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Labrador retrievers under primary veterinary care in the UK: demography, mortality and disorders

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Background Labrador retrievers are reportedly predisposed to many disorders but accurate prevalence information relating to the general population are lacking. This study aimed to describe demography, mortality and commonly recorded diseases in Labrador retrievers under UK veterinary care. Methods The VetCompass™ programme collects electronic patient record data on dogs attending UK primary-care veterinary practices. Demographic analysis covered all33,320 Labrador retrievers in the VetCompass™ database under veterinary care during 2013 while disorder and mortality data were extracted from a random sample of 2074 (6.2%) of these dogs. Results Of the Labrador retrievers with information available, 15,427 (46.4%) were female and 15,252 (53.6%) were male. Females were more likely to be neutered than males (59.7% versus 54.8%, P < 0.001). The overall mean adult bodyweight was 33.0 kg (SD 6.1). Adult males were heavier (35.2 kg, SD 5.9 kg) than adult females (30.4 kg, SD 5.2 kg) (P < 0.001). The median longevity of Labrador retrievers overall was 12.0 years (IQR 9.9–13.8, range 0.0–16.0). The most common recorded colours were black (44.6%), yellow (27.8%) and liver/chocolate (reported from hereon as chocolate) (23.8%). The median longevity of non-chocolate coloured dogs (n = 139, 12.1 years, IQR 10.2–13.9, range 0.0–16.0) was longer than for chocolate coloured animals (n = 34, 10.7 years, IQR 9.0–12.4, range 3.8–15.5) (P = 0.028). Of a random sample of 2074 (6.2%) Labrador retrievers under care in 2013 that had full disorder data extracted, 1277 (61.6%) had at least one disorder recorded. The total number of dogs who died at any date during the study was 176. The most prevalent disorders recorded were otitis externa (n = 215, prevalence 10.4%, 95% CI: 9.1–11.8), overweight/obesity (183, 8.8%, 95% CI: 7.6–10.1) and degenerative joint disease (115, 5.5%, 95% CI: 4.6–6.6). Overweight/obesity was not statistically significantly associated with neutering in females (8.3% of entire versus 12.5% of neutered, P = 0.065) but was associated with neutering in males (4.1% of entire versus 11.4% of neutered, P < 0.001). The prevalence of otitis externa in black dogs was 12.8%, in yellow dogs it was 17.0% but, in chocolate dogs, it rose to 23.4% (P < 0.001). Similarly, the prevalence of pyo-traumatic dermatitis in black dogs was 1.1%, in yellow dogs it was 1.6% but in chocolate dogs it rose to 4.0% (P = 0.011). Conclusions The current study assists prioritisation of health issues within Labrador retrievers. The most common disorders were overweight/obesity, otitis externa and degenerative joint disease. Males were significantly heavier females. These results can alert prospective owners to potential health issues and inform breed-specific wellness checks.
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R E S E A R C H Open Access
Labrador retrievers under primary
veterinary care in the UK: demography,
mortality and disorders
Paul D. McGreevy
1*
, Bethany J. Wilson
1
, Caroline S. Mansfield
2
, Dave C. Brodbelt
3
, David B. Church
4
,
Navneet Dhand
5
, Ricardo J. Soares Magalhães
6,7
and Dan G. ONeill
3
Abstract
Background: Labrador retrievers are reportedly predisposed to many disorders but accurate prevalence information
relating to the general population are lacking. This study aimed to describe demography, mortality and commonly
recorded diseases in Labrador retrievers under UK veterinary care.
Methods: The VetCompassprogramme collects electronic patient record data on dogs attending UK primary-care
veterinary practices. Demographic analysis covered all33,320 Labrador retrievers in the VetCompassdatabase
under veterinary care during 2013 while disorder and mortality data were extracted from a random sample of 2074
(6.2%) of these dogs.
Results: Of the Labrador retrievers with information available, 15,427 (46.4%) were female and 15,252 (53.6%) were
male. Females were more likely to be neutered than males (59.7% versus 54.8%, P< 0.001). The overall mean adult
bodyweight was 33.0 kg (SD 6.1). Adult males were heavier (35.2 kg, SD 5.9 kg) than adult females (30.4 kg, SD 5.
2 kg) (P< 0.001). The median longevity of Labrador retrievers overall was 12.0 years (IQR 9.913.8, range 0.016.0).
The most common recorded colours were black (44.6%), yellow (27.8%) and liver/chocolate (reported from hereon
as chocolate) (23.8%). The median longevity of non-chocolate coloured dogs (n= 139, 12.1 years, IQR 10.213.9,
range 0.016.0) was longer than for chocolate coloured animals (n= 34, 10.7 years, IQR 9.012.4, range 3.815.5)
(P= 0.028).
