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"You can be blind because of loving them so much": the impact on owners in the United Kingdom of living with a dog with 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).


BACKGROUND: There is growing awareness that caring for a chronically ill pet may have a detrimental impact on their owner's quality of life. Companion animal orthopaedic disease has received little research interest in this context. Canine osteoarthritis is known to negatively affect the welfare of many dogs in the United Kingdom, but its consequences for their owners has not previously been described. The aim of this study was to use a qualitative methodology to explore the impacts on a dog owner that occur following their dog's diagnosis with osteoarthritis. Owners of osteoarthritic dogs based in the United Kingdom (UK) were recruited through veterinary practices to participate in semi-structured interview about life with their dog. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis was used to construct key themes. This publication describes the theme that focused on the impact(s) that the dog's condition had had on the life of their owner. RESULTS: Forty owners of 35 dogs of a range of breeds and ages were interviewed. A wide range of negative impacts on the physical, mental and financial health of owners were described. Few had any prior experience of canine osteoarthritis, and owners of young dogs appeared to be particularly affected by the diagnosis. Owners detailed increasing worry over time about their pet's condition, frequently combined with a growing need to physically assist their dog. Sometimes this led them to seek information about, and purchase, adjunctive therapies and products. The dog's reduced mobility and need for medications progressively limited their own lifestyles and ability to have time away from their pet. Owners typically described a strong bond with their dog as a motivator to provide ongoing care. CONCLUSIONS: The negative impacts on owners of caring for an osteoarthritic dog appear multi-faceted and may be sustained over many years, particularly if the dog is young at diagnosis. Owners may be highly motivated to improve their dog's mobility and to reduce the impact the condition has on their own lives, yet they may be unsure how to achieve this. Veterinary professionals should inform and support these owners as much as possible.

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: 11/06/2020

Acceptance date: 02/06/2020

Date deposited: 23/06/2020

ISSN (electronic): 1746-6148

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd


DOI: 10.1186/s12917-020-02404-5

PubMed id: 32527313


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