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Pet owners’ and companion animal veterinarians’ perceptions of weight-related veterinarian-client communication

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  • 1 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Studies, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To compare pet owners’ and veterinarians’ perceptions of veterinarian-client conversations concerning pet weight and identify challenges related to communication about weight.

SAMPLE POPULATION

Veterinarians (n = 24) and pet owners (27) in southern Ontario, Canada.

PROCEDURES

3 veterinarian and 5 pet owner focus groups were conducted with a semistructured interview format. Thematic analysis of verbatim transcripts was conducted.

RESULTS

Pet owners valued weight as an important health indicator for pets yet did not expect to discuss weight extensively at every appointment. Owners expected veterinarians to provide options and tailor recommendations when discussing weight management. Owners appeared more concerned with underweight animals, whereas veterinarians focused on obese animals. Veterinarians identified communication challenges, including the perception that owners are uninterested in discussing weight and conversations can become adversarial. Veterinarians reported various benefits and challenges of using humor to address pet weight and emphasized that weight-related conversations often depend on the existing veterinarian-client relationship.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Some perceptions of pet owner expectations expressed by veterinarians in this study align with owner preferences, yet several opportunities exist for changes to veterinarians’ approaches to weight-related communication with clients.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To compare pet owners’ and veterinarians’ perceptions of veterinarian-client conversations concerning pet weight and identify challenges related to communication about weight.

SAMPLE POPULATION

Veterinarians (n = 24) and pet owners (27) in southern Ontario, Canada.

PROCEDURES

3 veterinarian and 5 pet owner focus groups were conducted with a semistructured interview format. Thematic analysis of verbatim transcripts was conducted.

RESULTS

Pet owners valued weight as an important health indicator for pets yet did not expect to discuss weight extensively at every appointment. Owners expected veterinarians to provide options and tailor recommendations when discussing weight management. Owners appeared more concerned with underweight animals, whereas veterinarians focused on obese animals. Veterinarians identified communication challenges, including the perception that owners are uninterested in discussing weight and conversations can become adversarial. Veterinarians reported various benefits and challenges of using humor to address pet weight and emphasized that weight-related conversations often depend on the existing veterinarian-client relationship.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Some perceptions of pet owner expectations expressed by veterinarians in this study align with owner preferences, yet several opportunities exist for changes to veterinarians’ approaches to weight-related communication with clients.

Contributor Notes

Corresponding author: Dr. Sutherland (katja@uoguelph.ca)