Qualifications: BVSc (Hons) MRCVS MA (Hons) FACVSc DACVB DECAWBM

Kersti Seksel is a well known figure in the veterinary world for her pioneering work in animal behaviour, the invention and development of the puppy preschool program and as a past president of the AVA, Examiner for Behaviour exams and regular media representative for the profession.

Kersti, what drives you?

The desire to help animals with mental health issues more! Although we have come such a long way in helping our patients but we still have a long way to go. People still believe that you can “train” a dog out of any behaviour problem. But behaviour problems are medical conditions so expecting to train a dog out of an anxiety disorder or aggression is like expecting to train a dog out of diabetes or a broken leg. Makes no sense to me but I hear it promoted all the time. Then owners feel guilty that they (as owners) caused the problem because they were not dominant enough or assertive enough. Yet we would not tell owners that they had caused other medical problems. How many vets would say to their clients “if you were only more assertive or had not let the dog sleep on the couch it would not have developed thyroid disease”? How many vets would refer skin problems to a dog groomer? These are medical conditions and need veterinary attention. Yet with anxiety disorders the trainer is the first port of call in many cases! That borders on negligence in my opinion.

Along with your Veterinary Qualifications you also have a Psychology Degree. How does the way we interact with our patients effect our own well being at work?

If we are stressed or anxious because we are dealing with stressed or anxious animals it goes without saying that it will affect our mental as well as our physical health. Having happy, relaxed pets visit with happy, relaxed owners visit the clinic helps with staff, pets and owner well – being.

You are one of the supporting tutors for the safe animal handling and behaviour workshop being held in Sydney this April 7-8th, 2016. The educators are Tracey Henderson and Tracy Irons. You fly all over the world lecturing and representing important organisations. Why do you think this intimate workshop is important to support and why should Australian Veterinarians and Nursing Teams participate?

How we handle our patients, every time they visit the clinic, affects them and their emotional state and may have long lasting effects. The first visit sets up every visit thereafter, be it as puppy or an adult pet. If we make it safe for the pet as well as make it safe for us, the pet is not stressed, the staff are not stressed and are less likely to get bitten, scratched, have time off work, affect their emotional health and well – being. We have a duty of care for our pets and staff. This workshop, as it is limited in numbers provides a nurturing and learning environment to learn the latest in scientific techniques and best practice for the way forward in veterinary medicine. Vets and nursing teams attending this workshop will come away with the skills and knowledge to make a real difference in their practice.

It’s inevitable that when an animal comes into the vet clinic its going to be stressed. It’s probably already unwell, and its endured the experience of travel as well. Isn’t it better to just get the animal in and out quickly? Rather than molly coddle it and its’ owners neuroses, after all there’s so much more clinical stuff to do, than manage an animals fear?

I don’t think it is at all inevitable that animals get stressed coming to the vet clinic. Having good experiences at Puppy Preschool® and Kitten Kindy® as well as always being rewarded with praise and / or treats when visiting the veterinary clinic should help many of our patients. It is important to recognise that 20 % of dogs have an anxiety disorder – the veterinary team needs to help them, as well as their owners as soon as possible. After all, is that not why we became vets or vet nurses?

If you could give one tip to veterinary clinical teams to make the quality of life better for their patients and themselves, what would you recommend?

Learn to read the body language of pets and know how to intervene BEFORE the pet gets stressed.

How do you unwind?

I watch crime dramas on TV- nothing like CSI to help develop analytical skills- which is what behavioural medicine is all about.

To spend 2 days with Dr Kersti Seksel and learn more about safe animal handling and behaviour click here to register for our upcoming workshop.