Using the Pet Query to Assess Patients’ Environmental History and Social Context
Alan Monavvari, MD, MHSc, CCFP, CHE, CPHQ
Pets can improve human health and quality of life across the life span, from child development to healthy aging. Health care providers (HCPs), including family physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists and social workers, can better determine their patients’ environmental history and social context by strategically asking the Pet Query (Do you live with companion animals? How many? What species?). Considering patients’ environmental history and social context positively impacts HCPs’ approach to diagnose, treat and manage their patients. The Pet Query’s open, non-threatening questions invite patients to describe their home life, social relationships, and other important determinants of health – including social supports, housing, physical activity. Pets can then be used as motivators and catalysts for patients’ healthy choices and behaviors. Initiating inter-professional collaboration with veterinarians is an important first step to recalibrate and mitigate zoonotic risks.
The Pet Query enables health care providers to assess and address their patients’ determinants of health, environmental history, and social context.
It is expected that by utilizing the Pet Query, patients will be more open about their environmental history and habits, allowing healthcare providers to better assess and address their patients’ health. In addition to enabling primary care providers to leverage the health benefits of companion animals, asking about pets in the family assists in identifying and mitigating any associated risk.