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Animal Behaviour

The veterinary behaviour service at Acorn House is led by Katharine Nelson MA MSc VetMB GPCert (SAM) PGCert(SAS) MRCVS

RCVS Advanced Veterinary Practitioner in Clinical Animal Behaviour

Katharine holds the MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour from Lincoln University and has been recognised by the RCVS as an Advanced Veterinary Practitioner in this field.

Katharine is able to advise on behaviour issues in cats and dogs. Commonly reported behaviour problems include:

  • House soiling and urine marking (cats and dogs)
  • Aggression or reactivity towards other animals (inside and outside of the home)
  • Aggression towards familiar people within the home
  • Aggression or reactivity towards strangers inside and outside of the home
  • Barking
  • Compulsive behaviours such as tail-chasing, self-mutilation, overgrooming, pacing
  • Separation related problems
  • Noise phobias and other anxiety problems
  • Difficulties with sleeping patterns

Pets with behaviour problems cannot be assessed and diagnosed in a standard 15 minute veterinary consultation. If a pet is seen in consultation at the practice, Katharine will discuss the behavioural concerns with the clients and perform a thorough medical examination to check for any medical issues that might be causing or aggravating the behavioural issue (common offenders include musculoskeletal pain, hormonal imbalances, anal sac inflammation, skin conditions, thyroid disorders). Depending on the type of problem being investigated, and any suspicious findings on the examination, blood tests, urine tests, x-rays or ultrasound scans may be offered where appropriate.

After this initial assessment Katharine will provide you with an initial behaviour assessment including a summary of behaviour and background; review of medical factors; risk assessment; realistic expectation for change; and initial behavioural advice on immediate home management of the problem behaviour and how to prevent the problem from worsening. 

For some types of behaviour problem, this assessment will include all of the advice that you need to resolve the problems that you are having with your pet. However, for many of the more complex behaviours, it will then be necessary for a more detailed home visit to be performed - so that your pet's behaviour can be observed in your home (or out on a walk, if this is where the problem occurs). In many cases, the practice will work with an accredited non-veterinary behaviourist to perform this visit. The behaviourist will build on the initial behaviour assessment to develop a more detailed understanding of why the behaviour is occurring and how it can be improved. They can try out different management and training techniques and teach you how to use them with your pet. We recommend that an APBC-accredited behaviourist makes this visit. Our closest APBC member is Laura Travis (based in St Neots) and she is happy to provide house visits in Bedford and the surrounding areas. Please be aware that behaviourists are not permitted to undertake this work until the pet has been medically evaluated by a veterinary surgeon.

The behaviourist will provide you with a separate report reminding you of the detailed techniques that they have demonstrated and recommended that you use with your pet. They will be able to provide follow-up visits or advice by telephone or email after the initial visit. Katharine will liaise with the behaviourist if further veterinary input is required (for example, if the behaviourist feels that the management and training techniques are not sufficient on their own, and would like Katharine to advise on and prescribe behaviour-altering medications).

Contact details of the APBC behaviourist mentioned above are:

Laura Travis:

St Neots Dog Training; 07790024766;

Many insurance policies cover behavioural consultations, investigation and treatment (including both behavioural and medical aspects).

Please contact the surgery if you would like to book an appointment. Of course, all of our veterinary surgeons and nurses are happy to answer routine questions regarding training, behaviour and management.


Canine behaviour questionnaire

Feline behaviour questionnaire

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Acorn House Veterinary HospitalLinnet WayBrickhillBedfordBedfordshireMK41 7HN01234 261839find us