Veterinary researchers develop new tools for evaluating pets' quality of life

Veterinarians at Tufts University pioneer a new approach to helping pets with heart disease.
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Jun 26, 2012
By dvm360.com staff

Two veterinarians at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University are doing their part to help pets with heart disease have a better quality of life. Lisa Freeman, DVM, PhD, DAVCN, and John E. Rush, DVM, professors of clinical sciences at the veterinary school’s Foster Hospital for Small Animals, have developed two surveys to help veterinarians and pet owners make critical decisions about the care of their pets, according to a statement recently issued by the university.

The surveys, known as FETCH (Functional Evaluation of Cardiac Health) and CATCH (Cats’ Assessment Tool for Cardiac Health), ask pet owners to rank certain aspects of their dog’s or cat’s health and quality of life on a scale of 0 to 5. Veterinarians are then able to use those assessments to make better, more informed decisions about the pets’ needs, including nutrition, treatment and even euthanasia.

“Studies have indicated that pet owners value quality of life much more than longevity in their animals,” says Dr. Freeman. “We want our dogs and cats to have happy lives, and we believe this tool is a helpful in evaluating whether our pets still do.”

The surveys were created in the likeness of the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure questionnaire, a widely used evaluation tool in human cardiology. To validate the CATCH tool, studies were conducted using 75 cats at Tufts’ Foster Hospital for Small Animals, the University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School and the VCA Animal Care Center of Sonoma County. In addition, 200 cats were tested at these sites as well as at Oregon State University, Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital in Woburn, Mass., and Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston.

Results of the CATCH evaluations were published in the May 15 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). The FETCH study was published earlier, in the June 2005 issue of JAVMA.