When you live with a troubled pet, you feel completely alone. Friends chastise you for thinking about getting rid of them, family chastise you for keeping them, strangers give you dirty looks as you try to get your poor dog some exercise. As difficult as they are, you love them deeply and only want them to be happy. We know you love your pet, or you wouldn't be here.
~We can help.
What Do We Do?
Behavioral therapy in animals is a specialty the combines psychiatry, applied behavior analysis, and social work into one. We have several roles as part of our team:
Veterinarian – Our doctors perform the assessment and develop the treatment plan. They delegate the plan to the support staff. The support staff then helps the family implement the program and troubleshoots any issues that arise.
Nurses – Licensed veterinary nurses handle the medical aspect of therapy. They will follow up with the family on requested diagnostics, veterinary procedures, and medication.
Trainers – Our certified trainers specialize behavior modification. Many of our patients need specialized training programs to help them learn to cope and respond appropriately. These individuals are here to guide you and your pet through this process.
Next, let's take a look at what to expect during your visit.
Before Your Appointment
Once you have scheduled your Initial Assessment with the veterinarian, there are several forms that need to be completed.
Behavior Questionnaire - In addition to space to describe your primary concern, this multi-page form will provide information about your pet's upbringing, current environment, social structure, and learning history.
Disclosure Form - This is a Virginia State required form providing you with our office hours. We are available by appointment only. If you have an emergency, please go to your closest veterinary emergency clinic.
Consent to Treat & Media Release - This form provides our team with permission to assess your pet and provide medical advice as well as additional releases for use of photographs, videos, or sending you newsletters.
Due to the extensive nature of the Behavior Questionnaire, we do ask that all paperwork be back to our team 2 days before your appointment. Our veterinarians need ample opportunity to review the history and begin developing the case. If paperwork is not back within 48 hours, your appointment is subject to cancellation and forfeit of your appointment deposit fee.
Finally, we request that your primary care veterinarian send us at least the last year of medical records. These should include full medical summaries, diagnostic results, and other pertinent information.
The Day of the Appointment
We like our patients to come in hungry. If you appointment is in the morning, please skip breakfast. If your appointment is in the afternoon, please give half of their breakfast. If you pet needs anti-anxiety medication to cope with vet visits or meeting strangers, please be sure to administer this 2 hours prior to your appointment time.
When you arrive for appointment, please do NOT enter the building. Call the number associated with that specific location, inform us that you have arrived, and what type of vehicle (model and color) you are driving. When we are ready, one of the staff will come out and escort you directly to the consultation room. Please stay clear of the front entrance. This rule applies for all appointments and all patients.
During the Appointment
The first appointment is 1 hour in length. The veterinarian will be in the room when you enter. She will spent the first half further investigating your pet’s medical and behavioral history. Once the case has been thoroughly explored, the veterinarian will discuss the following information:
Explanation and causes of the behavior problem
List of diagnoses and provision of a prognosis
Immediate management strategies
Medical recommendations to include further diagnostics, supplements, and/or medications.
This first session is not designed to provide you a full outline of the treatment plan. Behavior cases are far too complicated and convoluted to provide everything in one sitting. This is just the first step.
After the Appointment
Our team will develop written discharge instructions for all new assessments. These will include information pertinent not just to your particular case, but also generic information we consider necessary to the general well-being of our patients. These notes will be sent via email within 24 hours of the appointment.
Follow up is extremely important to the success of behavioral therapy. Each time you are seen, the individual you meet will provide an updated treatment plan and timeline as to when you should return, see a trainer, or enroll in additional courses.
We realize that working with a veterinary behaviorist can be an expensive undertaking. While being see by one of our doctors would provide the best possible advice and outcome, Dr. Learn is also available for Vet-to-Vet Consultations. As medical professionals, we cannot directly advise families on pets we have not met in person. We can, however, advise other doctors who have met your pet. With the Vet-to-Vet Consultation, we'll discuss your case with your primary care veterinarian and then they will develop the treatment plan and discuss options with you. When you schedule, we will ask you to complete a very brief form that outlines your primary concerns. We will then gather all other details from your doctor.
Scheduling a nurse consultation is a nice combination of medical-know-how and behavior-modification-savvy. With boarded behavior nurse on staff, you can get the best of both worlds. This consultation is nice for families who have a veterinarian willing to help with the medical aspect of treatment but want to make sure they're getting solid advice about management, therapy, and when a medical change needs to be addressed.
Please note: contact your veterinarian before scheduling a Vet-to-Vet or Nurse Consultation. We want to ensure your referring doctor is comfortable pursuing treatment in this medium versus seeing our veterinarians in person.
Who will I be working with?
That depends on where you live and your own personal preferences.
Dr. Pike and Dr. Ropski are located in Fairfax and Dr. Learn is located in Richmond.
Below are the three Behavior Modification Specialists we have on staff as well as some quick tips about them. There are links to their profile page if you would like to learn even more or you can go ahead and schedule.