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Paw Prints in Sand

Frequently Asked Questions

General:

What is a veterinary behaviorist?

A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian who has become board-certified in veterinary behavior aka a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior (DACVB).  We are the only veterinarians able to call ourselves a specialist in behavior and among a select group of certified individuals that can rightly call themselves behaviorists.  In order to become a DACVB, a veterinarian completes their 4 year veterinary degree (DVM or VMD) after undergrad, a 1 year rotating internship or equivalent experience gaining more mentorship in a higher level of veterinary care, and then this is followed by a minimum of a 3 year residency exclusively focused on veterinary behavior and psychiatry.  This equates to an additional 12 years of schooling or more after the high school degree!  In addition to the time, behaviorists must see at minimum 400 behavior cases under supervision, learn the content of about 25 textbooks, perform research and have it published, publish case reports, complete rotations in Internal Medicine, Neurology and Dermatology, gain clinical experience with a wide variety of species, and complete at least seven courses during their residency program.  After all this, a resident must pass a rigorous 2-day exam.

Why can't my family veterinarian manage the behavior problem in my pet?

The skill level of primary care veterinarians in behavior and psychiatry varies significantly.  Less than 6 of the veterinary schools have veterinary behaviorists on staff and many do not even offer a course in animal behavior.  The ones that do, commonly are only getting 1-2 weeks of education over the four years of vet school in this field.  Some veterinarians go on after vet school to get additional training through continuing education because they realize the importance.  Some family veterinarians are comfortable managing simple cases to an extent - they may have fluency in a few behavior medications and can provide some base support with one or two medications at a time.  Most veterinarians are not working in a clinical structure that allows for the in depth information gathering and frequent follow-up needed to manage a behavior case well.  And the vast majority do not have team members on staff that can provide support for the behavioral therapy part of the plan and have had no to little training on what that looks like. ​ From a psychiatry perspective, our practice structure is designed to provide the level of support needed for nuanced psychiatry management so your pet is not lingering on medications that don't work or don't work well enough.  We know what side effects you can wait out and what is not worth it.  We are skilled at medication transitions and selections, increasing the likelihood that you will get the maximal coverage with minimal side effects.  We are skilled at polypharmacy, creating cocktails when needed, that best matches the neurotransmitter support your animal needs.  And we have tons of options - pages and pages - from fast acting medications to daily medications, to supplements, diet changes and pheromone therapy that all may help your pet's brain be its best.  We screen for medical conditions that could be contributing that other people wouldn't think to look for and understand that the functioning of the body and mind are integral to one another. ​ Additionally, we take a team approach with a highly skilled Behavior Therapy team, trained to DACVB standards, holding your hand and guiding you through the behavioral therapies needed.  Your pet will not learn anything new from a medication, and if you want behavior change to stick, you need someone working with you that understands the science, is experienced at working with this type of case, can communicate with you effectively and can pivot and flex the pre-laid plan with skill so your animal can learn best.  Our technician team works tightly with our doctor team, so everyone is on the same page and you have multiple brains behind your care.

I have tried multiple dog trainers and we can't make progress.  How is this any different?

Most of the patients we see have tried multiple dog trainers in the past and are in the same situation you are.  Dog training is an unregulated profession - any seventeen year old could hang up a shingle and call themselves a "behavior specialist" when they have done almost no education.  Big chain pet stores hire folks with little skill regularly and there are people treating aggression and anxiety cases who have no business doing so.  Now, that doesn't mean who you have worked with was unskilled, as there are some highly skilled trainers as well but they are few and far between.  Most dog trainers are working on basic manners and obedience skills - sit, stay, down, etc.  Many of our patients don't actually have an obedience problem - they know cues and can perform them, when their anxiety or impulse control problems aren't getting in their own way!  Some trainers are even able to do behavior modification, where they are targeting specific behavior problems and trying to adjust these behaviors to be more in line with human expectations.  What makes behavior therapy different is that, #1 its prescribed by a doctor and #2 we are working to change the underlying emotional content of your pet's experience and the subsequent coping and self-soothing skills so that they don't feel a need to behave in the problematic way in the first place.  We work from the inside out.  Only the cream of the crop trainers take this approach.  That, PLUS we do the medical screening and management that is needed to treat a pet holistically.

What species can you treat?

