Multiple sclerosis (MS) is associated with lower quality of life, reduced social participation, and decreased self-efficacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has had documented effects on the health and wellbeing of people with and without MS. Previous research has demonstrated the positive impact pets can have for people living with long-term conditions. Objectives:
To explore the rates of pet ownership and pet attachment in people living with MS and pet ownership associations with quality of life, satisfaction with social roles, and self-efficacy scores; and to explore the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on people’s perceived relationships with their pets. Materials and Methods:
A postal questionnaire was distributed to members of a local MS Register and a control group of people without MS. The questionnaire assessed quality of life, satisfaction with social roles, self-efficacy, the perceived roles of pets, and pet-related concerns experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results:
No apparent difference in attachment to pets was found between the patient and control groups. Pet ownership and level of attachment were not associated with differences in quality of life or self-efficacy scores in people living with MS. Using multiple regression analysis, pet ownership was associated with a decrease in satisfaction with participation in social roles, but with the estimated effect being small compared to having a diagnosis of MS or being unemployed. Most participants reported that pets had positive roles during the pandemic, and the most reported pet-related concern was access to veterinary treatment. Conclusion:
Pet owners both with and without MS reported subjective benefits to their wellbeing from pet ownership during COVID-19, although analysis suggested that pet ownership was associated with a reduction in satisfaction with social roles. The study had several limitations and suggestions are made for future work.
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