Time requirement and effect on owners of home-based management of dogs with severe chronic spinal cord injury
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The aim of this study was to provide quantitative data on time commitment needed for care of dogs with chronic severe spinal cord injury (SCI) at home and assess effect on the owner's home lives. It was not a study aimed at assessing the quality of life (QOL) of the dogs as this has previously been examined, although a small amount of data was collected on this aspect.A questionnaire was sent to 40 owners of dogs with clinically complete chronic SCI (defined by lack of observable response to a noxious stimulus applied to the hind limbs, the absence of voluntary hind limb locomotor function, and urinary and fecal incontinence for more than 9months at the time the study was conducted). Owners were asked to quantify the time spent exercising their pet, managing urinary and fecal incontinence and giving general skin and fur care. Other questions sought to determine the effect on family relationships.The study population included 27 dachshunds and 10 other breeds. Twenty-six questionnaires were returned for analysis, giving a response rate of 65%. Owners spent between 2 and 44hours in total per week managing their dog (median, 14hours), with between 1 and 30hours spent on mobility management (median, 10hours) and between 0 and 16hours (median, 3hours) on incontinence. About 92% of owners were living with a partner, and at least one in the couple did not work full time, 84% had no children younger than 16years, 64% either currently or previously owned another dog, and 73% declared that they had not considered euthanasia as an option at the time of the SCI.Twenty owners strongly agreed that the work involved was worthwhile, and 16 owners felt that the work involved had strengthened the bond between them and their pet. One owner felt that the care required had reduced their own QOL and 2 owners reported serious family problems. The dogs studied form a particular subset of cases because they had been cared for by their owners for at least 9months. However, this study provides information that will aid informed decision making by owners and veterinarians at the time of a dog SCI, providing an indication of what can be expected in the chronic phase of SCI. 2013 Elsevier Inc.