Spinal cord injuries are common in dogs and can result in a variety of clinical signs ranging from spinal hyperesthesia alone to paralysis with loss of nociception.1–6 Despite intense investigation into factors associated with outcome and the likelihood of recurrence in dogs with various spinal cord injuries, only a few studies7–9 have examined the effects of spinal cord injury on quality of life in dogs.
At least part of the reason for the low numbers of studies on the effects of spinal cord injury on quality of life in dogs is the lack of a clear definition of quality of life in animals. McMillan,10–12 for example, has suggested that quality of life represents a multidimensional balance between pleasure states and discomfort, whereas other authors have stressed animal welfare aspects of quality of life and the degree to which mental and physical needs are satisfied.13–15 Similarly, a unified definition of quality of life has been elusive in human medicine, with some authors calling for decreased emphasis on clinician-derived scales and simplification of measurement systems.16
Various attempts have been made to validate measures of quality of life in human patients with spinal cord injuries. Financial security, social interaction, and control over the environment seem to affect quality of life, whereas the effects of lesion severity, dependence on a ventilator, and lesion location are inconsistent.17,18 Recently, the use of experts to devise categories for evaluation of the quality of life in human patients with spinal cord injuries has been questioned, as these individuals are not neutral and may create instruments that merely reflect their own values.17 Furthermore, physician or researcher views on quality of life may differ from patient views.19
A questionnaire for obtaining owner-perceived, weighted quality-of-life assessments in dogs with spinal cord injuries has been described.20 The questionnaire differed from previous questionnaires developed for assessing quality of life in dogs in that owners were required to identify 5 areas or activities they believed had the most influence on their dogs' quality of life, assess their dogs' current status in each of those areas, and provide a weighting for the importance of each area so that a weighted quality-of-life score could be calculated for dogs on an individual basis.20 The purposes of the study reported here were to identify changes in weighted quality-of-life scores obtained with this questionnaire over time in dogs with various spinal cord injuries, determine whether underlying etiology affected weighted quality-of-life scores in dogs with spinal cord injury, and determine whether owner-assigned, weighted quality-of-life scores were associated with veterinarian-assigned Frankel scores for severity of neurologic dysfunction.
Visual analog scale
Intercooled Stata, version 9.2, Stata Corp, College Station, Tex.
Cerda-Gonzalez S, Olby NJ. Fecal incontinence associated with epidural spinal hematoma and intervertebral disk extrusion in a dog. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;228:230–235.
Beal MW, Paglia DT & Griffin GM, et al. Ventilatory failure, ventilator management, and outcome in dogs with cervical spinal disorders: 14 cases (1991–1999). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;218:1598–1602.
Chen AV, Bagley RS & West CL, et al. Fecal incontinence and spinal cord abnormalities in seven dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:1945–1951.
Stiffler KS, Stevenson MA & Sanchez S, et al. Prevalence and characterization of urinary tract infections in dogs with surgically treated type 1 thoracolumbar intervertebral disc extrusion. Vet Surg 2006;35:330–336.
Bauer M, Glickman N & Glickman L, et al. Follow-up study of owner attitudes toward home care of paraplegic dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1992;200:1809–1816.
Levine JM, Levine GJ & Johnson SI, et al. Evaluation of the success of medical management for presumptive thoracolumbar intervertebral disk herniation in dogs. Vet Surg 2007;36:481–490.
Levine JM, Levine GJ & Johnson SI, et al. Evaluation of the success of medical management for presumptive cervical intervertebral disk herniation in dogs. Vet Surg 2007;36:491–498.
Wojciechowska JI, Hewson CJ & Stryhn H, et al. Evaluation of a questionnaire regarding nonphysical aspects of quality of life in sick and health dogs. Am J Vet Res 2005;66:1461–1467.
Wojciechowska JI, Hewson CJ & Stryhn H, et al. Development of a discriminative questionnaire to assess nonphysical aspects of quality of life of dogs. Am J Vet Res 2005;66:1453–1460.
Gill TM, Feinstein AR. A critical appraisal of the quality of quality-of-life measurements. JAMA 1994;272:619–626.
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Budke CM, Levine JM & Kerwin SC, et al. Evaluation of a questionnaire for obtaining owner-perceived, weighted quality-oflife assessments for dogs with spinal cord injuries. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2008;233:925–930.
Levine JM, Ruaux CG & Bergman RL, et al. Matrix metalloproteinase-9 activity in the cerebrospinal fluid and serum of dogs with acute spinal cord trauma from intervertebral disk disease. Am J Vet Res 2006;67:283–287.
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