Help for Pet Behavior Problems
Carlson Animal Hospital counsels owners of companion animals on behavioral issues, including, but not limited to, displaced aggression, separation anxiety, inappropriate elimination, fears, phobias, and cognitive dysfunction.
When addressing any behavioral problem, we first attempt to rule out the possibility of it being a medical problem. Health issues that cause or contribute to behavior problems will be accurately diagnosed and treated. Since we have specialized experience in animal behavior, we can more quickly determine the root of the problem. Frequently, an accurate comprehensive history and thorough examination will help determine the correct treatment option for your pet.
Ultimately, our goal is to help you and your pet live together comfortably and safely. Some behaviors are challenging, destructive, and even dangerous. By finding an explanation for the behavior and developing an action plan, we endeavor to preserve the positive bond you feel with your cat or dog.
Help for Common Pet Behavioral Problems
My cat has stopped using the litter box, what should I do?
Most experts agree that if a cat begins to eliminate inappropriately, prompt attention to the matter is very important. The longer the behavior persists, the more likely it is to become habit.
The reason for the behavior might very well be medical or could have an innocent explanation based on a cat’s preferences and fastidious nature. It is important to systematically and thoroughly assess both medical and behavioral components with a thorough medical history and physical exam. Cornell University’s School of Veterinary Medicine also offers inappropriate elimination advice and information.
My dog becomes frightened and anxious at the sound of thunder. How can I help?
For pets, fear of thunder and other loud noises is not uncommon. It’s instinctual for animals to fear what they perceive to be threats. For mild cases, simple steps greatly reduce a pet’s stress. Try to normalize storms for your pet. You might wish to create a safe place for your pet to wait out the storm. Turn on music, the TV, an air conditioner, or other background noise. Be careful to not overly comfort your dog, since that might reinforce the fearful response. Talk to your pet in a light, upbeat tone that sends a message that the storm is not a threat.
My dog barks continually when I’m not home. What can I do?
Many dogs experience separation anxiety and the accompanying acting out behavior (barking, whining, destructive behavior) can become a significant problem. Some behaviorists have observed that separation anxiety is worse for dogs that came from a rescue or shelter situation. For those dogs, being alone can represent a great deal of uncertainty.
The good news is that with effort, this is a behavior that can often be resolved. But like many behavioral modifications, it requires diligent follow through. You must desensitize your dog to being alone. Minimize the attention you place on your pet at exit and entry times. Make these critical times "non-events." When you are home, be sure to let you pet enjoy alone time and be sure to exercise your dog, so that his or her energy is channeled more productively. There are times when anti-anxiety drugs may be helpful. Please call our office at (708) 383-3606 if we can be of assistance.
My 14-year old Lab sleeps a lot and at times appears confused. What could be wrong?
As dogs and cats live longer—thanks to improved nutrition, better veterinary care, and safer home environments and lifestyles—they’re developing problems of old age. Senility and cognitive impairment is not uncommon. Similar to humans with Alzheimer’s, dogs and cats may experience brain changes as they age. The result is shifts in behaviors and abilities. Read more about geriatric issues such as this on our senior pet care page.
– Joanna Senter