People: Rowena Packer, Dan O'Neill, Michelle Farrow

Vet Compass Project Type: Dog

Dates: October 2021 - January 2023

The DogWeb Survey: Understanding how canine caregivers use the internet to help make decisions about their dog's health

Background

Online information is an increasingly popular resource for canine caregivers when they are concerned about their dog. However, the value of information sourced online to the caregiver (and ultimately, their dog’s welfare) is likely dependent on factors such as: factual accuracy, relevance to the heath problem, along with personal interpretation by the caregiver (e.g. accessibility of writing and acceptability of information to caregivers). Anecdotally, veterinary professionals often express concerns about caregivers using the internet for researching their canine’s health because of perceived threats to animal welfare.

Aim

This study aims to explore whether and how online information sourcing affects the decision-making of UK canine caregivers when deciding whether to seek veterinary care for dogs exhibiting clinical signs of disease.

Method

A survey has been designed to explore caregivers’ responses to a series of validated vignettes representing common acute (e.g. acute diarrhoea) and chronic (e.g. osteoarthritis) canine health conditions. Caregivers’ decision-making in response to these vignettes will be explored, including their perception of urgency for seeking veterinary care for each condition reviewed. The study will explore caregivers’ emotional states by examining how anxious they would feel if their own dog presented similarly and how confident they are in the appropriateness and accuracy of their responses. Further questioning will explore their typical online information-sourcing behaviours and decision-making for seeking veterinary care. The survey will recruit participants from the UK using a snowball sampling approach including dissemination via social media and relevant veterinary and welfare networks. Participants will be eligible for inclusion if they are over 18 years of age; resident in the UK and currently own at least one dog.

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