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Quiz: Behavioral Pharmacology

Karen Lynn C. Sueda, DVM, DACVB, VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, Los Angeles, California


|November 2022|Peer Reviewed
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two domestic shorthair cats exhibiting intercat aggression

Psychoactive medications are used in veterinary behavioral medicine for treatment of fear, anxiety, and arousal. These drugs bind to receptors to enhance or reduce synaptic transmission by directly or indirectly modulating levels of neurotransmitters (eg, serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid).

Many factors (eg, efficacy, duration of action, tolerability, ease of administration) affect clinical selection of anxiolytic medication. Behavioral conditions should be diagnosed and contributing physical illnesses addressed before psychopharmaceutical drugs are administered. Safety and management recommendations should be discussed with the pet owner and informed consent obtained. Combining anxiolytics with a tailored, positive-reinforcementbased behavior modification plan is recommended for a successful outcome. Psychopharmaceuticals can facilitate behavior modification but should not be considered as sole or primary treatment for behavioral disorders.


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