It is the Monday following a holiday and the office is humming with activity as past AAHA President Dr. Link Welborn, DVM, ABVP, and I meet for an interview. A calm demeanor and careful attention to his responses reveal a professional that is still as conscientious about the practice of veterinarian medicine as ever.
After receiving his DVM from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 1982, Dr. Welborn began his practice in Tampa, FL. During this time, he has noticed that clients do not often solicit the veterinarian for advice concerning behavioral problems. He believes that this may be, in part, due to the fact that caregivers are more frequently utilizing the internet, breeders, and neighbors for solutions.
For this reason, Dr. Welborn and his staff have recently revised their survey for annual and semi-annual wellness visits to include screenings for certain behavioral issues including barking and destruction in dogs, and scratching, biting, and aggression in cats. It is an effort that the team is making to draw out some of those issues that clients may be hesitant to share. He remarks that the most common behavioral complaint in his practice is feline elimination disorder, which is not uncommon in his canine clientele. He also speculates that recent awareness of separation anxiety has reduced the frequency of which clients seek a veterinarian’s care for this matter.
Dr. Welborn feels that it is important for any animal behaviorist to maintain a level of appreciation for the apparent health of the animal they are working with and also to ensure that the animal has been receiving proper veterinary care. It may also be prudent to be aware of that animals exhibiting some behavioral issues, such as inappropriate elimination, ought to have a full examination with a veterinarian prior to initiating behavior modification “Just as it is appropriate for a veterinarian to recommend the services of a behaviorist the vice versus would be appropriate too, “he remarks. In fact, if Dr. Welborn were to teach a course to students of animal behavior, he would choose to focus on medical conditions that may reveal themselves with behavior signs.
Dr. Welborn suggests that animal behaviorists seeking to build effective partnerships with veterinarians in their own communities should take the initiative to reach out to vets. Being able to provide assurance about credentials and services offered is important. Offering sample reports and literature references are valued as well. “Unfortunately there are a lot of shades of grey, within animal behavior,” he comments,” everybody from those people that might be better described as trainers or obedience to the people that are clearly true experts in animal behavior and behavior modifications.”
As the man responsible for the revision of the AAHA Accreditation standards, it comes as no surprise that Dr. Welborn would like to see a similar, cohesive set of criteria for animal behaviorists. “It would be good for that profession to have a credential that would be recognized universally, “he shares. This would benefit both veterinarians and the public seeking to discern the most appropriate individuals to work with.
Dr. Welborn supports the concept of behaviorist and veterinarian working together to successfully manage, modify, and prevent problematic behaviors. “I think that that team of vet and behaviorist is ideal,” he says. Veterinarians possess a global perspective about the companion animal’s health and are able to utilize knowledge of pharmaceuticals when addressing behavior issues. Dr. Welborn adds “Most of us are certainly not qualified or focused in that area, I think having someone that is, is ideal.”
Written by Meghan Parmley
Animal Behaviorist, Insured
Bayside Animal Behavior Solutions, LLC
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