Exploring the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Dog Owners’ Healthcare Seeking Behaviour in Relation to Chronic Conditions in Dogs: a Pilot Study


AWF Research Fund



Research period


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Investigator(s): Carri Westgarth, Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka 

The aim of this study was to explore the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on how dog owners sought veterinary healthcare and in particular how those who care for dogs with chronic or ongoing conditions seek and engage with veterinary healthcare. Chronic conditions are common and typically affect dogs over a long period of time (for more than one year). COVID-19- related restrictions led to suspension of visits for chronic health issues and changes in how consultations were run (BVA, 2020). Data for this study was collected using a questionnaire, with 719 respondents. Data was analysed statistically, and qualitative methods were used to identify the main themes in the experiences that the owners reported.

Statistical models showed that higher odds of seeking help (compared to considering it and deciding against it) and higher urgency to seek care were associated with:

  • Stronger relationship with a dog
  • Being a first-time owner
  • Seeing the benefits of seeking care/ treatment
  • Perceiving dog’s susceptibility to illness as high
  • At least partial insurance coverage
  • A belief that interrupting the ongoing treatment was dangerous.

The odds were lower for those who declared a high self-efficacy around seeking and accessing healthcare. Owner and dog demographics and COVID-19-related experiences did not significantly predict seeking care.

This study has implications for veterinary communication. It suggests that targeting owner’s health-related attitudes and using the owner-dog relationship to leverage the message, in particular for owners whom this isn’t their first dog, could improve owner’s healthcare-seeking for their dogs.


Watch the research presented at the 2021 AWF Discussion Forum

Published papers:

Frontiers, 26.5.22: Impacts of COVID-19 on Owner’s Veterinary Healthcare Seeking Behavior for Dogs With Chronic Conditions: An Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study With a Convenience Sample