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Assessment of quality of life in equine patients

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Summary

Reasons for performing study: Assessing patients' quality of life (QOL) is a core part of clinical decision making. Various methodologies for assessing patients' QOL have been developed in human medicine and small animal veterinary disciplines. In contrast, the lack of aids for QOL assessment in equine veterinary practice leaves practitioners reliant on subjective assessments of QOL, which may be prone to avoidable errors.

Objectives: This paper suggests pragmatic ways in which QOL may be enhanced, while remaining appropriate for the time, financial and owner-based constraints within equine practice.

Methods: Through interdisciplinary research, this paper identifies, adapts and applies insights from several areas of research and practical experience in order to develop an overarching approach to making QOL-based decisions in clinical cases.

Results: The paper identifies 6 steps involved in QOL-based decision making and provides examples of how these steps may be practically applied. These include deciding what each clinician feels is important; deciding how to evaluate it, including taking owners' views into consideration; making decisions about each case and achieving the desired clinical outcomes.

Conclusions: Practitioners can draw their own conclusions on how they may improve QOL assessment in practice and may usefully share these with colleagues. Reporting cases and sharing practical examples of QOL tools used on the ground are vital to the development of this field and appropriate methodologies.

Potential relevance: Improvements in QOL assessment are relevant to all areas of equine veterinary practice, and several areas of research. Further research may develop QOL assessment in practice, but more important are the personal improvements that each practitioner may achieve.

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