PetSavers – PetSavers funds new canine ageing and wellbeing project

27 November 2019

PetSavers has provided a Citizen Science research grant to support the development of a novel canine ageing and wellbeing tool to help veterinary professionals and pet owners work together to provide the best care to senior dogs. The grant has been awarded to Dr Carri Westgarth, a Lecturer in Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Liverpool, for her project entitled Using citizen science to develop a ‘Canine Ageing and Wellbeing’ tool for use in veterinary practice.

Citizen Science Project grants are awarded to support research projects with longevity and the potential to have a big impact on companion animal health. By creating talking points for veterinary professionals and their clients, PetSavers aims to raise awareness of its important role in funding clinical research and help generate donations.

Dr Westgarth’s initiative aims to determine what senior dog preventative healthcare and treatment advice is currently offered in UK veterinary practices and then take steps to build a practical tool to facilitate knowledge-sharing between owners and veterinary professionals.

“Dogs are living up to twice as long as they did 40 years ago and there are implications for senior dogs’ healthcare and wellbeing,” said Dr Westgarth. “As life expectancy increases, so does the amount of time spent in poor health. Many dog owners may not be aware of the signs of serious age-related diseases as they attribute them to normal age-related changes.”

The Citizen Science project will investigate owner expectations, experiences and attitudes to ageing in dogs, including preventative care and general understanding of normal and abnormal changes during ageing.  A number of in-depth interviews and questionnaire surveys with veterinary professionals and dog owners will be conducted, and pet owners will be invited to submit diaries, photographs or videos to share their experiences of living with an older dog. The study will also examine electronic health records of senior dogs reported in the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network.

The findings will be used to develop the Petsavers Canine Ageing and Wellbeing tool, to guide on best practice discussions in consultations with senior dogs.

“We are extremely grateful to PetSavers for making this project a reality,” said Dr Westgarth. “We hope that the toolkit will improve discussions between owners and veterinary professionals about senior dog care. Increasing owner understanding and involvement will enable the early detection of health problems, resulting in significant improvements in the quality of life of senior pets and the dog-owner relationship.”