Editor: Our columnist Judi Curry was selected to join the National Tour because of her insights into dog behavior which she often expresses in her column “The Widder Curry”. Judi declined to join the tour outside San Diego but attended the kick-off event and filed this report.
Tour Coincides With Veterinary Annual Convention in San Diego this Week
No, this isn’t an article to appear in the “Sex in San Diego” column. Rather this is the beginning of a National tour beginning in San Diego to help animal owners tackle behavior problems and help save pets. Many people do not realize that there are solutions to their pet’s behavior problems, and frequently give the pets up to animal shelters or just abandon them. Many of these former pets die needlessly when there is help available for most of the problems.
The American Veterinary Medical Association is holding their annual convention in San Diego this week. The keynote speaker, Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB, is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and specializes in behavior modification for animals.
Diplomates of DACVB are veterinarians who are specialists in the discipline of veterinary behavioral medicine. As part of the program they have studied topics including: sociobiology; psychology of learning; behavioral genetics; behavioral physiology; psycho-pharmacology; ethology; and behavioral endocrinology.
During the pre-conference, I had an opportunity to talk to Dr. Horwitz and was impressed with the role of the Veterinary Behaviorists of which there are only 55 today. Most of them are in the United States, but there are 3 in Australia and a few in Europe. In order to become the V.B., the person must have been a practicing vet for at least one year before enrolling in the program that is offered at 7 different universities. The program started in 1993 and this year there will be 7 individuals taking exam next month.
Recently, “Ceva Animal Health” has developed familiar formulas that work to solve behavior problems in dogs and cats. The products contain synthetic pheromones that mimic natural pheromones in dogs and cats. When the animal is given these pheromones, the pets seem to have a better sense of well-being and the poor behaviors are lessened, if not removed all together.
For example, my 11 year old Golden Retriever freaks out when he hears fire crackers, thunder, and/or sirens. I frequently have to tranquilize him early in the day before the 4th of July, because he is so upset. One of the subjects that will be discussed in this 6 city tour with be how to manage noise and storm phobias. There are several hints that Dr. Horwitz gave me in working with Buddy and his noise phobia: For example, Punishment should never be used; Encouragement, praise of fostering is often not helpful because they do not usually teach the pet another response and may not calm them either.”
When possible, try to make sure the pet is not alone during the stressful event. A special safe and secure place should be made available for the pet. If it is possible, make it fun with food rewards and a soft bed or pillow. (This might be a room where lightening flashes will not be noted or a windowless indoor room where sound is muted. (The author wants to point out, however, that her dog will not eat anything when he is scared.) Loud music or music with a strong beat or white noise (fans) may help to muffle the noise. This is a perfect time to introduce the animal to synthetic pheromones to help with the calming process.
The tour is not just about dogs. Some cats have issues that Dr. Horwitz also addresses. My photographer, Tim, accompanied me to the pre-conference and he mentioned that he was thinking of adding a third cat to his two at home. She asked him why he wanted another cat: “Is it for you or is it for your current cats”? He admitted that it was for him and she advised him to think very carefully about adding the third cat. She said that the two he has are very compatible, and adding another one might disturb the balance.
Cats do not live in groups, and bringing a third cat into the home may be very disruptive. She said that he should think very carefully before changing the makeup of the home. For information purposes, there is a synthetic pheromone available for cats that help the older cat adjust to new cats in the family.
Unfortunately, even though the tour is kicking off in San Diego, there is not a stop open to the public scheduled here. However, it is launching its tour from the San Diego Zoo on August 3rd , and you might be able to catch a glimpse of the black bus decorated with cute and appealing animals.
For information re: the Synthetic Pheromones from “Ceva” check with your personal veterinarian. It might be better for the animal than the tranquilizers we give our pets now. A good source Dr. Horwitz mentioned is “Good News for Pets.” And it was interesting to note that there are three behavioral vets in San Diego. I wish that she was one of them.