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“I do not think that word means what you think it means...”

We'll soon be hosting our first webinar with Mindful Mentor and the topic is: "Introduction to Behavior Medicine."

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) was founded in 1986 and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorist followed in 1993. Despite these organizations being over 30 years old, behavior medicine is still concerned fairly new and the discipline is not readily applied to most practices. In fact, I find that most of my fellow professions either 1.) Don't know that behavior specialty exists or 2.) Thinks its all about shoving treats at everyone. Behavior medicine is a huge field with endless, practical applications. Any other discipline can benefit from behavioral education.

We'll go into a lot more detail at our webinar on August 16th, but I wanted to give everyone a quick preview of what to expect at that session.

At it's core, behavior medicine is using the known, normal behaviors, perceptions, and communications of a species to assess and enhance a pet's welfare. That's it. There's nothing in that definition about junk food or hippy dippy magic.

In general practice, we can use this in order to encourage normal behavioral development, prevent stress with medical care, and as a diagnostic tool when a pet presents unwell. In surgery, we use behavior to assess mobility, pain, and healing. In internal medicine, we determine whether GI symptoms are related to GI disease or brain disease. The list goes on.

In behavior medicine, as a specialty, we tend to focus on helping pets with abnormal behavior patterns. We assess why those pets are demonstrating the abnormality and find ways to bring them back in line with the established "normal" for that species. I often refer to Linda Michaels' Hierarchy of Needs at this point. Generally speaking, pet's experiencing abnormal behaviors aren't having their basic biological needs met while the owners are trying to focus on improving the upper tiers of the pyramid. If your pet is ill, isn't sleeping enough, doesn't feel safe, etc. they can't learn, they can't bond effectively, and they can't thrive.

We generally say there are three major aspects of behavioral therapy: 1.) Management, 2.) Medication, and 3.) Behavior Modification.

Management is the cornerstone of behavioral therapy because it encompasses all those biological needs. We make sure the pet is healthy, has appropriate nutrition, sufficient exercise, relief from fear inducing triggers, and provide a sense of safety. Only from there can we move forward to helping these animals learn coping skills and teaching them how to manage their big feelings on a regular basis.

I could easily make this first webinar 3-4 hours long. Hopefully, with this as an introduction, you'll get a better idea of what we'll be exploring next week. Remember, the webinar itself is completely free, but I will have the proceedings and additional resource list available for sale either before or after the event. Don't forget to register and I look forward to seeing everyone soon!

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