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Understanding the approach taken to aged dogs in primary veterinary care: a mixed methods health informatics approach

Project Description

Dogs are living up to twice as long as they did 40 years ago. With a rapidly ageing dog population, there are implications for senior dogs’ healthcare and wellbeing. As life expectancy increases, so does the amount of time spent in poor health. Many dog owners are not aware of the signs of serious age-related diseases as they attribute them to normal age-related changes. ‘Senior wellness clinics’ are available in some veterinary surgeries to inform owners of the benefits of early identification of health-related risk factors and disease. In this Petsavers Citizen Science Master’s by Research, we will quantify and characterise the main reasons for old dogs presenting to veterinary practice, and describe what senior dog preventative healthcare/treatment advice is currently recorded by UK veterinary practices. This will be achieved by applying quantitative and qualitative approaches to consultation data available through the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (

Specifically the successful candidate will use:

• Descriptive quantitative analyses to evaluate the impact of age and breed on visit frequency and reasons ,
• Explore the potential for text mining to automatically identify animals with sentinel diseases of old age, and
• Qualitative approaches to describe the range of conversations recorded in the health record of older animals.

Specific training will be provided in:

• Epidemiology; univariable and multivariable analyses.
• Text mining; using regular expressions to extract actionable meaning from the clinical narrative.
• Social science approaches and content analysis using NVivo.
• Taught course in qualitative research methods.
• Working with “Big Data” including ethical considerations and data protection, practice recruitment, data capture and data cleaning.
• As a citizen science Masters, the candidate will also need to work with the funder and the wider project team to present their research findings, as well as the process of research, to veterinary and lay audiences.

This MPhil is part of a larger study, and will complement a postdoc using in-depth interviews with veterinary professionals and dog owners, supplemented by wider questionnaire surveys and diaries. Together the findings will be used to develop a “tool” to guide on best practice discussions in consultations with senior dogs, ensuring the results of this MPhil are rapidly translated into practice.

The position would suit an applicant with qualifications and experience in an area of veterinary or animal health sciences.

The project will be based at the University of Liverpool’s Leahurst campus as part of larger research groups exploring human-animal interaction and animal welfare (Westgarth) and using SAVSNET data (Radford). The Institute of Infection & Global Health is fully committed to promoting gender equality in all activities. In recruitment, we emphasise the supportive nature of the working environment and the flexible family support that the University provides. The Institute holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of ongoing commitment to ensuring that the Athena SWAN principles are embedded in its activities and strategic initiatives.

To apply please send a CV, covering letter and the names and contact details of two referees to Jill Hudson-Browne .

Funding Notes

This one-year post is funded by a BSAVA Petsavers Citizen Science Award, which includes student stipend of £15,000 (tax free) and all necessary postgraduate fees for a UK/ EU student, and conference attendance/training budget of £700.


• Wallis, L. J., Szabó, D., Erdélyi-Belle, B., and Kubinyi, E. (2018). Demographic change across the lifespan of pet dogs and their impact on health status. Front. Vet. Sci. 5. doi:10.3389/fvets.2018.00200.
• Sanchez-Vizcaino, F., Muniesa, A., Singleton, D. A., Jones, P. H., Noble, P. J., Gaskell, R. M., . . . Radford, A. D. (2018). Use of vaccines and factors associated with their uptake variability in dogs, cats and rabbits attending a large sentinel network of veterinary practices across Great Britain. EPIDEMIOLOGY AND INFECTION, 146(7), 895-903. doi:10.1017/S0950268818000754

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