Veterinary behaviorists are trained in all domestic species and while we may not have personal experience with all zoo/wildlife species, we know what we need to know to modify a plan based on species.  Dogs and cats are the two most common species we see.  We have cat-designed exam room for their maximal comfort and are extremely careful to minimize contact between ALL patients in our clinic.  For farm animals and horses, we make house/farm calls within our coverage area.  Other domestic species that are small enough to transport, such as birds, rabbits and more, are welcome in our clinic and we will design the experience to minimize their stress.  We have treated a wide range of species from parrots to pigs to goats to horses to rats and more!

For potential and current clients:

Have an animal at home that you think needs our services? 

Learn more about our veterinary behavior services for private clients here.  Give us a call or schedule an appointment today to start on your journey to helping them recover.  We see all species and have flexible options available for clients that live too far to come see us regularly.  Doctor house calls are available in Colorado for horses and farm animals.  Treatment appointments can also be done for all species in Colorado within our coverage zone.

Are in-person appointments required?

If you are proceeding with our comprehensive care route and would like your pet’s psychiatric treatments prescribed by us, our doctors are required to see patients in-clinic at least once annually. Follow-ups can be scheduled via telemedicine (or in-person) as needed. If this is not feasible for you, check out our hybrid program!  Through our teleconsult options, we work with you and your primary care veterinarian to get you the help you need.​

Can you really be effective at managing cases through telehealth?

You betcha!  We got real good at doing what we do virtually during the pandemic.  In fact, there are benefits to virtual support: Some of our patients are too stressed or too distracted with an unfamiliar person present to learn effectively, they do better when its just them and a pet parent in the home Some pets get very stressed commuting to the clinic and then arrive so exhausted or worked up from their trip, that we can't get any good learning in Pets behave more naturally in their home environment - we are able to observe and adjust our plans to more natural responses We are able to observe the visual set up in the home and help troubleshoot management strategies much more effectively when we can see what we are dealing with.

How can you possibly do a good job without seeing the problem behavior in question or coming to our home?

Great question, this comes up a lot.  We have a few ways we are able to truly evaluate what's happening: Your description is critical.  We educate you on body language so you can report what you are seeing accurately and we have a very specific line of query that lets us drill into the relevant information to make a diagnosis and track progress. Video!  Enter the smartphone.  Quick 5-30 second clips of the problematic behavior can be very helpful.  Note, we NEVER want anyone inciting or prolonging an aggressive event just for the sake of video, its not worth the risk and we don't want them practicing their behaviors.  Even video leading up to or immediately after the problematic behavior is displayed can be helpful and if you happen to have historical videos already available, lets take a look at those.  We commonly request specific videos in our first appointment with you and tours of the home can be helpful as well! In appointment observations.  For both virtual and in person appointments, our technician, nurse and doctor teams are highly skilled at reading patient body language and can deduct quite a bit from how they show up during appointments.  Don't underestimate our skill, this team IS that good.  Trainer notes.  If you have been working with a trainer we ask them to submit any notes or homeworks they have regarding your pet.  Their observations can be very helpful for understanding your pet's reactions and how they think. Medical records.  Veterinarians are doing a better and better job of documenting the emotional state of patients in clinic and any reported behavior problems during their visits.  We scour medical records for any information we can glean from their observations.

How much will treatment cost and how long will it take?

We wish we could give you a finite number, but the reality is that every patient and every family is different.  Treatment plans are tailored to the individual patient depending on presenting problem, severity, family needs, risk, what has been tried already, prior learning experience, underlying medical problems and medical work-up needed and more.  We can say that on average there is an intensive treatment phase of 4-6 months where you should expect to see us every 1-2 weeks for maximal benefit.  If recommendations are followed, you can expect this to be somewhere in the $2500-4000 range.  Some will be less, not many are more.  Thereafter, treatment intensity typically phases out as the pet stabilizes and we space out rechecks and care.  Behavior change takes time, and treatment is a process, just like it is for people.  Our goal is to practice ethically and efficiently.  See the financial investment page for more information as well as our card on file and cancellation policy.

Really want to make use of our clinical services but the prices are just a little too steep for you?

We have a few options for you: Our membership program is designed to allow you to space payments out and provides a 10-15% discount on our various services.  If a reliable monthly financial investment will allow you to budget appropriately - our no-risk membership plan is for you!   Our Hybrid Program gets our brains delivered to you in a more affordable format for accessible and expert care.  Proceed with our Comprehensive Care track and just let us know what your limitations are.  We are always personalize plans based on various family needs, and finances are no exception.  We talk about this aspect of treatment regularly with clients and we try to be as creative and flexible as possible to design a plan that can work for you and your family.   We know money doesn't grow on trees - we want you putting your hard-earned dollars into what is going to have the best shot at helping.  We always aim to be honest and upfront about our costs and the potential benefits of each particular type of diagnostic and treatment option so you can make an informed decision.

