Benefits of Previsit Behavior Questionnaires

Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVB, Gigi’s, Canal Winchester, Ohio

ArticleLast Updated June 20242 min read
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In the Literature

Duxbury MM, Sobczynski H, Flynn K, Rendahl A. A behavior screening questionnaire improves problem identification in veterinary primary care with implications for patient health. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2023;262(4):1-9. doi:10.2460/javma.23.07.0405

The Research …

Behavior problems are a common reason dogs and cats are relinquished to shelters and/or euthanized.1,2 Acute changes in behavior often indicate underlying conditions, especially those causing pain, pruritus, or GI distress.3-5 Pet owners may not recognize these changes as cause for concern and thus may not mention them. In addition, behavioral history is not always reviewed during routine wellness examinations.

This study measured how often owners reported behavior problems during routine annual examinations without being prompted compared with how often owners reported problems when a short, optional questionnaire was provided directly before the examination. Both dog and cat owners were more likely to report behavior problems when asked to complete the questionnaire. Significant differences were found in reports of several behavior problems, including undesirable elimination patterns, signs of fear and anxiety, and aggression in dogs and undesirable elimination patterns, overgrooming, aggression, and signs associated with senility in cats. Differences in reporting were greater for owners of senior patients.

… The Takeaways

Key pearls to put into practice:

  • Providing owners with a brief questionnaire that screens for behavior problems before routine wellness examinations can aid in identification of these concerns.

  • Behavior screening should be included with all examinations, especially for senior patients, as behavior changes are often the only outward signs of medical issues, and owners may not report behavioral information without being prompted.

  • A previsit questionnaire is an efficient method to identify concerns that warrant diagnostic investigation and/or referral if the clinic cannot provide appropriate behavioral support.