Behavioral Medicine

Veterinary Behavior: Compassionate comprehensive evaluation of your pet's psychological and physical well-being.

The Behavior department at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services is committed to providing comprehensive and compassionate care for you and your pet. Our veterinary behaviorist is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

Diagnosis, understanding and treatment to ease your pet's distress while enhancing your pet's quality of life.

Questions About Behavioral Medicine

How long will my appointment take?
Most behavioral medicine consultations average approximately 2 hours. From history to diagnosis to treatment program: you are an integral part of your pet's behavior consultation.
What is involved with a behavior consultation?
During the consultation, Dr. DePorter will evaluate, discuss and review your concerns regarding your pet's behavior from early development through evolution to the current situation. You will be asked to complete a detailed history before the consultation so Dr. DePorter may review it before your appointment and be prepared to discuss her findings with you during the consultation. Diagnosis and recommendations are discussed with consideration for you goals and expectations. Each pet is unique. Be prepared to learn about your pet's behavior and how to incorporate the methods which are humane, gentle, and scientifically based.
I have worked with trainers. How is a veterinary behaviorists approach different?
Veterinary Behaviorists have achieved board-certification in the specialty of Veterinary Behavior. Behavioral problems can result from a neurochemical imbalance, a medical condition, learned fearful associations, conflict or anxiety. A Veterinary Behaviorist is in a unique position to diagnose medical conditions that can affect a pet's behavior, as well as conditions that are purely behavioral. The behavior, health and welfare of an individual must be considered simultaneously in the resolution of many pet behavior problems and to improve the well-being of animals.

Techniques include behavior modification, counter-conditioning, desensitization, environmental modification, proper positive reinforcement techniques and owner education. Appropriate medications, pheromones or nutraceuticals may be recommended as adjunctive treatment to the behavior modification program. We can alleviate undesirable behaviors in pets while treating animals with kindness, gentleness, respect and admiration. Positive punishment techniques (e.g. choke collar, prong collar, electronic shock), so-called 'leadership' or dominance hierarchy strategies and traditional correction-based methods are outdated and will not be utilized by the behaviorist.
What if multiple pets are involved?
Often the behavior consultation is veterinary "family counseling" since the behavior of one pet influences the behavior or welfare of another pet in the home. Please bring all involved pets to the behavior consultation if it is feasible and safe to do so. The doctor will focus primarily on the pet you select but the well-being and welfare of other pets will also be considered. A "second-pet" evaluation may be offered during the appointment if it is clear this may be helpful.
Can you guarantee my pet's behavior problem will be resolved?
Due to the complex nature of behavior problems, it is not possible to guarantee the desired results will be accomplished. Dr. DePorter will advise you if pursuing treating for your pet's behavior problem is right for your pet, your family and situation. We will discuss the likelihood of a favorable outcome and long term prognosis. Be advised, these may be complex, difficult and emotional issues as each family must determine their own willingness to pursue a treatment for a pet with severe emotional distress. Aggression cases especially warrant careful consideration for the welfare of people and animals which may be at risk for an aggressive incident. Dr. DePorter will advise you on the best approach and considerations for your situation with openness, honesty and respect for your decisions.
Will my pet need to be put on medication?
Medication may be recommended along with behavior modification therapy for successful resolution of your pet's behavior problem. Once Dr. DePorter determines the behavioral diagnosis for your pet, she can determine if medication will be recommended. She will discuss risks, benefits and appropriate expectations for your pet' s medication. Your pet will not be sedated and should not be sluggish or groggy while taking medication for behavior problems. Appropriate selection and dosing of medications allows your pets be less anxious and thus learn. Often the desired outcome is that pets seem "happier", more playful or more animated. Most pets will be weaned off their medication once their problem is resolved: occasionally a pet may require medication for life.
How often will I need to return for treatment?
In most cases, we recommend you return once monthly for 1-4 months. This varies with each patient and we tailor our recommendations to best fit your needs.
What if my pet's problem is not treatable?
Rarely do we encounter a pet whose behavior problem would not benefit from an appropriate and complete behavior modification program. Do not be discouraged from scheduling if trainers have told you your pet should be euthanized. Dr. DePorter will discuss prognosis, expectations, realistic restrictions and management of your pet's behavior in addition to discussion of an appropriate behavior modification program. Dr. DePorter will advise you if this is a reasonable program to pursue considering your skills, the severity of your pet's problem and the danger your pet presents to your family and others.
Why should I seek help from a veterinary behaviorist?

