.  We love videos for suspected separation anxiety because sometimes the isse is really frustration, noise phobias, barrier anxiety, or other causes.  In other words, just because the problem behavior occurs when you are not present doesn’t mean that your pet has separation anxiety.  

 

Pain Management Trial

The importance of a pain management trial cannot be overstated. If a pet’s behavior change is suspected to be pain-related, a trial with pain medication can be diagnostic. Improvement in behavior while on pain medication strongly indicates that pain was a contributing factor. This approach is often used when other diagnostic tests do not conclusively identify the source of pain, such as in cases of chronic arthritis or subtle internal pain.

Treatment and Management for Medical Causes of Behavior Problems

Addressing behavioral issues in pets requires a comprehensive approach, encompassing medical treatments, behavioral therapy, environmental management, and careful consideration of integrative approaches. It is crucial for pet owners to understand the importance of professional guidance in these matters, especially regarding medication and supplement use.

Medical Treatments

Pharmacological interventions play a key role in treating various conditions that lead to behavioral changes in pets. These include:

  • Hormonal Imbalances: Medications for conditions like hypothyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism.
  • Neurological Disorders: Anticonvulsants for epilepsy and pain medications for neurological discomfort.
  • Arthritis Pain: NSAIDs, Librela, and Solensia
  • Dental Pain: the pet needs to have a complete exam, intra-oral radiographs, and treatment (usually extractions) under general anesthesia
  • Allergies: Itchy skin and chronic ear infections can cause pets to be highly irritable.  Medications can treat the skin and ear infections and reduce the itch.  But for long-term control, quality external parasite prevention, allergy testing and immunotherapy, allergy medications, and food trials are necessary to reduce the painful flare ups.  
  • Anxiety and Phobias: Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and pheromone therapies.
 

Important Warning: Pet owners should never use human pain medications for their pets. These medications can be toxic to animals and can cause severe adverse reactions. Always consult a veterinarian before administering any medication.

Behavioral Therapy and Environmental Management

Professional guidance in behavioral therapy and modifications in the pet’s environment are essential. Techniques like desensitization, positive reinforcement, and creating a stress-free living space can significantly improve a pet’s behavior and well-being.  Since fear, anxiety, and stress are often components of behavior problems, it is imperative to never use punishment of any kind in these situations.  It will always make the problem worse.  Always.  I guarantee it.  

Some simple environmental management techniques can include: 

  • Increasing the number of litter boxes for cats urinating outside of the litter box.
  • Applying translucent or opaque window clings to prevent a dog from constantly barking out the window at passers-bye.
  • Setting up a safe, quiet, dark area with white noise for pets with storm phobias so they aren’t as scared.  Large closets are great for this!

 

Integrative Approaches

Many integrative therapies can help manage or even resolve pet behavior problems.  For example, there are several prescription diets that treat feline idiopathic cystitis, and a few that slow the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction.  Hypoallergenic diets help reduce allergy symptoms in pets with food allergies.  In addition to medications, acupuncture, physiotherapy, and chiropractic can help treat arthritis and back pain.  

Pet owners should be cautious with unproven methods:

  • CBD: Despite popular belief, CBD has not been scientifically proven to be effective in treating pain, fear, anxiety, or stress in pets. 
  • Lack of Oversight: The supplement market suffers from a lack of regulatory oversight, which can lead to inconsistent product quality and efficacy. Supplements with the USP or NSF 3rd party testing seals at least have been manufactured in clean facilities and have the ingredients listed on the package.  Others probably do not.  
  • Supplements by definition do not treat any disease.  If they treated a disease, they would have proof and would be FDA-approved medications, not supplements.  
  • Risk of Delayed Diagnosis: Attempting to treat pets with unproven supplements or therapies can delay proper diagnosis and treatment, potentially exacerbating the pet’s condition.

The management of behavioral issues in pets should be a collaborative effort between the pet owner and a qualified veterinarian. Relying on professional medical treatments, approved behavioral therapies, and safe environmental changes is imperative. Pet owners should be wary of using human medications, unproven supplements, or CBD products, as these can hinder proper diagnosis and effective treatment. Timely professional intervention is the key to successfully addressing behavioral problems and ensuring the health and well-being of pets.

