Veterinary behaviorists also have some background in learning theory and are able to counsel on psychological problems, but their input if vital when medical problems are involved or when psychopharmacologic treatment is indicated. Veterinary behaviorists, whether they like the analogy or not, function as animal psychiatrists.
In the past, there were arguments in human mental health counseling over who was qualified to do this or do that. Psychologists would sometimes deride psychiatrists as “pill pushers,” and psychiatrists were concerned that psychologists would fail to appreciate when medical input was necessary. None of these concerns has turned out to be valid.
Psychologists do seem to be able to recognize curve-ball medical involvement. When they see behaviors that don’t fit a usual paradigm, they know when to refer a patient. Conversely, psychiatrists understand quite a lot about counseling and don’t always rush to medicate.
The same mutual concerns have existed between veterinary and non-veterinary behaviorists. Certified applied animal behaviorists, as it happens, do a stalwart job and veterinary behaviorists have a key role to play in those difficult end-of-the-road cases where nothing that has been tried has seemed to work.
Considering the huge annual feline mortality in the nation’s shelters and pounds due to “unmanageable” behavior problems, it is time that non-veterinary behaviorists, vets with a special interest in animal behavior, and “boarded” veterinary behaviorists pull together help keep families and their pets together.