How Your Pet’s Health Can Affect Your Own Well-Being

If you are living with a seriously (or terminally) ill dog, cat, or other companion animal, then you know how stressful that can be.  A recent study published in the Veterinary Record has found that your pet’s health problems have a very real impact on your emotional health.  Caregivers for sick pets are much more likely to suffer from stress, depression, and anxiety than the owners of healthy animals.

Research conducted by Kent State University scientists surveyed 119 owners of dogs and cats with a chronic or terminal illness and 119 owners of healthy pets.  Not surprisingly, the “caregiver burden” was much greater in the owners of the sick pets, who showed more symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression—as well as an overall lower quality of life and poorer psycho-social functioning—than the people who lived with healthy pets.

The researchers note that the concept of caregiver burden in pet owners needs to be better understood by veterinarians, so that they can recognize and help clients who show signs of stress and depression.  They suggest that vets can even partner with mental health professionals to support their clients.

In an editorial that accompanies the article, the authors note that the stress of caring for a seriously or terminally ill pet can be as substantial as that of caring for a very sick human family member.  But caregivers for ill humans have a significant support network (nurses, home health aides, hospice, etc.) that pet owners do not have.  The authors argue that this is why it’s so important for veterinarians to be well-trained in how to handle client distress in difficult situations.


12 thoughts on “How Your Pet’s Health Can Affect Your Own Well-Being

  1. Caring for an epi-warrior certainly has heightened my level of worry. But I try to make a concerted effort to breathe deeply especially when Elsa seizes. If I’m stressed, it won’t help her out. Thanks for sharing the study link.

  2. Good point – some of the vets of my father’s era had no idea how to deal with a bereaved client, but my own vets have been wonderful. I get so stressed with Charlie overgrooming, it reduces me to tears…

  3. This is so true for me when caring for Spinner this time last year when he had cancer it was several weeks. It really took a toll emotionally/physically actually looking back I don’t know how I did it, but I just did I guess. My holistic vet was good but my reg vet no so much, I think that holistic vets are more supportive as they have a different approach to things.

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