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Health Care Decisions and Delay of Treatment in Companion Animal Owners

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Previous research has indicated that companion animal ownership may confer health benefits; however, no studies have considered how companion animal ownership impacts key health decisions. The purpose of the current studies was to examine the extent to which animal-related factors influence health care decision making, specifically, owners’ willingness to proceed with necessary medical treatments. In Study 1, a sample of 162 companion animal owners was recruited via Amazon Mechanical Turk to complete an online survey which included measures of social support, quality of relationship with the companion animal and two vignettes describing needed hospitalization. Results suggest that nearly half of companion animal owners would consider delaying a hospitalization due to reasons related to ownership. Similarly, in Study 2, dog owners were compared to a group of non-pet owners. Dog owners were more likely to report willingness to delay medical procedures due to their pets than non-pet owners were to consider delay due to friends or family members. Owners’ health care decisions may be influenced by their relationship with their companion animal. Particularly at risk for delaying health procedures are those with lower levels of social support. While further study is needed, opportunities for intervention are considered.

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Correspondence to Brittany Canady.

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Brittany Canady and Ashley Sansone declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Canady, B., Sansone, A. Health Care Decisions and Delay of Treatment in Companion Animal Owners. J Clin Psychol Med Settings 26, 313–320 (2019).

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