Behavior Modification


We understand that your pet’s behavior problems can be challenging and frustrating, but due to the development of the specialty of veterinary behavior over 20 years ago, our knowledge regarding the diagnosis and treatment of behavior problems has greatly expanded. We are able to help you and your pets more than ever before! Most behavior problems in our pets are normal (but potentially unacceptable in human behavior) behaviors. In many cases, early treatment can lead to greater resolution of the problem. Our board certified veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Meredith Stepita is here to help you better understand why your pet performs the behavior and tailors the behavior modification plan to each individual pet and family situation using the most current, scientific techniques.

Before your behavior appointment we strongly recommend that you fill out the behavior history form and record a video of your pet performing the undesirable behavior (only if safe), so that we can make the most out of our time during your appointment. At the initial appointment Dr. Stepita will ask additional questions, using your behavior history form as a guide, in order to develop an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan. We ask that you put the work in before your first appointment, so that your time here at Encina Veterinary Hospital is more hands-on.

Then, Dr. Stepita will discuss a preliminary treatment plan with you. This will include a behavior modification plan which may consist of exercises to make your pet’s life more predictable, a head collar for better control, and/or desensitization and counterconditioning (DS/CC) exercises. DS/CC is the primary technique we use to change your pet’s emotional response to triggers of fear and aggression. If necessary, when your pet is ready, Dr. Stepita will discuss and demonstrate a specific DS/CC plan for your pet. The treatment plan may also involve the use of anti-anxiety medications; however medications are generally not a first line treatment and should not be used without concurrent behavior modification. Dr. Stepita may also recommend additional testing with your primary care veterinarian or a specialist to rule out medical problems that may be contributing to the behavior problem.

Behavior is an ongoing process for your pet and therefore for most problems Dr. Stepita will recommend follow-up appointments to continue to address the behavior problem as well as to add to and modify the behavior modification plan.

Behavior problems treated include:
      • Aggression
      • Separation anxiety
      • Destructive and escape behavior
      • Noise phobias
      • Fear of the veterinary hospital, car rides, nail trimming, children and people
      • Unruly behavior (pulling on leash, play mouthing, jumping on people)
      • Acral lick dermatitis
      • House soiling, spraying
      • Excessive vocalization
      • Compulsive disorders
      • Senior pet behavior problems (including cognitive dysfunction [senility]) and more

Dr. Stepita’s passion for behavior is due to the very special bond shared between human and pet. As a pet owner herself, she knows how important your pet is to you. She chose to become a board certified veterinary behaviorist after learning how many pets are unfortunately given away, rehomed or euthanized due to behavior issues. Dr. Stepita wants to change the statistics and help keep you and your pet together in harmony.

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with our behaviorist, please call (925) 937-5000 to do so.

For a full explanation of Dr. Stepita’s services, please click here.

Please be sure to fill out a behavior form and send it to Dr. Stepita before your first appointment.