Skip to content

Contextualised care

To support veterinary teams to navigate discussions around the topic of contextualised care, we have curated a collection of resources from a variety of sources. Please email [email protected] to suggest other materials for inclusion in this collection.

What is contextualised care?       

Contextualised care is a way of delivering veterinary care that acknowledges that there are different ways to approach the diagnosis and treatment of an animal, depending on the circumstances of the individual animal and their caregivers, and the context in which the care is delivered.  

This requires a partnership between caregivers/owners, and the veterinary team, all working together for the best quality of life for the patient. 

It builds on evidence-based veterinary practice, which combines clinical expertise with the most relevant and best available scientific evidence, patient circumstances, and caregiver/owner circumstances and acknowledges that it is appropriate to offer different pathways of care in different circumstances.  

Although the term ‘contextualised care’ is relatively new, the idea of adapting veterinary care to the individual circumstances of the animal and their owner is not and has been described in a number of ways: 

  • evidence-based decision making
  • patient-centred care
  • spectrum of care
  • art and science of veterinary medicine
  • shared decision-making
  • value-based care

Whatever terminology is used, this is all about veterinary teams taking a holistic approach to providing quality veterinary care and making decisions that take all domains of quality into consideration.

[click on image to enlarge]

The Domains of Quality Improvement by RCVS Knowledge

Back to the top

Contextualised care in practice

  • RCVS Knowledge (2022) What matters? Is a change in how we provide care needed? - Read about a case in practice that uses contextualised care to decide on the most appropriate treatment plan for a newly diagnosed diabetic cat.
  • RCVS Knowledge (2022) Maximising welfare benefits by contextualising case management - Contextualised care can be used to assess a patient's wellbeing while receiving treatment, ensuring that the treatment plan is still the correct course of action.
  • RCVS Knowledge (2021) Clients' view of QI - With the wide range of information available to clients, it’s important that information comes from a reputable source. Find out what clients think of Quality Improvement and EBVM in this podcast hosted within our QI Boxset.
  • Davidson, J. et al. (2024) Contextualised care in practice. Veterinary Record, 194 (10), pp. 396.
  • Skipper, A. et al. (2021) ‘Gold standard care’ is an unhelpful term. Veterinary Record, 189 (8), pp. 331.

Back to the top

Veterinary support and tools

Back to the top

Evidence from research  

1. Contextualised care


Back to the top

2. Standard of care


Examples of different standards

  • Colmery, B. (2005) The Gold Standard of veterinary oral health care. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 35 (4), pp. 781-787.
  • Englar, R.E. and Dial, S.M. (2022) Low-cost veterinary clinical diagnostics. [Oxford]: Wiley-Blackwell

Back to the top

3. Spectrum of care


  • Brown, C.R. et al. (2021) Spectrum of care: more than treatment options. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 259 (7), pp. 712-717.
  • Evason, M.D., Stein, M.R. and Stull, J.W. (2023) Impact of a spectrum of care elective course on third-year veterinary students’ self-reported knowledge, attitudes, and competencies. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 50 (5), pp. 590-598.
  • Fingland, R.B. et al. (2021) Preparing veterinary students for excellence in general practice: building confidence and competence by focusing on spectrum of care. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 259 (5), pp. 463-470.  
  • Mace, J.L. and Knight, A. (2024) From the backyard to our beds: The spectrum of care, attitudes, relationship types, and welfare in non-commercial chicken care. Animals, 14 (2), no. 288.
  • Moore, R.M. et al. (2023) A new dimension in learning: implementing an outcomes-based veterinary curriculum with a focus on spectrum of care. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 261 (9), pp. 1401.  

  • Stull, J.W. et al. (2018) Barriers and next steps to providing a spectrum of effective health care to companion animals. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 253 (11), pp. 1386-1389.

  • The Spectrum of Care Initiative [AAVMC] [online] Available from: [Accessed 3 June 2024]
  • Warman, S. M. et al. (2023) Preparing veterinarians to practice across the spectrum of care. Advances in Small Animal Care, 4 (1), pp. 171–183.

