A new study has called for better communication between vets and the owners of dogs living with epilepsy to improve trust and potential treatment outcomes.
RVC researchers said there may also be a need for improved communications training for vets and online resources for owners, which could draw on work in other areas.
More than 60,000 dogs in the UK are estimated to have epilepsy, making it the most common chronic canine neurological disease.
The new paper, published in Vet Record and based on interviews with 21 dog owners, identified concern about both when and how vets communicate with clients on the issue.
It said: “A frequent finding was that owners wished that they had received more detailed or realistic expectations early on, and provision of such information could build a strong foundation on which to build a positive vet-owner relationship.
“Discussing progression can be challenging in the case of canine epilepsy as seizure frequency and phenotype can vary considerably between individuals, but an open discussion should be provided as to how and when treatment decisions and aims might be established.”
Issues such as clinical continuity, provision of condition-specific information and support from others facing a similar situation were highlighted as other areas for potential improvement.
The paper also argued that lessons could be drawn from both the treatment of paediatric epilepsy and the provision of resources for other canine conditions, such as arthritis.
It further suggested that more emphasis could be given to communication skills within undergraduate degree programmes to help increase vets’ confidence in managing conditions of this kind.
‘Easy to assume’
Co-author Zoe Belshaw said: “It’s easy, as vets, to assume we understand owners’ experiences in the consulting room, but as this study demonstrates, there are often relatively simple things we can change that can make a huge difference to their satisfaction.
“Our research suggests owners really value vets taking the time, once the initial shock has receded, to share information, answer questions and signpost to external resources, including peer-to-peer support forums.
“Ensuring that owners feel confident and competent about caring for their dog with epilepsy is likely to benefit the dog, its owners and the veterinary team providing their ongoing care.”
Credit to: Study highlights communication need in canine epilepsy treatment (Vet Times)
Vet Times. (2023). Study highlights communication need in canine epilepsy treatment [online]