Cat and dog owners’ expectations and attitudes towards advanced veterinary care (AVC) in the UK, Austria and Denmark

summary of:
Cat and dog owners’ expectations and attitudes towards advanced veterinary care (AVC) in the UK, Austria and Denmark
vet and dog owner in discussion
Corr, S.A., Lund, T.B., Sandøe, P. and Springer, S.
Published in:
March 2024
Type of access:

Open access

In our edition of: Jun 2024
In our categories of: small animals

our summary:

Corr, al. (2024) Cat and dog owners’ expectations and attitudes towards advanced veterinary care (AVC) in the UK, Austria and Denmark. PLoS ONE 19 (3), e0299315.

The aim of this online survey study was to investigate owners’ expectations and attitudes towards advanced veterinary care and factors that might influence those views.

The survey formed part of a larger study, involving pet owners from the UK, Denmark, and Austria, looking at dog and cat owners’ attitudes towards different aspects of small animal practice. The survey was open for a two-week period in March 2022 with invitations sent to individuals participating in the larger study.

The survey consisted of three sections, only the first two sections were considered in this study. Section A collected data on socio-demographics, pet ownership and insurance, veterinary practice attended and facilities available. It also included 23 items on the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) to measure owners’ attachment to their animal.  This section also asked which of four basic (radiography, ultrasound, dental equipment, in-house laboratory) and four advanced (CT scanner, MRI, arthroscopy, endoscopy) diagnostic and treatment options owners would expect to be available at their veterinary practice. Section B sought to measure owners’ attitudes towards advances in small animal practice based on the level of agreement, using a 7-point Likert scale, to seven statements e.g. ‘My pet should have access to the same diagnostic tests that are available to human patients’.

There were 2,117 responses were included in this study from 844 dog owners, 872 cat owners and 401 owners who keep both dogs and cats.  Analysis showed significantly fewer respondents from Austria had pet insurance (21.3%) compared to the UK (51.5%) and Denmark (56.3%). Half of the respondents (50.3%) expected advanced diagnostic techniques and treatment options to be available at their usual practice, however owners in the UK were significantly more likely to expect advanced options at their practice than Austrian owners, and Danish owners were significantly less likely to expect them than either UK or Austrian owners.

More than half of pet owners agreed that their pet should be able to access the same diagnostic tests and treatments options as human patients (50.6% and 58.4% respectively). 63.3 % of pet owners felt their vet should offer the most advanced care and 64.4% agreed that vets had an important role in contributing knowledge to advance veterinary care. However, only 39.0% of owners were likely to agree to enrol their own pet in a research study. Owners were most likely to be neutral on the question of whether advance care ‘has gone too far’ (45.3%) and to disagree with the statement that it is ‘unnecessary’ (40.1%).

In all three countries, level of emotional attachment to their animal was the factor most consistently associated with owner attitudes to advanced veterinary care. Owners with higher LAPS scores were significantly more likely to agree that pets should have access to the same treatment options as human patients and to agree to enrol their pet in a research study.

Limitations of the study include potential selection bias, that they were drawn from owners from three European countries so the results may not be generalisable to owners from different socio-economic regions and that owners may have given different responses in a real-life situation involving their own pet as opposed to in response to a hypothetical question. No definition of ‘advanced’ or ‘specialist’ care was given.

Take Home

This study provides evidence that will help inform current discussions about advanced veterinary care and contextualised care. Further research considering other factors contributing to owner-decision making e.g. age of their pet or relationship with the veterinary surgeon are encouraged.

The following may also be of interest:

Springer, S. et al. (2022) Comparing veterinarians’ attitudes to and the potential influence of pet health insurance in Austria, Denmark and the UK. Veterinary Record, 190 (10).

Quain, A., Ward, M.P. and Mullan, S. (2021) Ethical challenges posed by advanced veterinary care in companion animal veterinary practice. Animals, 11 (11), p. 3010.

Taylor, P.M. (2022) Just because we can – Doesn’t mean we should. Equine Veterinary Education, 34 (4), pp. 172-174.

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