Of a random sample of 2074 (6.2%) Labrador retrievers under care in 2013 that had full disorder data extracted,
1277 (61.6%) had at least one disorder recorded. The total number of dogs who died at any date during the
study was 176. The most prevalent disorders recorded were otitis externa (n= 215, prevalence 10.4%, 95%
CI: 9.111.8), overweight/obesity (183, 8.8%, 95% CI: 7.610.1) and degenerative joint disease (115, 5.5%, 95%
CI: 4.66.6). Overweight/obesity was not statistically significantly associated with neutering in females (8.3%
of entire versus 12.5% of neutered, P= 0.065) but was associated with neutering in males (4.1% of entire
versus 11.4% of neutered, P< 0.001). The prevalence of otitis externa in black dogs was 12.8%, in yellow
dogs it was 17.0% but, in chocolate dogs, it rose to 23.4% (P<0.001). Similarly, the prevalence of pyo-traumatic
dermatitis in black dogs was 1.1%, in yellow dogs it was 1.6% but in chocolate dogs it rose to 4.0% (P=0.011).
Conclusions: The current study assists prioritisation of health issues within Labrador retrievers. The most common
disorders were overweight/obesity, otitis externa and degenerative joint disease. Males were significantly heavier
females. These results can alert prospective owners to potential health issues and inform breed-specific wellness
checks.
Keywords: VetCompass,Electronicpatientrecord,Breed,Pedigree,Purebred,Dog,Epidemiology,Primary-care
* Correspondence: paul.mcgreevy@sydney.edu.au
1
Sydney School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW
2006, Australia
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
© The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to
the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver
(http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8
https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-018-0064-x
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Plain English summary
With origins in the game hunting fields of Canada and
developed in the UK from the 1830s, the Labrador re-
triever is now firmly established as one of the most glo-
bally popular dog breeds and a leading family dog. Indeed,
they were the most commonly registered UK pedigree dog
breed in 20162017. The Kennel Club currently registers
three colourings: black, chocolate, or yellow [ranging from
pale yellow (nearly white) to fox red]. Labrador retrievers
are reportedly predisposed to many disorders but accurate
prevalence information relating to the general population
is lacking. This study aimed to describe demography,
mortality and commonly recorded diseases in Labrador
retrievers under UK veterinary care during 2013.
Clinical health records were explored for 33,320 Lab-
rador retrievers in the VetCompassdatabase under vet-
erinary care during 2013. Of 33,320 Labrador retrievers
under care in 2013, the females were more likely to be
neutered than males. The most common recorded colours
were black (44.6%), yellow (27.8%) and liver/chocolate
(23.8%). The average adult bodyweight was 33 kg. Males
were significantly heavier than females.
The median life-span of Labrador retrievers overall
was 12 years but was much shorter in chocolate dogs.
The most common causes of death were musculoskeletal
disorders and cancer. More generally, the most common
disorders affecting Labrador retrievers were overweight/
obesity, ear and joint conditions. Skin and ear disease
were significantly more common in chocolate dogs than
in black or yellow dogs.
This report can help breeders and veterinarians priori-
tise strategic approaches to tackle health issues in Labra-
dor retrievers. The results can alert prospective owners to
potential health issues and inform breed-specific wellness
checks.
Background
With origins in the game hunting fields of Canada and
developed in the UK from the 1830s [1], the Labrador
retriever is now firmly established as one of the most
globally popular dog breeds and a leading family dog.
Labrador retrievers are currently very popular in the UK
and were the most commonly registered UK pedigree
dog breed in 20152016 [2]. The Kennel Club currently
registers three colourings: black, liver/chocolate, or
yellow (ranging from pale yellow (nearly white) to fox
red [3]). We were interested in whether these pigmenta-
tions were associated with clinical disorders especially skin
disease since colour is an attribute of the integument.
The median longevity of Labrador retrievers in the UK
has previously been estimated at 12.5 years [4] but there
s a need for additional breed-specific information on the
common causes of death and any sex or coat-colour dif-
ferences in longevity.
Labrador retrievers have reported predispositions to
67 diseases [5]. They are often of stocky build with a
tendency to eat beyond their physiological needs, perhaps
because of a pro-opiomelanocortin gene deletion [6], and
can therefore be prone to obesity [7], a trait that contrib-
utes to clinical manifestations of orthopaedic problems,
notably elbow and hip dysplasia [8]. Descended from dogs
that were selectively bred to help fishermen retrieve
nets and lost lines [9] and then bred to retrieve fallen
water-fowl and other game, the breed is known for
engaging in swimming. This is important because regular
swimming may increase the risk of otitis externa [10]and,
unless the dogs are well-dried, may lead to increased hu-
midity in the hair-coat that may increase the prevalence of
skin disorders.
A study that compared the common disorders recorded
in Labrador retrievers (n= 339) with crossbreds (n=797)
attending primary veterinary practices in England sug-
gested that Labrador retrievers are relatively predisposed
to various disorders: gastrointestinal disorders (22.7%
versus 18.3% in crossbreds); dermatological disorders
(16.8% versus 11.9%); musculoskeletal disorders (16.2% ver-
sus 14.1%); neoplastic disorders (14.8% versus 9.2%) and
obesity (12.98% versus 3.9% %) [11]. Labrador retrievers
are reported in referral caseloads of veterinary dermatolo-
gists as having a predisposition to otitis externa [12].