We are already working with a trainer - do we need to discontinue with them in order to work with you?

We love working with trainers.  As a general philosophy, we ascribe to the "it takes a village" approach.  If you would like to keep working with your trainer we will strive to incorporate them in the treatment process so we can all be on the same page.  As we get to know your trainer and their skill level we can at times divide and conquer on specific learning goals or provide guidance and oversight leaving the mechanics and regular meetings to you and your trainer.  Trainers do need to be willing to work with us for this to be successful.  If they are not willing to work with us, we would advise choosing one or the other so there aren't too many "cooks in the kitchen" impeding each other's plans.   If they take approaches that are contraindicated to your pet's behavioral condition or engage in high risk training techniques we may either insist on them following the prescribed approach or inform you that we need to discontinue working with them on some or all elements of the plan.  Please have the trainer join for the Psychiatry Evaluation if you would like to work all together.  If you decide you would like to discontinue training with your trainer, we are happy to support you in Treatment Appointments with our skilled Behavior Therapy team.

I'm not sure we need veterinary psychiatry services or not.  How can we decide?

Chances are if you were referred by your family veterinarian or a skilled dog/cat trainer, then you do need a veterinary behavior evaluation to determine if psychiatry is relevant to your pet.  If you are not sure, the Diagnostic Behavior Constultation is designed to help you sort this out.  There a few treatment paths that start with the DBC, some including doctor support and some without.  Discuss your thoughts with the technician in that appointment and they can help provide you with an understanding of what your pet could benefit from moving forward.

Can you guarantee successful outcomes? 

Hard no.  Anyone who does in this domain is lying to you.  What is determined "success" is largely in the eye of the beholder and if expectations are inappropriate for what your animal is capable of, you will never get there.  Success of treatment plans are also determined in part by your compliance and participation in the plan - if you don't do your homework, that's on you, friend.  That, and we simply can't know how a patient will respond to all the different treatment modalities in advance.  Animals are living, dynamic creatures who are constantly learning and responding to their environments so stability can be rocked depending on internal and external factors.  Rarely patients are treatment resistant, just like in any other part of medicine.  ​ What we can guarantee is that we will be honest with you about what we are seeing and what expectations are reasonable given your pet's starting place and the inherent limitations in treatment.  We can guarantee you that we will treat your pet with the individualized attention your family deserves and that we always strive to give you our best.  We practice with professionalism and without judgment.  We promise that we have a huge arsenal of diagnostics and tools and that we will help you select and prioritize tools and techniques to maximize well-being, resources and efficiency.

Why does my pet need a Diagnostic Behavior Consultation AND a Psychiatry Evaluation? Can’t I skip the behavior intake and go straight to the doctor? 

Our Diagnostic Behavior Consultations are a critical part of the information collecting process and will make time with your doctor much more efficient.  Our specially trained Behavior Therapy Technicians gather a detailed behavioral history from you so we have a better idea of the problems you may be struggling with, and they will also spend some time clarifying your goals and referring you to the treatment option(s) they think will be best for your individual circumstances. The information obtained during this appointment is incredibly valuable to our doctors, who will review all notes taken before meeting with you later down the line.

How do I best reach you? 

Text is the easiest way for us!  Just text 303-536-1802, our main number, and someone will respond as soon as possible.  After that, email is next best and calling after that.

Do you take pet insurance?

All pet insurances are a bit different on what they will cover regarding behavior specialty practice.  Some cover doctor appointments and labs but not Treatment Appointments.  Others cover the Treatment Appointments where they do not sessions with a dog trainer.  Others cover diagnostics and treatments but not appointment fees.  Check the fine print of your plan to know what your plan covers.  If you are still shopping around for plans, as per usual, pay attention to pre-existing condition exclusions, breed specific exclusions and waiting periods.  Sometimes you have to add on an additional behavior rider.  We are happy to provide statements or sign any claim forms to help you submit your claims.  Even if you have insurance, payment is due at time of service and then the insurance company reimburses you directly.

Do you communicate with my family veterinarian?

Certainly!  We always request medical records prior to your first appointment, and annually and as needed thereafter.  Additionally, your veterinarian receives a report from us after each doctor appointment.  If additional communication is needed, we are happy to jump on a call or email with your vet to make sure we are functioning within the inclusive partnership model we strive for.