Case Studies

I’m sharing several cases I’ve personally treated that demonstrate how important it is to rule out medical causes for behavior problems.  These are real patients, but their names have been changed.  

Aggression Towards a Toddler

Buddy was a German Shepherd Dog mix that I had been treating for a few years, starting when he was about 3 years old, when the owners adopted him from a shelter.  He was always a very calm, sweet dog that I enjoyed seeing.  He was very healthy at every exam.  At about 5 years of age, his people had a baby.  Buddy didn’t seem to mind the disruption in his regular routine.  The owners made sure to always give him lots of attention and restarted his daily walks as soon as his Mom was physically able.  All was going well.

(the dog in the video is obviously not Buddy)

When their child was 2 years old, they had a big birthday party and invited lots of friends with young children to the house.  They were very careful to watch the children’s interactions with Buddy, as always.  Nothing unusual happened- no kids fell on him, or pulled his tail, or anything like that.  However Buddy growled at a couple of the kids.  His owners thought that maybe that was too many people for his liking and put him out in the yard for everyone’s safety until the party was over.  But the next day, Buddy growled at THEIR kid for no apparent reason.  And he kept doing it.

The owners called, crying, saying that they were going to have to take Buddy back to the shelter, where he would probably be euthanized, or to euthanize him themselves. They were afraid for the safety of their child. They described the problem and I advised them to bring him in so my trainer and I could evaluate him.  Maybe there was a way to save Buddy’s life and keep the family together and safe.  

During our evaluation, after I manipulated Buddy’s left shoulder, he didn’t place full weight on his left front leg.  He never growled at me or gave me any indication that he didn’t like what I was doing, but it was repeatable.  The trainer noticed it too.  We agreed that Buddy had pain in his left shoulder and offered a pain management trial.  The owners were desperate and agreed to start him on an NSAID and gabapentin.

Within 2 days, Buddy was a different dog.  Not only had he stopped growling at the child, he was MUCH more active than ever!  Apparently, he had low grade pain in the left shoulder for a long time, and treating the pain made him feel great.  They were able to keep Buddy and keep their family safe.  Buddy stayed on pain management and lived a long happy life with his family.  

Inappropriate Elimination in Two Cats

A new client called me to see what could be done for her cat that had started to urinate in the floor vents.  Clearly, she was desperate to fix the problem because her HVAC system was blowing cat-pee smelling air throughout the house- GROSS!  When I walked into the home, I saw a very old, clearly arthritic cat.  I asked to see the litter box area and where she was urinating.  The owner had a dog and toddler-proof litter box for the cat in the laundry room.  The poor arthritic old cat would only climb into the box to defecate, but it was too much work to go in it for urination.  The kitty had chronic kidney disease, causing her to drink and urinate a LOT.  It was simply too painful for her to get into the box every time she had to urinate.  So she urinated in the floor vent in the laundry room because at least she wasn’t making a mess (in her mind).  I helped the owner get a puppy-proof litter box that the cat could easily access, and the problem was solved.  

Litter box similar to the one my patient didn't want to access due to pain

 

Another new client called me because their cat was spraying urine on the walls, furniture, and even on the owners- EW!   They were going to build an outside catio because they couldn’t keep him inside if they couldn’t stop him from urinating all over their rented home.   Jack was a young healthy male cat that the clients had adopted from the shelter.  The shelter said he was found as a stray but that he was already neutered.  However, my nose told me that Jack was intact, even though he didn’t have any testicles present.  We were able to closely examine him, and he had barbs on his penis, indicating that he had testosterone in his system.  We made sure the owners didn’t have any testosterone containing topical medications or shampoos, and suspected that he was bilaterally cryptorchid.  At the time, I didn’t perform surgeries, so I referred the cat to a local colleague.  The veterinarian confirmed that the Jack’s testicles had never descended, and did an abdominal surgery to neuter him.  Within 3 days, the cat stopped spraying.  The owners were able to keep him inside, maintaining his excellent quality of life.  

Inter-Cat Aggression

One of my clients has 3 cats: Glow a senior female, Angel, an older adult female, and Tom a young adult male, all spayed/neutered inside cats.  While Glow preferred to be by herself and didn’t like to interact with Angel and Tom, Angel and Tom sometimes played together.  The owners had multiple cat areas set up throughout their 2-story home so none of the cats HAD to interact with each other if they didn’t want to.  It worked for them.

