OBJECTIVE To describe animal owners' experiences with palliative radiation therapy (PRT) of pets and identify factors influencing satisfaction with their pets' treatment.
DESIGN Retrospective, cross-sectional study.
SAMPLE 118 owners of dogs, cats, or rabbits.
PROCEDURES Medical records were searched to identify animals that underwent PRT between 2004 and 2013. Signalment, tumor-related data, and outcome information were recorded. Owners completed an electronic survey assessing satisfaction with treatment (ie, satisfaction with the decision for their pet to undergo PRT and indication that they would choose PRT for their pet again), expectations regarding PRT, and perceptions of their pets' quality of life (QOL) and signs of discomfort from acute adverse radiation effects. Additional data regarding practical aspects of treatment, pet death, communications with veterinarians, and owner demographics were collected. Variables were tested for association with measures of owner satisfaction.
RESULTS 92 of 116 (79%) owners were satisfied with the decision to have their pets undergo PRT. Most (92/118 [78%]) owners reported their pet's QOL improved after PRT; these owners were significantly more likely to be satisfied than those who did not report improved QOL. Owners who perceived their pets had discomfort from adverse radiation effects (38/116 [33%]) were significantly less likely to be satisfied than owners who did not report this observation. Measures of satisfaction were not associated with patient survival time. Twenty-one of 118 (18%) owners indicated they expected PRT would cure their pet's tumor.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Results suggested that short life expectancy should not deter recommendation of PRT for pets. Protocols that minimize risk of acute adverse effects may be advantageous. Veterinarians should attempt to ensure that owners understand the goals of PRT.