I have multiple pets. Is it okay to bring animals other than the patient to the appointment?

We ask that you bring only the animal that will be the focus of your appointment. If multiple pets in the same household are experiencing conflict, it is necessary to treat them separately and unique appointments and therapies will be required for both. Exceptions may be made for animals that will experience stress if left home alone, or at a doctor's discretion for pet patients from the same home.

My pet was mandated to have a court-ordered evaluation for a citation.  Do you do this? 

We most certainly do!  For years we have offered a special evaluation for court-ordered cases where we provide to the courts a supplemental evaluation form with information they find valuable to assessing what's needed to maintain public safety and avoid future concerning events.  Our goal is never to get anyone in trouble.  We see our role as evaluating a patient for relevant conditions, understanding mitigating factors that may have affected the event, protecting the quality of life of the pet and protecting public safety.  We make recommendations with the welfare of the pet and the public in mind.  For these consults you meet directly with a doctor for a 1.5 hour appointment.  Thereafter, you can proceed forward with our standard services if you elect treatment. Please call or email to schedule these as we want to make sure we can get you options within the timeframe you need and we leave enough time to cover all the details.

For Hawaii clients:

How often do you come to the island and for how long?

TVBC sends team members out to Oahu about once per quarter for approximately 7-10 days for in person assessments, rechecks and our Therapeutic Board & Train services.  In between these visits, we manage cases virtually to provide a fluent and uninterrupted level of care.

How can we get in person therapy support if you are on the mainland most of the time?

Boy, do we have a program for you!  Our Therapeutic Board & Train service provides intensive, in-patient treatment and you can do as many as you like.

Where are you seeing cases?

Our doctor appointments take place at Ali'i Animal Hospital in Kakaako. Our Therapeutic Board & Train takes place at Ali'i Unleashed Resort, just 4 blocks away from the hospital.

Do we contact you or Ali'i to schedule?

All patients that would like to seek out our services should contact us, The Veterinary Behavior Center, to get going.  In order to be eligible for the Therapeutic Board & Train service you need a Diagnostic Behavior Consultation anyway to assess whether this program would be useful for you and your pet.  We take care of all scheduling and payment for our appointments.  If you elect to proceed with a Therapeutic Board & Train, as this is a joint venture with Ali'i Unleashed, we will have you reach out to them to reserve one of the limited slots on our next trip.

For professionals:

Need an expert witness on an animal related court case? 

Our board-certified veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Ariel Fagen, does do this.  We work regularly with local court systems on "dangerous dog" cases to evaluate risk and make recommendations.  Call 303-536-1802 and speak to our front desk to inquire about availability.

Do you work in a veterinary clinic and want some education for your staff or a re-design of how you do things so that your patients can have a lower stress experience?

Yes!!!  Jump on the low-stress train before you get left behind.  Your patients, your clients and your staff will be happier and you will be able to practice better medicine.  We do hospital assessments as well as hands-on low-stress handling workshops and lectures to help you meet your goals.  Reach out to let us know your needs and wants.

Are you a shelter or rescue organization that would like an individualized consult for a patient or want some help designing and implementing systems to improve the behavioral health of the animals in your care?

Check out our new Adoption Candidacy Evaluations designed just for you to get an objective look at whats possible for the pet in your care with someone who knows the system like no other, our very own Bridgette Chesne, former Director of Animal Behavior and Sheltering at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley and 25 year veteran to the sheltering world.  Dr. Fagen and Bridgette want to help you in your mission to get these fella's into happy, well-matched homes.   Additionally, consulting for organizations now packs a special punch with the expertise they both can provide. Call us to discuss how we can best serve your needs.

Work at a zoo or wildlife sanctuary and could use some help with a behavior problem or redesigning your behavioral health plans?

We love working with you!  Dr. Fagen works as a team with your veterinarians, keepers, trainers, enrichment team, etc. to design a practical plan for you.  Call or email for pricing - we are happy to chat.

Have a farm, breeding facility or at home animal collection and are thinking you could use an outside consultant to help you make some lifestyle changes for the animals to improve their physical and mental health?

Good on ya' for being so proactive!  Creative folks who take initiative to help the animals around them are our favorite people!  Give us a holler, let's talk over what you are looking for.

General Questions
For (Potential) Clients
For Hawaii Clients
For Professionals
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