Pet re­search at­tracts at­ten­tion

Napier Courier - - Gardening -

A unique health and wel­fare check ini­tia­tive for pets run­ning along­side healthy lifestyle hu­man as­sess­ments has at­tracted keen in­ter­est in the in­ter­na­tional re­search com­mu­nity.

PATU Pets, the Furry Wha¯ nau is the brain­child of a team from EIT led by As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Rachel For­rest.

The re­search method­ol­ogy and re­sults were pre­sented at the Com­pan­ion An­i­mal Con­fer­ence in Auck­land in Septem­ber. Ti­tled Hu­man Be­hav­iour Change For An­i­mals, it was at­tended by vet­eri­nar­i­ans and an­i­mal health aca­demics from around the world.

“Our Patu Pets Project is cen­tred on the One Wel­fare con­cept that recog­nises that hu­man well­be­ing, an­i­mal wel­fare and the en­vi­ron­ment are all in­ter­con­nected,” says Rachel. “Our re­search ex­plores whether a lo­cal com­mu­nity ini­tia­tive such as Patu Aotearoa can fa­cil­i­tate hu­man be­hav­iour changes that re­sult in pos­i­tive pet wel­fare out­comes.”

Patu Aotearoa, es­tab­lished ini­tially in Hawke’s Bay by Levi Arm­strong, runs gyms na­tion­wide that com­bine group ex­er­cise and healthy lifestyle ed­u­ca­tion with te reo me o¯ na tikanga Ma¯ ori — Ma¯ ori lan­guage and cul­ture.

Levi is a grad­u­ate of EIT’s Bach­e­lor of Recre­ation and Sports de­gree and is Nga¯ ti Kahun­gunu. He es­tab­lished the so­cial en­ter­prise or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2012, to fight obe­sity and re­duce in­ac­tiv­ity.

The phi­los­o­phy around Patu Aotearoa is whanaun­gatanga or con­nect­ed­ness. Rather than ‘mem­bers’, those at­tend­ing are wha¯ nau and work to­gether to sup­port each other to achieve pos­i­tive lifestyle changes.

Be­ing more ac­tive and eat­ing for bet­ter well­be­ing is the em­pha­sis with weight loss and fit­ness a secondary ben­e­fit.

The EIT team ex­tended its re­search from the hu­man wha¯ nau to the furry wha¯ nau.

“The wha¯ nau are very sup­port­ive of our re­search and are quite com­fort­able with our work now, so it wasn’t a big stretch to in­clude their pets into the reg­u­lar Patu weigh-ins. It al­lowed us to reach lo­cal com­mu­nity pets that may not al­ways have the op­por­tu­nity to be reg­u­larly seen by an­i­mal health pro­fes­sion­als,” says Rachel.

“It also pro­vides our EIT stu­dents a valu­able op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice their skills and con­nect with the lo­cal com­mu­nity.”

EIT Cen­tre of Ve­teri­nary Nurs­ing staff and stu­dents car­ried out the pet checks. At the same ses­sions, EIT Bach­e­lor of Recre­ation and Sport, and Bach­e­lor of Nurs­ing staff and stu­dents helped with the hu­man weigh-in and data col­lec­tion.

The in­volve­ment of EIT un­der­grad­u­ates, as op­posed to post-grad­u­ates, as part of the re­search project drew par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion at the Com­pan­ion An­i­mal con­fer­ence.

“This is not a com­mon prac­tice and we got a lot of ques­tions around this,” Rachel said. “It’s awe­some that our un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents vol­un­teer to give back to the lo­cal com­mu­nity and are also con­tribut­ing to valu­able com­mu­nity re­search. Sev­eral of the stu­dents are also Patu mem­bers so they got to show­case their skills and role model for the younger mem­bers.”

There’s been three free pet health checks so far at the Ahuriri and Here­taunga Patu gyms, with 26 dogs as­sessed. Cat own­ers have not felt com­fort­able bring­ing their cats know­ing dogs would be there, so ded­i­cated cat ses­sions may be held in fu­ture.

“Feed­back from our tu­tors was that it gave them the chance to see a side of stu­dents not ev­i­dent in the class­room, while stu­dents found the op­por­tu­nity to gain face to face ex­pe­ri­ence with clients very help­ful. A lit­tle daunt­ing be­ing faced with ques­tions they had to an­swer on the spot, but help­ful none­the­less.”

Each dog owner com­pleted a pre-check ques­tion­naire about how they per­ceived the health and well­be­ing of them­selves and their pet.

The dogs were given a head-to­tail check by the ve­teri­nary nurs­ing stu­dents, su­per­vised by tu­tors. Ad­vice was given to the own­ers on how they could im­prove their pet’s quality of life. The ma­jor­ity of the ad­vice given by the stu­dent vet nurses was around den­tal hy­giene, healthy weight and diet and nail trim­ming.

Some of the own­ers were in­ter­viewed about re­spon­si­ble pet own­er­ship and at­ti­tudes to­wards eu­thana­sia of feral, stray, un­wanted and un­well pets.

The re­search team also de­vel­oped a pet ver­sion of the Meke Me­ter they had de­vel­oped to pro­vide Patu wha¯ nau with an im­aged-based, holis­tic, well­be­ing self-re­flec­tion tool. Own­ers can rate their an­i­mal’s men­tal, be­havioural and phys­i­cal state. This is up­dated in sub­se­quent checks for im­prove­ments.

“We have had re­ally pos­i­tive feed­back from own­ers on the dog Meke me­ter. They can eas­ily see where they need to make changes to im­prove things for their pets.”

A na­tional sur­vey is be­ing de­vel­oped by the EIT re­search team to ex­plore at­ti­tudes to­wards an­i­mal wel­fare and fac­tors in­flu­enc­ing them.

“We’re also keen to keep run­ning pet checks in Hawke’s Bay and start im­ple­ment­ing them na­tion­ally,” says Rachel.

Cen­tre of Vet­eri­nar­ian Nurs­ing stu­dents Avana Pohe and Ni­cole Tipu (kneel­ing) in ac­tion dur­ing a Patu pet health check at a Patu Aotearoa gym.

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