The owners noticed that Glow had started to act really hungry.  She would eat all of her own food, then go to the other cats’ bowls and eat their food too.  This didn’t sit well with Angel and Tom, especially when Glow started resource guarding the food!  There were quite a few cat fights and the owners had to keep Glow separated from the other 2 cats, which wasn’t easy.  Glow kept escaping from her private room.  They called me because Glow was also losing weight and vomiting more than usual.  

Because Glow is a senior cat and was losing weight, we decided to do full lab work: a CBC, chemistry panel, T4 thyroid test, and urinalysis.  I was not at all surprised that Glow’s T4 was over 3 times the high normal range- she had hyperthyroidism.  We started her on methimazole to control the hyperthyroidism.  She no longer steals the other cats food, isn’t confined to a single room, and the cats have reestablished their uneasy peace.  Also, Glow now only has the occasional hairball and her weight is back up to normal. 

Aggression Towards Everyone in a Dog

A client had a Cocker Spaniel, Shasta, who had become much more aggressive recently.  The owners brought her in because they wanted us to prescribe a sedative for her to get groomed.  Nobody could touch her, she lunged and snapped at anyone who approached her.  I had to sedate her for an exam.  During the exam, I noticed that Shasta’s mouth had severe widespread stomatitis, a condition more often seen in cats.  Her teeth had just been cleaned by the owner’s previous veterinarian before they moved to this area.  I thought it was very possible that Shasta’s aggressive behavior was due to dental pain.  The best treatment for stomatitis is to extract all the teeth; stomatitis is basically an allergic reaction to plaque.  The owners were understandably reluctant, especially since she had just had dental care.  But  I managed to convince them to go through with it.

The procedure was difficult and not without complications.  Shasta had severe bone loss surrounding her lower canine teeth, and when I tried to extract them, her lower jaw broke.  There was not enough bone remaining to apply a plate, so I had to amputate that part of her lower jaw.  I placed an esophageal feeding tube so the owners could easily feed and medicate Shasta during the recovery and to allow the repair to heal without any pressure caused by eating.

When the owners came in for her feeding tube removal and recheck, they were so happy to tell me how well she did that they had tears of joy.  Shasta’s mouth healed beautifully and her stomatitis was resolved.  She was acting like a happy puppy!  She had absolutely no aggression during the exam, and her owners had brushed out her coat themselves without any signs of anxiety or stress.  They were able to take Shasta to the groomers for the full spa treatment and never needed the sedatives.  

Odd Nighttime Behavior in a Dog

Tatyana (closest), Natasha (behind her), and Sergei (to the left in the back) relaxing together.

This is about my own dearly departed heart dog, Tatyana.  Tatyana was a spayed 8 year old Siberian Husky at the time of this behavior issue.  The odd behavior started by her not wanting to come inside at bedtime.  Before when I called her, she came inside right away.  But at that time, she’d get to the back porch, then turn away and run to the far end of the yard.  I had to bring a leash and walk her back into the house.  Once in the house, she’d plaster herself to the back door, which was VERY unusual.  Tatyana had slept on the bed with us every night, but now she wouldn’t come into the bedroom.  A few nights, I slept on the sofa with her, which seemed to help temporarily.  But eventually she didn’t even want to get on the sofa with me, and if she did, she’d tremble like she was terrified.  Tatyana would go outside with the other dogs before bedtime, but then not want to come in.  It only happened at night.  During the day, she always came inside when I asked and she acted completely normal.  

 

 

I did a full exam, screening lab work, even xrays and could not find anything wrong with her.  I put her on a pain management trial, no difference.  I started giving her trazodone for anxiety, no difference.  I left lights on at night, thinking maybe her vision was getting poor with age, no difference.  Then I thought maybe she had “sundowners” syndrome, a symptom of cognitive dysfunction characterized by night time confusion and restlessness.  I put her on selegiline, a medication that helps with cognitive dysfunction, still no changes.

