Have You Heard? Atopy affects more than just the skin (script)

Have You Heard? Atopy affects more than just the skin (script)

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Dec 01, 2010
By dvm360.com staff

Beyond itching and scratching, atopic dermatitis negatively affects both pets and owners. Researchers at the University of Zurich conducted a questionnaire-based study modeled after similar human research assessing the quality of life of children afflicted with atopic dermatitis as well as that of their parents.


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For this study, 98 owners of dogs with chronic atopic dermatitis completed a series of questionnaires designed to assess their own quality of life and their pets' quality of life as well as establish an owner-pet relation score. The duration and severity of the disease was evaluated during a consultation, and all patients were assigned a pruritus score. Owners were also asked for their perceptions of the efficacy of treatment options. Current and previous treatments included various combinations of systemic and topical therapies ranging from glucocorticoids to homeopathy.

The results? Nearly half of the owners indicated that their pets' atopic dermatitis had an impact on their own quality of life. This finding directly correlated to the clinical severity of the disease and the level of the owner-pet relationship. While this may sound intuitive, this impact on quality of life was not related to the dogs' level of pruritus or the duration of the disease. However, 80% of owners said that they did feel sad because of their dogs' condition, and this percentage reached 89% for owners of pets with high pruritus scores.

While you might think these results illustrate that owners feel despair with regard to their pets' health and wellbeing, this is not so. Less than 1% regretted having the dog or considered euthanasia, and few felt that the disease changed the positive feelings associated with the presence of their pets. Most owners did indicate that the disease had a significant effect on their pets' health-related quality of life. This appeared to be linked to pruritus and severity of disease, but not to the owner-pet relationship score.

As for treatment, these owners had already tried many options; 36% considered treatment to be a major burden to their dogs, and many had observed treatment side effects. Only half of the owners thought that treatment would be able to improve the condition permanently, and this number decreased for owners of dogs with higher pruritus scores. Most understood that managing the disease was a lifelong commitment but were not confident as to which treatment would be best. They were worried about side effects and, for a significant number of owners, the cost of treatment.

Studies such as this emphasize that owners are willing to go the extra mile for their pets and are not generally eager to throw in the towel. New insights into owner perceptions can help veterinary practitioners better educate clients and focus treatment for patients. Questionnaire-based research such as this is playing an increasingly important role for veterinarians as they learn to follow their patients and clients beyond the clinic doors.

Source: Linek M, Favrot C. Impact of canine atopic dermatitis on the health-related quality of life of affected dogs and quality of life of their owners. Vet Dermatol 2010 May 12. [Epub ahead of print]