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Qualitative study of the information expectations of clients accessing oncology care at a tertiary referral center for dogs with life-limiting cancer

Debbie L. Stoewen DVM, MSW, PhD1, Jason B. Coe DVM, PhD2, Clare MacMartin PhD3, Elizabeth A. Stone DVM, MS, MPP4, and Catherine E. Dewey DVM, PhD5
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  • 1 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 2 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 3 Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 4 Department of Small Animal Surgery, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 5 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the content aspects of the information expectations of clients accessing oncology care services at a tertiary referral center for dogs with life-limiting cancer.

Design—Qualitative analysis of data acquired during in-person single and dyadic interviews.

Sample—43 dog owners participating in 30 interviews.

Procedures—Independent in-person interviews were conducted with standardized open- and closed-ended questions from April to October 2009. Thematic analysis was performed on transcripts of the interview discussions.

Results—For the clients, the central qualification was that the information given had to be the truth. Information was expected about all aspects of their dog's cancer and its treatment, varying in relation to clients’ basic understanding of cancer, their previous experience with cancer, and their information preferences. Provision of information generated the trust and confidence necessary to engage in treatment, the ability to make informed decisions, and the ability to be prepared for the future. Provision of information also engendered a sense of control and capability and fostered hope.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—When dealing with owners of dogs with life-limiting cancer, results indicated that in addition to abiding by the principle of truth-telling, it is important for health-care service providers to ascertain clients’ understanding of and experiences with cancer as well as their information preferences and thereby adopt a tailored approach to information giving. Provision of information enabled client action and patient intervention but also enhanced clients’ psychosocial well-being. Veterinary healthcare service providers can purposely provide information to build and sustain clients’ ability to successfully cope with their pet's condition.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Stoewen's present address is Pets Plus Us, Unit 2, 1115 N Service Rd W, Oakville, ON L6M 2V9, Canada.

This manuscript represents a portion of a thesis submitted by Dr. Stoewen to the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Supported by a grant from the Ontario Veterinary College Pet Trust Fund and a stipend from the Dean's Office of the Ontario Veterinary College.

Presented at the 7th International Conference on Communication in Veterinary Medicine, St Louis, November 2013.

Address correspondence to Dr. Stoewen (debbie.stoewen@petsplusus.com).