What are my next steps?

How to get help:
Because there is a close relationship between medical conditions and animal behavior, we ask that you first discuss your pet's behavior problem with your regular veterinarian. Your pet should be evaluated for medical factors which may influence or contribute to your pet's behavior problem. After your pet is evaluated, your veterinarian may then refer you to Oakland Veterinary Referral Services for a behavior consultation.
History Questionnaires
The written history you provide and the doctor's interview with you during the consultation provide much of the information necessary to determine your pet's diagnosis and prognosis. New behavior clients should complete a behavior questionnaire and return to OVRS at least 3 days before a behavior consultation. Detailed and specific information about your pet allows a specific and tailored behavior modification program. These are general forms and not all questions will apply to every pet and situation. It is not necessary to repeat information in multiple areas of the forms. Please include any additional unique information you think will be helpful.
If you have your first behavior consultation for your dog you must complete this form: Behavior Questionnaire - Dogs. The form is different for cats: clients with feline patients should complete this form: Behavior Questionnaire - Cats. If you are on the waiting list or would like to be scheduled for an earlier appointment, be sure to return the questionnaire as soon as possible so we may contact you if an opening becomes available.
Instructions for completing the behavior questionnaire:

-- Complete these forms carefully and include all relevant information. Please include essays or journals regarding your pet's behavior. Include any reports or evaluations your pet has received.
-- Read directions closely as not all questions are required for every pet. Skip sections as directed.
-- This form is designed to be completed on a computer - if completed by hand you may need to write answers on additional paper. Detailed information is critical for Dr. DePorter to diagnose and recommend a treatment program.
-- If multiple pets are involved, please complete a form for each pet. It is not necessary to duplicate answers. You may bring other pets to the consultation.
-- Pictures are very helpful. Please take pictures of your pets, home and yard. Ok to photograph any locations in which behavior problems occur. These may be sent by email or printed and brought to the appointment. You may video record your pet's behavior. Do not provoke aggressive behaviors. Ideally do not include more than 15 pictures and 3 videos. Please provide a written summary of the video including the situation and description. It may not be possible for Dr. DePorter to watch the entire video before the consultation.
-- Return completed forms 3 business days prior to your consultation.
-- Return of the completed forms by email to is preferred. You may also return it by fax to 248-334-3693.

Current and returning clients should complete the Follow-up Questionnaire and return to OVRS at least 3 days before a behavior consultation. Once your pet's condition has stabilized you may be eligible to come for a brief medication refill appointment. Please complete this form if you are coming in only for a refill of medication. Medication refill appointment.

Our Behavioral Medicine Expertise

  • Canine and feline behavior services offeredb
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Tour Our Behavioral Medicine Department

Meet Our Veterinarian

Theresa DePorter Photo

Theresa DePorter, DVM, MRCVS
Diplomate, ACVB and European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine


Theresa DePorter is board certified diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Behavior (ACVB) and the European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine (ECAWBM). She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Purdue University and her Bachelor Science in Biology in 1992. She has been seeing behavior consultations at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services in metropolitan Detroit, Michigan since 2004.

Ashley Elzerman Photo

Ashley Elzerman, DVM, MS
CEVAģ ACVB Behavior Resident


Ashley Elzerman received her DVM degree from University of Illinois in 2009. Prior to veterinary school, she received a BS in biology from Smith College and then completed a masterís degree in wildlife toxicology from Clemson University.

Research for cats: Tell me how YOUR cat feels about going to the veterinary hospital.

Research for cats

Theresa DePorter, OVRSís Veterinary Behaviorist, is announcing a survey study for cats. Click here to complete the Oakland Before-the-Vet, Anticipatory Fear & Anxiety Assessment: OBAFAA for Cats. Help me understand more about feline distress so I can find ways to alleviate feline distress.

Research Studies by
Dr. Theresa DePorter

Cat blocking the stairs

Improvement of Aggression Between Housemate Cats

Research Participant Testimonials.

Department Hours

Our department is open
Monday through Thursday.

Hours are by appointment only.

Compassionate, science-based approach to the treatment of behavioral disorders for our canine companions

Should I Use the Dog Training Methods I See on TV?

Welfare in Dog Training

Society for Veterinary Behavior Technicians

Resources and educational handouts

Additional support material and handouts may be accessed by clicking here.

Access is restricted to current behavior clients. Please email if you are a current patient and would like to request access.

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