When your dog becomes seriously ill, it’s your job as the owner to make decisions about quality of life. And it’s one of the toughest decisions we face during our lives.
Researchers at Michigan State University are developing a new tool to help people assess their pet’s quality of life, a key factor in decisions about when to order life-prolonging procedures and when an animal’s suffering means it’s time to put them to sleep.
The research team, led by veterinarian Maria Iliopoulou, created a survey to help dog owners monitor the quality of life of 29 dogs undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. The owners completed the questionnaire when they received their dog’s cancer diagnosis and answered questions about how their dog was behaving then and how they behaved six months prior to the diagnosis.
Similar questions were asked in questionnaires administered at three and six weeks into chemotherapy. Meanwhile, the veterinarians treating the dogs filled out shorter surveys based on their observations. The research team wanted to see if owners and clinicians agreed.
The research found that there was a close match between owners and vets, particularly in questions involving play behaviour, the dog’s happiness as perceived by the owner and clinical signs of disease. These areas of commonality create the basis for a tool that will help to facilitate client and vet communication. If there’s agreement about what constitutes quality of life, then it is these criteria that owners and vets should use to help agree on next steps for the dog’s care.
The research team has published their results in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. All dogs were patients at the Michigan State University Animal Cancer Care Clinic. The plan is to expand the work using a much larger sample size of patients and Iliopoulou hopes to develop questionnaires for dogs suffering from other diseases as well.
Source: Michigan State University media statement