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.
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.
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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]