This went on for weeks.  One night, for whatever reason, Tatyana ventured into the bedroom after I went to bed.  Our newish puppy, Natasha, got up in her crate to see what was going on.  When she did, the crate squeaked, and Tatyana just about jumped out of her skin.  Then it all started making sense.  Tatyana didn’t like the sound of the crate squeaking whenever Natasha moved in it.  Natasha would ask to go outside to potty, then come inside and put herself to bed at 10 pm every night.  Tatyana would go out with Natasha, then not come in.  It was all because of that noise the crate made.  We immediately got rid of the crate, but it was a few weeks before Tatyana was sure the sound was permanently gone.  Eventually, her odd nighttime behavior stopped.  

Tatyana didn’t like ANY high-pitched beeping sound and I guess the crate was similar enough to that sound that it caused her a great deal of anxiety.  I tell this story because I used 2 different classes of anti-anxiety medication (trazodone and selegiline) and it didn’t make any difference at all because I didn’t desensitize and counter-condition her to that sound.  Medication alone does not solve a behavior problem.

Conclusions

This comprehensive exploration into the medical causes of pet behavior problems underscores the intricate connection between physical health and behavioral patterns in animals. The journey through various medical conditions, such as hormonal imbalances, neurological disorders, and chronic pain, reveals how these ailments can manifest as aggression, inappropriate elimination, and fear in pets. Similarly, the exploration of urinary tract disorders, gastrointestinal issues, and cognitive decline further illustrates the complex nature of these behavioral changes.

The significance of a holistic approach in treating these issues cannot be overstated. It is crucial to understand that pet behavior is not just a matter of training or discipline but is often deeply intertwined with their physical health. Recognizing this connection is the first step toward effective treatment.

The importance of thorough diagnostic approaches, including physical examinations, blood tests, imaging, and behavioral assessments, has been highlighted as key to uncovering the root causes of behavioral issues. These diagnostic tools are essential in differentiating between medical and purely behavioral problems and form the basis for a targeted treatment plan.

The discussion on treatment and management strategies emphasizes the need for a multifaceted approach. Medical treatments tailored to specific conditions, behavioral therapy, and environmental management are all critical components of a comprehensive care plan. The addition of integrative therapies, like acupuncture or physiotherapy, can provide further support, especially in managing pain and stress.

However, it is also essential to caution against the use of unapproved medications, human painkillers, and unproven supplements such as CBD. These can not only be ineffective but also dangerous, potentially delaying accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Ultimately, this paper advocates for a compassionate, informed, and holistic approach to pet care. Understanding the medical underpinnings of pet behavior is paramount in providing not just effective treatment but also in fostering a deeper bond between pets and their owners. The goal is to improve the quality of life for these beloved members of our families, ensuring their physical and emotional well-being are equally addressed.

Advantages of Using Family Veterinary Mobile Clinic for Medical Causes of Pet Behavior Problems

When your pet has a behavior problem, you want it solved, fast.  In my humble opinion, the quickest way to solve a behavior problem in dogs and cats is to use a home veterinarian experienced in animal behavior.  There are several advantages that help your pet get on the road to recovery as quickly as possible:

  • I can diagnose and treat medical causes of pet behavior problems.  Trainers and non-veterinary behaviorists can not.  
  • I can see the pet’s situation more clearly than a veterinarian in a clinic.  I would have never thought to ask the client with the top-access litter box about the configuration of the litter box, and I doubt most clinic vets would have done so either.  It took me 5 minutes to solve the client’s problem.  
  • Since I am experienced in behavior medicine, I don’t have to refer you to another vet or a specialist.  There are fewer than 100 board certified veterinary behaviorists in the entire USA.  Getting an appointment with one involves a long wait, and they are expensive.  I can design your pet’s treatment plan right away and at a reasonable cost, giving you and your pet relief ASAP.
  • My animal behavior consultant and trainer, Jael, helps you implement the behavior modification program in your own home, saving you multiple trips to a clinic and a lot of money.  
  • Our system has helped many pet parents fix their furkid’s behavior problem and restore their relationship with their pets.  That’s our job and we are darned good at it.  
If you are in the Sanford or Southern Pines areas of NC, we want to help you!  Book our initial behavior consultation and help you and your pet have a happier, healthier long time relationship.  

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