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Position Statement on Behavioral Pharmacology

Background
A growing number of veterinary drugs can be useful in resolving companion animal behavior problems. In most cases where medication is helpful, the pharmacological intervention is used in conjunction with a behavior modification protocol. For example, the right anti-anxiety medication can enable a fearful dog to more readily learn from desensitization exercises. However, it’s important to remember that drugs administered incorrectly or in the absence of a proper diagnosis and continuous monitoring can make a situation worse. Furthermore, drugs may have undesirable side effects that can outweigh their potential benefits, so it is imperative to consult with a knowledgeable veterinarian.

ASPCA Position
The ASPCA believes that behavioral pharmacology is a valuable tool in treating animals with behavior problems. Such drugs should be considered only after consultation with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. The pet’s licensed veterinarian or the veterinary behaviorist should run the appropriate tests deemed necessary before dispensing any behavioral drugs. Periodic examinations by the veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist may be necessary to monitor the animal’s health, especially if drugs are used for more than a few weeks. The ASPCA believes that in all but rare cases the drugs should be used in concert with a behavior modification program designed by a certified applied animal behaviorist, veterinary behaviorist or other qualified professional.