Assessing the assessors of quality of life

Collins, Lisa (2013) Assessing the assessors of quality of life. The Veterinary Journal, 197 (3). pp. 531-532. ISSN 1090-0233

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In recent years, there has been an increasing focus by animal welfare scientists and veterinarians on the assessment of quality of life (QoL) to determine animal health and welfare status. The main purpose of QoL assessment tools is that they should produce something which is reliable, robust and easily usable by veterinarians, scientists and animal husbandry staff, as a way of monitoring an animal’s ‘state’, defined as a ‘balance between negative and positive affective states and any cognitive evaluation of these’ (Taylor and Mills, 2007) over time.

Such QoL tools could permit not only comparison within an individual from one time to another (for example, before and after a course of treatment, or over several months of living with a degenerative disorder), but could also allow between-individual comparisons, to determine whether the QoL experienced by an animal can be considered ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ for a typical animal of that species, breed, gender and age.

A survey to assess QoL in healthy dogs using information provided by their owners has recently been developed and is reported by Dr Robert Lavan in this issue of The Veterinary Journal (Lavan, 2013). This has the potential to be extremely useful for veterinarians in practice, and could also be used as a relatively simple data collection tool for future studies. QoL assessments often focus on identifying welfare deficiencies in at risk animals, as their needs are the most urgent. Some would argue that those animals that have adequate or good QoL are less likely to require imminent intervention to improve their quality of life. This makes Lavan’s decision to develop a QoL assessment tool for healthy dogs particularly novel and interesting; as he points out, even healthy dogs that receive good physical care might not necessarily have adequate mental well-being (Lavan, 2013). The latter is linked to the animal’s own perception of its state (Scott et al., 2007), and this might be at odds with measures of physical well-being if the animal is having its needs, but not its wants, met.

Keywords:Quality of life
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:11866
Deposited On:11 Sep 2013 17:40

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