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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Psychological unhealth... in dogs

Okay, okay, I'm giving in to the masses! A New Year, a new post...

It took me years as a practicing veterinarian to begin thinking about the psychological well-being of dogs. A healthy person is one who is free of disease: both physical and mental. A human patient suffering from general anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, or even a serious phobia, without cancer or diabetes, is still a sick patient, n'est-ce pas?
Therefore a dog who is hyperactive, untrained, phobic, or suffering from aggression (for example, fear aggression), is not a healthy dog. These conditions need to be recognized (the hardest part), discussed (the second hardest part), and treatment needs to be instituted.
How many vets recognize this? This is why the consultation starts in the waiting room. Veterinarians must recognize these issues immediately. The disservice is to let such patients go without having addressed the (sometimes easily) manifestations of poor doggy mental health. "Ok, he's now vaccinated, bloodwork is normal, no parasites..." Nope, not enough.
I want my patients to trot into the consultation room, be calm (to a realistic extent), sit when they're told to sit, and who obey their owners.
The dog who wants to take my face off will be given a poor bill of health as far as I'm concerned. That said, his prognosis is far from grave.

Depending on the context, this dog may require treatment.


Mel said...

The frustrating part is when you're dealing with owners who refuse to see the problem and think that it's okay that their dogs act that way.

Shana Tova, btw, and love the new blog look.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...


TorontoVet said...

Bingo, Mel. That is very important. We're expected to walk on tippy toes and egg shells lest we offend someone.

GoLightly said...

I think vets deserve a dang medal for some of the pets that they are expected to treat as if they have normal behaviour.

Like an insanely obese pet. What do you say?

Here's the converse to the issue, Doc.
I totally agree with your post, I just want to tell you this quick story.
I used a vet for old red dog, in Toronto, I liked him well enough, old red dog never much liked vets, but she accepted and was good with them.

My next dog is a black/tan 1.5 year old, looks vaguely like a 40 lb. doberman, or rottie. Sweetest, gentlest softest dog.
Old red dog had WAY more bite than new dog ever will.
The vet-techs, and my (ex) vet, all acted as if I'd brought an alligator in. New Black/Tan Flip dog did Nothing, other than give a history as a kenneled ex-sheep-herding dog, and look at them sweetly..
They put a muzzle on her before I could even react.
I didn't go back.

Kudos for the difficult work you do.
My story is unusual, I'm sure.

My dogs drag me into my subsequent vets office, wagging and smiling.

Okay, puppy Blaze isn't exactly smiling. But older Flip loves her vets. All extra attention is good.

Great to see you posting again!

martha said...

How about human doc's and animal doc's work side-by-side and treat their respective clients at the same time? A joint practice?
please can we just stop people from picking up their small dogs in dog parks.......please
(esp. at The Beach....please)

bellyfat said...

So I have a new chihuahua mix puppy rescued by (dog is named Nugget on their site). I've never had a really small dog before and I'm trying to treat him like a regular dog, but he LOVES to be held and carried (I swear!) and he makes the cutest little noises when I carry him. He loves everyone, no fear or aggression, very happy and smart. I keep him on the leash and walking as much as possible, but I haven't trained him to go down stairs yet. My question - are there any different rules (exceptions) for the VERY small dogs (4 lbs) who seem to REALLY LIKE to be carried around?

Y.L.G. said...

As you know "we owners" can get a tad bit defensive when anything is said about Fluffy.

When I first brought my 8 week old Golden to my vet - the dog was "mouthing" and nipping. I thought this was a puppy thing, but my Vet said to me "Oh! we have a biter here" He strongly urged me to put a stop to this at once!

In fact at 8 weeks old, it was not too soon to start teaching - immediate action needed. So he showed me how to touch between her toes, and open her mouth, brush her teeth, clean her ears, and recommended to constantly touch her.

Now years later, my both Goldens are model dogs. Every time I need them for a procedure I just call them and tell them I need to "fix" and they let me do anything. Makes my Vets job much easier.

Maintaining a calm attitude myself, while waiting for the vet can help alleviate their stress level. Also giving the dogs a "job" while waiting such as sit, lie down, sit; burning some energy before we get there and of course if they are good - my vet and I will give a small treat. Cheers :)

Dr. CaSo said...

Darn, I lived in Toronto for three years and wasn't able to find a good vet for my two cats... and now I find this blog, just a couple of months after I left Toronto!

I'm going to search your blog to see if by some crazy chance you know and mention someone good in Edmonton...

MadVet said...

on the other hand, his teeth look great - no dentals here!