As the primary decision‐maker for their horse's health and welfare, owners' knowledge of clinical conditions may impact their horse's health. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the emotional impact of equine illness on the owner can be severe but research is lacking.
Pain, discomfort, and quality of life were reported as the most common concerns when their horse has a medical condition or when considering euthanasia.
© 2015 by Lubos Chlubny New window.
The objectives of the study were to evaluate horse owners' self‐declared knowledge of eight common equine health conditions and perceptions of the quality of information available; to ascertain respondents' perceptions of the severity of impact on their horse of the conditions and potential emotional impact on themselves and to establish the factors of greatest concern to owners when their horse has a health condition and influential factors on end‐of‐life decisions.
An online survey comprising three sections was created: respondent demographics; vignettes of clinical conditions; concerns and decision‐making regarding illness and euthanasia. Vignettes focused on arthritis; Pars Pituitary Intermedia Dysfunction; Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS); gastric ulcers; high intestinal worm burden; dermatophilosis (‘mud rash’); quidding and head tossing; and equine asthma. Respondents were self‐selecting. The survey was circulated for completion by horse owners residing in Ireland and Northern Ireland obtaining 491 valid responses.
The study showed respondents declared that they had the highest knowledge of mud rash, with 84.1% rating their knowledge as very good compared to 42% of respondents for EMS. There was positive correlation between the perceived impact on their horse and emotional impact on the owner for all conditions ranging from weak (arthritis 0.36, P < 0.001) to strong (EMS 0.62, P < 0.001). Pain, discomfort, and quality of life were reported as the most common concerns when their horse has a medical condition or when considering euthanasia.
Basically the results of the study confirmed that the emotional impact on horse owners of equine health conditions is directly linked to how severe they perceive the condition's impact on the affected horse. Furthermore, the experience level of the owner makes no, or at most negligible, difference to this emotional impact. Our results show significant differences between conditions with regard to the self‐rated knowledge of the conditions included in the survey. With regards to concerns relating to the emotional impact of a health condition diagnosed in the respondents' horses, the most commonly selected factors of concern were pain and discomfort and quality of life. These were likewise the most commonly selected factors of importance when making end of life decisions with vet advice being a commonly selected influencer.
This study highlights the need for further research into the effects of horse illness on their owners and on the quality of equine health information available to owners.
See the complete details of the study including tables and graphs by clicking HERE
Press release by National Library of Medicine