Behaviorist offers ‘special care from the heart’ at CVS
by CLAIRE HARLIN | San Diego Pets
11:59 PM, Tuesday, January 01
Believe it or not, the far-reaching problem of pet abandonment at shelters and resulting euthanasia can often be traced back to behavior. Not to mention, an animal’s behavior has the potential to negatively impact human relationships, whether that involves neighbors, kids or spouses.

These points only begin to explain Dr. Stefanie Schwartz’s passion for helping pets and their owners overcome animal behavioral issues such as aggression, house soiling or destruction, anxiety, depression or compulsivity.

“Pets are a vital support mechanism when behaving well,” said the local veterinarian and specialist in veterinary behavior. “But their misbehavior can be detrimental to family dynamics.”

Schwartz is board certified in veterinary behavior medicine by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, an achievement only a small percentage of vets can boast, and she has a Master of Science degree in ethology — that's the scientific study of animal behavior. She works at California Veterinary Specialists (CVS) in Carlsbad.

She calls the work she does at CVS "special care from the heart," and the connection between the heart, the mind and the body has for years been the basis of her study and practice — and she says that connection is equally important in two-legged and four-legged beings.

To be board certified in veterinary behavior, a veterinarian must have special training in animal psychiatry, which Schwartz has. And she said pet behavior has become more mainstream in recent years.

"We keep more pets now than ever before in history," she said.

Schwartz has "always been a student of behavior in general," she said, and has been studying comparative psychology and psychiatry, animal behavior and neurophysiology since the mid-1980s, long before the specialization was integrated into veterinary practice.

"Back then, people were just beginning to talk about it," she said.

Now, Schwartz is working on her tenth book and she has shared her expert advice on TV shows including the PBS series "NOVA: Animal Hospital" and CNN Headline News. She also offers support on her website www.petbehavior.org.

Schwartz is just an example of the many specialists who work under the roof of CVS's several facilities — one of which opened recently in Ontario (Riverside County). CVS is known internationally as a state-of-the-art training facility and offers sought-after internship and residency programs. Its doctors are board certified with advanced training in their respective fields, which range from surgery to oncology to emergency and critical care.

But with expertise comes welcomed challenges, said Schwartz.

"Veterinary medicine is becoming more and more specialized," she said. "The more we learn, the harder it is to know everything about the field."

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