When any pet behavior problem progresses, it can become more than just a matter of temperament. Veterinarians are routinely presented with dogs that have poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin infections from stress. Treatment for these medical problems can be unrewarding when the source of the problem is not addressed.

When you bring your pet to your veterinarian, the whole experience—the car ride, other animals encountered in the reception area, unfamiliar smells, previous impressions—can be stress-inducing. Don’t baby-talk your pet once you get into the car. Your emotions will feed their stress. Do not feed your pet (unless some medical problem precludes this) from 6:00PM the night before the visit if your appointment is in the morning. Hungry pets will respond to food rewards at the hospital and turn it into a positive experience.

Behavior-modification drugs may be used in more complex cases. They are the same drugs used in people for a variety of anxiety and psychological issues. At Long Beach Animal Hospital (LBAH), we use them sparingly, if at all, and only in more extreme cases. We prefer a more natural approach in less serious cases, using behavior modification with the aid of an experienced board-certified veterinary animal behaviorist. This works in most cases but requires a major commitment in time and effort from the human companion, which may be difficult for busy people juggling many different needs and schedules.

A new product called Adaptil can be given to your dog to minimize stress. It’s composed of a natural pheromone that mimics the scent a puppy receives from its mother. It is called a canine-appeasing hormone and gives puppies a feeling of security and comfort. It has the same effect on an adult dog and leads to less unwanted behaviors.

Adaptil comes in diffusers, sprays, collars and wipes. We use the diffuser at LBAH in our dog exam rooms. We recommend the collars any time your dog interacts with other dogs; the sprays or wipes work well in carriers and cages.

Whichever method you try, make certain that your vet is consulted and is knowledgeable about all facets of it. Here’s to happier times!