You are running late for work when you see it again—cat urine on the bathroom floor. You feel like you have tried everything, but the problem with your cat has not improved.
Diagnosis and treatment of pet behavior problems can be challenging, and attempts to help sometimes add to the problem. The caring professionals at Haskell Valley Veterinary Clinic are here to help you deal with troubling pet behaviors. Read on to learn how to recognize and manage pet house soiling, excessive pet vocalization, pet destructiveness, and pet aggression.
#1: Pet house soiling
Recognizing some medical causes of inappropriate elimination, such as decreased mobility, incontinence, constipation, and diarrhea, is easy. Urine marking and spraying are clearly natural behaviors for unneutered pets. But, when a pet suddenly loses their house-training, some investigation is required. If your dog is having accidents in the house, or your cat has stopped using the litter box, call us for an appointment. Your visit will include a detailed discussion of the problem and a physical examination of your pet. Bring pictures or videos of the accidents, if possible. We will perform a urinalysis to rule out urinary tract infection or disease, and may also recommend blood work, X-rays, and ultrasound. Once we confirm that the problem is behavioral, we will devise a treatment plan. The plan may require many actions, from adding more litter boxes in a multicat household, to daily desensitization and counterconditioning of anxious or aggressive pet housemates. The key steps to improving this behavior are:
- Making a behavioral consultation appointment with our veterinary team
- Following the daily treatment and management plan
- Being patient
- Returning for follow-up visits
Inappropriate elimination is one of the top reasons pets are relinquished to shelters. However, with time and dedication, this pet behavior problem can be successfully managed.
#2: Excessive pet vocalization
If you—or your neighbors—are troubled by your dog’s barking, don’t despair. Excessive barking has many possible causes. You may be able to determine a straightforward underlying cause and address the issue (e.g., your dog encountering wildlife in the backyard at night). At your pet’s behavior consultation, we can rule out medical causes such as cognitive dysfunction/dementia, separation anxiety, or pain. Behavioral causes of excessive barking may include:
- Fear or frustration
- Stimuli or predatory drive
- Resource guarding
Cats may become more vocal because of many medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism or cognitive decline, as well as many behavioral problems, such as intercat aggression. At your pet’s behavior consultation, our team will take a thorough history, perform a complete physical exam, and recommend laboratory tests. Together, we will form a treatment plan, which may involve exercise/play, desensitization, counter-conditioning, coping mechanisms, prescription medication, and follow-up checks. Punishment and bark collars are counter-productive, and not recommended.
#3: Pet destructiveness
Chewing objects is a natural behavior for puppies through 8 months of age. Destructive behavior in adult dogs may stem from:
- Inappropriate training
- Separation anxiety and noise phobia
- Boredom from lack of exercise
- Inappropriate play
Scratching is a natural cat behavior, yet furniture destruction is another top reason that people give up on cat ownership. Simple steps, such as providing scratching posts, climbing towers, and calming pheromones, can help. We will determine the cause of your pet’s destructive behavior and develop a treatment plan, which may include medication, new toys, supervision, activities, and training.
#4: Pet aggression
When dealing with aggressive pet behavior, safety is the number one priority. Our team’s first step is to get a full history, and physically examine your pet at our clinic, to rule out painful medical conditions. We have seen many aggressive cats, for example, completely change their behavior after a medical problem (e.g., a painful tooth) was resolved. Pet aggression without a medical cause can be territorial, protective, possessive, social, defensive, or sex-related. Each aggression type requires a specialized approach, often with a pet trainer or a veterinary behaviorist. Remember that any pet can bite, and learn to read dog and cat body language.
This brief overview does not address the details of each unique pet behavior situation. With dedication, managing problem behaviors can be rewarding, and create a stronger bond with your pet. Whether your pet’s behavior issues seem small or large, call Haskell Valley Veterinary Clinic for help. Together, we can make a plan to help you and your pet—and keep your bathroom floor dry.