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Predictors of owner response to companion animal death in 177 clients from 14 practices in Ontario

Cindy L. AdamsUniversity of Guelph, Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1.

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Brenda N. BonnettUniversity of Guelph, Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1.

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Alan H. MeekUniversity of Guelph, Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1.

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Abstract

Objective—To identify predictors of grief and client desires and needs as they relate to pet death.

Design—Cross-sectional mail survey.

Sample Population—177 clients, from 14 randomly selected veterinary practices, whose cat or dog died between 6 and 43 days prior to returning the completed questionnaire.

Procedure—Veterinary practices were contacted weekly to obtain the names of clients whose pets had died until approximately 200 clients were identified. Clients were contacted by telephone, and a questionnaire designed to measure grief associated with pet death was mailed to those willing to participate within 1 to 14 days of their pet's death. The questionnaire measured potential correlates and modifiers of grief and included three outcome measures: social/emotional and physical consequences, thought processes, and despair. Demographic data were also collected.

Results—Approximately 30% of participants experienced severe grief. The most prominent risk factors for grief included level of attachment, euthanasia, societal attitudes toward pet death, and professional support from the veterinary team.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Bivariate and multivariate analyses highlighted the impact owners' attitudes about euthanasia and professional intervention by the veterinary team had on reactions to pet death. Owners' perceptions of societal attitudes, also a predictor of grief, indicate that grief for pets is different than grief associated with other losses. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:1303–1309)

Abstract

Objective—To identify predictors of grief and client desires and needs as they relate to pet death.

Design—Cross-sectional mail survey.

Sample Population—177 clients, from 14 randomly selected veterinary practices, whose cat or dog died between 6 and 43 days prior to returning the completed questionnaire.

Procedure—Veterinary practices were contacted weekly to obtain the names of clients whose pets had died until approximately 200 clients were identified. Clients were contacted by telephone, and a questionnaire designed to measure grief associated with pet death was mailed to those willing to participate within 1 to 14 days of their pet's death. The questionnaire measured potential correlates and modifiers of grief and included three outcome measures: social/emotional and physical consequences, thought processes, and despair. Demographic data were also collected.

Results—Approximately 30% of participants experienced severe grief. The most prominent risk factors for grief included level of attachment, euthanasia, societal attitudes toward pet death, and professional support from the veterinary team.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Bivariate and multivariate analyses highlighted the impact owners' attitudes about euthanasia and professional intervention by the veterinary team had on reactions to pet death. Owners' perceptions of societal attitudes, also a predictor of grief, indicate that grief for pets is different than grief associated with other losses. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:1303–1309)