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'Potential for improvement' in advising owners about pain-relieving medications

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01 September 2011, at 12:00am

THE second set of results from a survey of 1,048 dog owners, carried out in March by petbuzz on behalf of Vétoquinol, has highlighted owner attitudes to pain and painrelieving medications. The depth of feeling expressed about the issue may come as a surprise to vets, says the firm, but the survey shows there are some areas where there is potential for the profession to relate to the concerns of clients and adapt communication accordingly. The findings indicate that dog owners are likely to be shocked by a diagnosis of long-term painful illness in their pet and are very likely to search for further information on the internet about the pet’s condition. Most dog owners think that NSAIDs are likely to cause side effects, with the perceived risk being much greater than the actual level of risk. The results also indicate that even low levels of risk of side effects may be unacceptable to dog owners. In common with other surveys, a majority of the dog owners (68%) felt their dog was a member of the family and another 22% said their dog was their best friend. It should not be surprising therefore, says the firm, that 73% of people selected the word “devastated” to most accurately describe their feelings if their dog was diagnosed with a potentially painful long-term illness. Asked to rate pain, the respondents perceived the most painful condition to be a broken leg. On a 0 to 10 scale, with 10 being most painful, 57% rated pain due to chronic arthritis in old age as 8 or above and 36% rated postneutering pain as an 8 or above. Fewer people rated pain due to arthritis in a young dog as 8 or above (51%). Nearly all, 98% said they would use the internet to get information about their dogs’ illnesses and medication, whilst 67% said they would do this every time they had a concern. The majority (95%) felt that treatment of osteoarthritis should be started as soon as signs appear and then long-term, either consistently or as needed. However, despite recognising the need for treatment, many expressed concerns about side effects when giving their dog longterm medication, with 77% considering it important or very important to choose a medication with a limited range of side effects. While 48% of those polled felt that NSAIDs were good treatments with a risk of side effects, 15% rated them more positively as good, effective treatments but 2% claimed they would object to or resist their vet’s recommendation to treat with NSAIDs. Only 1% felt that paincontrolling medications would never cause side effects, with most respondents claiming side effects were most likely to be seen sometimes (67%) or often (19%). Vétoquinol’s Mark Leddy suggests that, based on these results, there is great scope for the veterinary team to discuss the level and type of risk entailed in administering medication. “Such an approach will help pet owners make more informed decisions about treatment, allay their concerns and provide them with the support they need at what is probably a very difficult time for them,” he says.