Back to the top

4. Evidenced-based veterinary medicine


Evidence-based practice involves applying the best and most relevant scientific evidence, integrated with clinical expertise, whilst taking into account each patient and owner's individual circumstances, when making clinical decisions.

  • Larson, R.L. and White, B.J. (2015) Importance of the role of the scientific literature in clinical decision making. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 247 (1), pp. 58-64.

  • White, B. J. and Larson, R. L. (2015) Systematic evaluation of scientific research for clinical relevance and control of bias to improve clinical decision making. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 247 (5), pp. 496-500.

Back to the top

5. Access to care


Back to the top

6. Advanced veterinary care


  • Brockman, B.K., Taylor, V.A. and Brockman, C.M. (2008) The price of unconditional love: Consumer decision making for high-dollar veterinary care. Journal of Business Research, 61 (5), pp. 397-405.
  • Corr, S.A. et al. (2024) Cat and dog owners’ expectations and attitudes towards advanced veterinary care (AVC) in the UK, Austria and Denmark. PLOS ONE, 19 (3), e0299315.
  • Quain, A., Ward, M.P. and Mullan, S. (2021) Ethical challenges posed by advanced veterinary care in companion animal veterinary practice. Animals, 11 (11), no. 3010.
  • Taylor, P.M. (2022) Just because we can – Doesn’t mean we should. Equine Veterinary Education, 34 (4), pp. 172-174. 
  • Taylor, N. (2021) Just because we can, should we? Veterinary Record, 189 (7), pp. 294.

Back to the top

7. Shared decision-making


  • Cary, J. (2021) Implementing shared decision making in veterinary medicine. Veterinary Record, 189 (8), pp. 320-322.
  • Christiansen, S.B. et al. (2015) Veterinarians’ role in clients’ decision-making regarding seriously ill companion animal patients. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 58, no. 30.
  • Cornell, K.K. and Kopcha, M. (2007) Client-veterinarian communication: skills for client centered dialogue and shared decision making. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 37 (1), pp. 37-47.
  • DeGroot, A., Coe, J.B. and Duffield, T. (2023) Veterinarians’ use of shared decision making during on‐farm interactions with dairy and beef producers. Veterinary Record, 192 (1), e2384.
  • Ito, Y. et al. (2022) The relationship between evaluation of shared decision-making by pet owners and veterinarians and satisfaction with veterinary consultations. BMC Veterinary Research, 18 (1), no. 296. 
  • Janke, N. et al. (2021) Evaluating shared decision-making between companion animal veterinarians and their clients using the Observer OPTION instrument. Veterinary Record, 189 (8), e778.
  • Janke, N., Shaw, J. R., and Coe, J. B. (2022) Veterinary technicians contribute to shared decision-making during companion animal veterinary appointments. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 260 (15), pp. 1993-2000.
  • Kanji, N. et al. (2012) Effect of veterinarian-client-patient interactions on client adherence to dentistry and surgery recommendations in companion-animal practice. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 240 (4), pp. 427-436.
  • Merle, R. and Küper, A.M. (2021) Attitude of veterinarians toward self-informed animal owners affects shared decision making. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 8.     
  • Pyatt, A.Z. et al. (2020) Co-produced care in veterinary services: a qualitative study of UK stakeholders’ perspectives. Veterinary Sciences, 7 (4), no.149.
  • Shaw, J.R. et al. (2006) Veterinarian-client-patient communication patterns used during clinical appointments in companion animal practice. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 228 (5), pp. 714-721.
  • Shay, L.A. and Lafata, J.E. (2015) Where is the evidence? A systematic review of shared decision making and patient outcomes. Medical Decision Making, 35 (1), pp. 114-131.
  • Shortall, O. (2021) Veterinary expertise meets farming culture: The challenges of shared decision making in production animal healthcare. Veterinary Record, 189 (10), pp. 399-400.

Back to the top