The BSAVA PetSavers Old Age Pets citizen science project is the focus for the latest episode of the popular BSAVA Science Webinar series, which is available to members now, free of charge, via the BSAVA Webinar Library.
The researchers Carri Westgarth and Zoe Belshaw join BSAVA Scientific Editor Luisa Dormer and PetSavers coordinator Sarah Williams to present an exclusive insight into the research process and progression of the study, which aims to help veterinary professionals and owners provide the best care for their senior dogs.
Carri is a Senior Lecturer in Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Liverpool and is leading the PetSavers Old Age Pets project. Zoe is a European and RCVS-Recognised Specialist in Small Animal Medicine with interests in geriatric medicine and the decisions made by people on behalf of their pets. She is advising on the veterinary and qualitative aspects of the PetSavers Old Age Pets project. The initiative is funded by PetSavers, the arm of the BSAVA that provides support for clinical research into companion animal diseases.
The webinar discusses the study’s research methods, the researchers’ personal interests in this area of study, and how they envisage the outcomes of the study being used to create a guidance tool to better facilitate discussions between vets and owners about their ageing dogs.
Carri explained: “We want the tool to be quick and simple to use. We originally envisaged it being used in the consult room, but findings from our in-depth interviews suggest that many owners think an important part of healthy ageing is that the dog doesn’t need to see the vet. So we’re thinking about how to encourage owners to visit the vet rather than assuming symptoms are just a sign of old age.”
The caregiver burden is emerging as a key theme of the project, and one which Zoe is particularly interested in: “There has to be a balance between the quality of life of the pet and that of the owner,” she said. “If the owner is not supported themselves, they’re not going to be able to optimise the welfare of their pet.”
Following on from the first phase of the project which involved open-ended qualitative interviews, the next stage will include the development of online surveys to capture quantitative data from veterinary professionals and owners about living with and caring for senior dogs.
If you are interested in participating in the project’s upcoming surveys, please sign up here.