Veterinary Behaviourist Adelaide

Dr Jacqui Ley

Dr Jacqui Ley – Behavioural Specialist

BVSc (Hons), FANZCVS (Veterinary Behaviour), PhD DECAWBM

Dr Jacqui Ley is one of four Veterinary Specialists in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine in Australia. As well as being a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Scientists, she is also a Diplomat of the European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine. Dr Ley consults out of our Kurralta park site in Adelaide once a month and books out quickly; please call us (08) 8371 0333 to find her next available appointment. 

Veterinary behavioural medicine (VBM) is a branch of veterinary medicine that is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in animals.

Behavioural problems are medical conditions and often due to neurochemical imbalances in the brain. If your pet is showing signs of behavioural problems it is important to get them assessed. Treatment is effective and can help rebuild the bonds between owner and pet.

Dogs The most common reasons for seeing a Veterinary Behaviourist are:

Aggression towards family, strangers or other dogs, anxiety, lack of self control or strange behaviour

Cats are presented to us mostly for:

Litter box troubles and spraying, Aggression towards people and other cats and Over-grooming

Birds can suffer from high anxiety. This is often shown through feather plucking or being excessively noisy

Specialists in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine

A registered veterinary specialist in veterinary behavioural medicine is a veterinarian who has undertaken further extensive study and research in veterinary behavioural medicine and been extensively examined in their knowledge of this field. They may be a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Australian Scientists, a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorist or a Diplomate of the European College of Animal Welfare & Veterinary Behavioural Medicine. Only then can they register with their veterinary practitioners’ board as a veterinary specialist.

What is involved in a Behaviour Consultation?

A VB consultation is different from a visit to your regular veterinarian. You will be asked to fill in a comprehensive history form before the consultation and bring it, along with your pet, to the appointment. Appointments are generally much longer than regular visits to your veterinarian and usually take approximately 2.5–3 hours. The veterinary behaviourist will take a detailed history in order to better understand your animal’s behaviour. For example, you will be asked to describe how your animal spends its days, the behaviour problem in detail as well as when it first occurred and when it tends to occur. Sometimes other problems are identified while the history is being obtained.

A behaviour consultation is a chance for you to discuss your pet’s problems and to start helping them.  It can be helpful to bring along footage of your pet when they are doing the problem behaviour. However, DO NOT put yourself, anyone else, your pet or someone else’s pet at risk to film the behaviour. Footage or photographs of damage can also be helpful to us in understanding the problem.

The veterinary behaviourist will sit down with you and work through the history form with you to get more in depth information. During this time, they will also be observing your pet and how it copes in a new situation (the consultation room). They will then explain their diagnosis and develop a treatment plan with you for your pet.

Behaviour consultations take time and you need to be present for them. Some of this time will be spent discussing possible outcomes, devising a specific behaviour modification program and helping you understand why your pet does the things they do.

A diagnosis is made that describes each problem identified in the history. The diagnoses are explained thoroughly as understanding these are important to understanding how to manage your pet’s problem. Prognosis is also discussed and a treatment and management plan presented that is tailored to your individual situation.

female vet treating dog

Why have I been referred?

Sometimes a veterinarian or a trainer will suggest referral to a Veterinary Behaviourist for a particular behaviour problem. This is usually because they have recognised a behaviour of concern and want it investigated by someone who is properly qualified to do this, similar to your GP sending you to an eye or skin specialist when you have a problem.

Please note we also accept self referral from clients.

Some problem behaviours may seem ‘not that important’ but can be pre-cursors to more serious problems, or may indicate an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Your trainer or veterinarian has had experience with lots of different dogs and cats, and can recognise behaviour that is different or unusual. Just like people, your pet may have an excessively high level of anxiety, or may have abnormal or inappropriate responses to other animals, people or noises.

Having an animal with a behaviour problem may damage the bond between people and their pets and make living and working with these pets hard. Diagnosis and treatment can help. If you have any concerns about your animal’s behaviour, please contact us.

Why is seeing a Veterinary Behaviourist different to going to a dog trainer?

The focus of behaviour modification is very different from obedience training. A behaviour consultation is not a replacement for dog obedience training classes. While obedience training is still an important part of teaching your dog good manners, behavioural problems are not the same as training problems. Many highly trained obedience dogs still require a behavioural consultation as their problem is not related to training or lack thereof.

Shouldn’t a good trainer be able to fix the problem?

Just like a school teacher can identify that a child has a problem that needs further investigation and help, a good trainer can identify when an animal’s responses are abnormal or when an animal is overly anxious. Good trainers help owners and animals develop skills for living together. Good trainers do not diagnose and treat psychological problems in animals- this is the role of the Veterinary Behaviourist.

Veterinary Behaviourists and trainers often work together. Some trainers have extra training so they are qualified to work with animals with problems and their owners. The trainer helps you to learn how to implement the behaviour modification program prescribed by your veterinary behaviourist.

How to book an appointment?

Phone: (08) 8371 0333

Dr Jacqui Ley visits Adelaide and offers behavioural services at our Kurralta Park site once per month.

Please call us on (08) 8371 0333 to make an appointment or obtain a referral from your regular vet.

Once an appointment is made, our reception team send a behaviour history questionnaire for you to fill in about your pet and the issues you are facing.

This can be completed using a link to an online form. This helps guide the start of your consultation and ensures all your concerns and any concerns of family members who cannot attend can be covered during the appointment.

Relevant videos or photographs of your pet displaying the behaviours in question can be very helpful. The veterinarian is more interested in subtle behaviours rather than aggression or panicked behaviour. You can send videos and pictures prior to your appointment or bring them on the day.