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Slower, shorter, sadder: A qualitative study exploring how dog walks change when the canine participant develops osteoarthritis

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Lucy Asher



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 The Author(s).Background: Dog walking may have multiple physical and mental health advantages, but not all dog owners appear to benefit. Dog health is a described barrier to dog walking activity, but specific causes and impacts of reduced exercise in owners of dogs with health problems have not previously been reported. The current study used a qualitative methodology to explore the impact of canine osteoarthritis on dog walking activity. Methods: Owners of dogs with osteoarthritis living in the United Kingdom (UK) were recruited through veterinary practices for semi-structured interview about life with an osteoarthritic dog. Participants were asked to reflect on walks that they had taken with their dog before he/she developed osteoarthritis, and to describe how those walks had changed. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis was used to construct key themes. Results: Forty owners of 35 osteoarthritic dogs were interviewed. Prior to their dog's development of osteoarthritis, dog walking distance, speed and location were usually decided by the owner to satisfy the needs and enjoyment of dog and walker. A diagnosis of canine osteoarthritis led to both dogs and their owners altering the walks undertaken. Walks were typically slower, shorter and limited to locations where physical infrastructure, underfoot surface and gradients were perceived by the owner to be navigable by their dog. Most owners did not go on additional walks without their dog due to feelings of guilt and because walking without a dog was less enjoyable. Many owners described negative effects on their own physical health and diminished enjoyment of walking as a result of their dog's condition. Conclusion: Our research suggests that osteoarthritic dogs may reduce the walking exercise their owners are able or willing to undertake. Since osteoarthritis is a common condition in older dogs, this is an important finding for those advocating dog ownership as a positive public health intervention. Strategies may be needed to ensure that owners of dogs that develop physical incapacities can continue to enjoy the health benefits they previously associated with dog walking. Future studies investigating dog walking activity should ensure that the health status of the dog has been considered.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Belshaw Z, Dean R, Asher L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Veterinary Research

Year: 2020

Volume: 16

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 19/02/2020

Acceptance date: 19/02/2020

Date deposited: 30/03/2020

ISSN (electronic): 1746-6148

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.


DOI: 10.1186/s12917-020-02293-8

PubMed id: 32156275


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