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News Article

Caring for older dogs: experiences and attitudes of owners and veterinary professionals

Study finds opportunities to educate owners on which clinical signs represent healthy or pathological aging are being missed

A study published in Journal of Small Animal Practice suggests that dog owners need clearer guidance on which behavioural and physical signs are a normal part of the aging process and which could be indicative of a serious condition.

The findings are part of a University of Liverpool study, the Old Age Pets research project, funded by the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) PetSavers.

The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with dog owners and veterinary professionals in the UK and collected open-text responses from owners using an online survey. They investigated expectations, experiences, and attitudes to aging in dogs, including preventative healthcare/treatment, and general understanding of normal and abnormal changes during aging.

Significant gaps in veterinary professional and dog owner communication were identified. Most owners did not feel prepared for their dogs' aging. The researchers found that opportunities to educate owners on what behavioural and physical signs represent healthy aging, and what is pathological are being missed, due to lack of time, education, and in some cases motivation.

The study highlights the importance of the relationship between dog owners and veterinary professionals. Trust in veterinary professionals was more likely when dog owners experienced continuity, prioritization of care, clear communication and an accessible, knowledgeable and empathic veterinary professional. Participants suggested that senior health care and communication between dog owner and veterinary professional could be improved through questionnaires, and evidence-based online information.

Article: Wallis, L. J., Radford, A. D., Belshaw, Z., Jackson, J., Kubinyi, E., German, A. J., Westgarth, C., 2023. "Just old age" - a qualitative investigation of owner and veterinary professional experiences of and attitudes to ageing in dogs in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice, advance online publication, doi: 10.1111/jsap.13610

Article details

  • Date
  • 05 April 2023
  • Source
  • University of Liverpool
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals