Do you only treat dogs?
While dogs represent the largest population of cases we treat, we look forward to treating any species including cats, birds, horses, pigs, and zoo animals to name a few.
My pets are fighting can you help?
Absolutely! When household pets are not getting along (or trying to kill each other) it creates a lot of distress in the household. In most instances both pets have underlying problems that need to be assessed and treated.
It is best if each pet is assessed individually, both for safety and to reduce the stress and distress of transportation.
I've tried everything and nothing works! Can you help?
Yes! Unfortunately, you are not alone. Many of our clients have patients that have been through extensive training, rehabilitation, various medications and protocols from a variety of other sources. Veterinary behaviorists are often the last professional to be consulted; we help those that have continued to get worse or have not made any significant progress.
What problems do you treat?
We treat any problem that you feel is a problem for you and or your pet. Some of the more common problems we treat are listed below. Often we see individuals that are diagnosed with multiple problems.
- Aggression: directed to familiar and unfamiliar people or animals, with many different underlying motivations (fear, anxiety, resources, territorial, pain, etc).
- Attention seeking or demanding behaviors: begging, pawing, barking
- Anxiety: when confined [when alone or when people/animals are present], home alone [not confined], constant worry
- Compulsive or repetitive behaviors/disorders: circling, tail-chasing, light/shadow chasing, cribbing, pacing, weaving
- Destructive behaviors: chewing, digging, scratching
- Elimination: house training, house soiling, litter box issues
- Excessive vocalization: barking, meowing, screeching or screaming
- Fear of noises, people, other animals, storms, fireworks, veterinary care, grooming, car rides, trailering, and/or walks
- Household change preparation: integration of households, moving, a baby's arrival, remodeling, etc
- New pet: assessment consults, socialization plans
- Pica: eating of non-nutritive material
- Self-injurious behavior: chewing, feather picking, licking, self mutilation
- Senior pet behaviors: cognitive decline/dysfunction, disorientation, lack of interaction, sleep disturbances, etc
What makes your treatment different than all the other "behaviorists"?
Sadly, the term "behaviorist" is not a regulated term. This is unfortunate for the consumer since many are just looking for a professional to help them with their pet. There are some amazing trainers and some not so amazing trainers that call themselves a behaviorist. Some have a little education, some have no education at all.
In the veterinary profession, you can only call yourself a behaviorist if you are board certified. However, there are veterinarians that consider themselves behavior consultants. They may or may not have anything other than an interest in behavior with no advanced education.
Veterinary behaviorists are the veterinary equivalent of a human psychiatrist. Our medical degree allows us to look at the animal and identify any medical problems that may be contributing to the pet's behavioral problems. We identify and treat the underlying cause of the behavior - to change the pet's underlying emotional response or motivation to perform the behavior. Veterinary behaviorists use the science of learning and humane non-confrontational techniques that enrich the humane animal bond and teach the pet alternate behaviors and coping strategies.
Why is it so hard to get an appointment?
Right now there are very few veterinary behaviorists - less than 90. Not all veterinary behaviorists see clinical cases; some only do research, others work for companies in the veterinary industry, while others may be retired, and then some focus primarily on education of animal health professionals. Fortunately, the number of veterinarians going through the rigorous residency program is increasing!
Dr. Koch is licensed in Illinois and Missouri. Illinois is truly blessed as there are 2 veterinary behaviorists that see clinical cases and 3-4 residents. Currently, many of the surrounding states do not have veterinary behaviorists; requiring our patients to travel long distances (over 18 hours and several hotel stays one direction) for an appointment.
How do you become a veterinary behaviorist?
First you must graduate from veterinary school. This requires 3-4 years of undergraduate studies. There are not very many veterinary schools in the country so competition is fierce.
Next you must complete an internship or equivalent in general practice. Then you can submit an application to be a resident in the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
A behavior residency takes 3-8 years to complete. The resident must:
- Perform and publish research in a peer reviewed journal.
- Write and pass three case reports that are reviewed by a panel of board certified veterinary behaviorists.
- Take graduate and post graduate level courses in ethology, learning theory, psychopharmacology, welfare, comparative psychology, developmental psychology, physiological psychology, neuroscience, behavior modification, client counseling, to name a few.
- Complete advanced clinical rotations in food animal, zoo animal, lab animal, and equine behavior as well as dermatology, neurology, and internal medicine.
- Finally, they must pass an extensive 2 day exam.