Degenerative joint disease (DJD, often also labelled
osteoarthritis), is the most common joint disease recorded
in veterinary practice, and Labrador retrievers are among
the breeds thought to be predisposed [13]. Specifically, by
reducing mobility and therefore inducing decreased exer-
cise and obesity, DJD has considerable potential to com-
promise quality of life [14]. As a degenerative condition,
DJD is linked to accumulated lifetime wear-and-tear and
therefore is often diagnosed in older members of breeds
predisposed to obesity, especially those that have been
neutered [15]. Therefore, exploration of DJD was consid-
ered of particular importance for the current study.
The VetCompassprogramme collects electronic patient
record [EPR] data on dogs attending UK primary-care vet-
erinary practices [16]. Using clinical data from the Vet-
Compassprogramme, this study aimed to characterise
the demography, longevity and common disorders of Lab-
rador retrievers under primary veterinary care in the UK
during 2013. The study was designed to build on the earlier
pilot study of 418 dogs [4]. The results from the current
study could provide a reliable framework to assist re-
forms in breeding practices and ultimately contribute
to improved health and welfare of Labrador retrievers.
The study was also designed to explore sex and colour as-
sociations with longevity and the prevalence of common
disorders. We hypothesised that degenerative joint disease
(DJD) is more prevalent in males than in females. This
was predicted because males are bigger simply by having a
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8 Page 2 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
larger skeleton and may be more predisposed to obesity
[17]. We can use the results of the current study to begin
to unpick these and other contributing influences on DJD.
Methods
Demography
Dogs recorded as Labrador retriever breed were categorised
as Labrador retriever and all remaining dogs were cate-
gorised as non-Labrador retriever. The study population in-
cluded all dogs under primary veterinary care at clinics
participating in the VetCompassProgramme during 2013.
The VetCompassprogramme collates de-identified EPR
data from collaborating practices [16]. Data fields available
for analysis included a unique animal identifier from each
practice management system provider along with species,
breed, date of birth, sex, neuter status and bodyweight, and
clinical information from free-form text clinical notes,
summary diagnosis terms (VeNom codes [18]) and treat-
ment with relevant dates.
Body weight curves
All available bodyweight data with their associated dates
were extracted from VetCompassdatabase for all study
Labrador retrievers (n= 33,320) at any date. The age at
weighing (years) was calculated from the date of birth
and the date of weighing. Individual bodyweight growth
curves were generated for males and females by plotting
age-specific bodyweights and were overlaid with a cross
medians line plot using the Stata mband command.
All-age Bodyweight (Kg) described all available body-
weight and date combinations from the full cohort of
33,320 Labrador retrievers. Adult Bodyweight (Kg) de-
scribed the mean bodyweight recorded from all body
weight measurements of dogs aged over 18 months and
was categorised into 5 groups (< 25 kg, 25.029.9 kg,
30.034.9 kg, 35.039.9 kg, 40.0 kg). Neuter described
the status of the dog (entire or neutered) at the final
EPR. Age described the age at the final date under veter-
inary care during 2013 (December 31st, 2013) and was
categorised into 5 groups (< 3 years, 3.0 to < 6 years, 6.0
to < 9.0 years, 9.0 to < 12 years, 12 years).
Longevity and cause-specific mortality
Mortality data (recorded cause, date and method of
death) were extracted on deaths from the available EPR
data of a random sample of 2074 (6.2%) dogs. The date
of death was used to calculate the longevity of the indi-
vidual and the specific cause of death, where discernible,
was categorised using VeNom codes [18].
A prevalence study design derived from the cohort
clinical data of dogs under veterinary care at participat-
ing practices was used to estimate the one-year period
prevalence of the most commonly diagnosed disorders
[19]. Sample size calculations estimated that 1730 dogs
would be needed to represent a disorder with 5.0% ex-
pected prevalence to a precision of 1.0% at a 95% confi-
dence level from a population of 33,320 dogs [20]. In this
study, dogs under veterinary care were defined as those
with at least one EPR; (summary diagnosis term, free-text
clinical note, treatment or bodyweight) recorded either i)
during 2013 and/or ii) both before and after 2013.
Disorder prevalence
Disorder data were extracted on deaths from the avail-
able EPR data of a random sample of 2074 (6.2%) dogs.
One-year (2013) period prevalence values were reported
that described the probability of diagnosis at least once
during 2013. Prevalence estimates were reported overall
and separately by sex and by colour.
The list of unique Labrador retriever animal identifica-
tion numbers was randomly ordered and a subset was
reviewed manually in detail to extract the most definitive
diagnoses recorded for all disorders that existed during
2013 and to manually link this to the most appropriate
VeNom term as previously described [7]. Elective (e.g.
neutering) or prophylactic (e.g. vaccination) clinical events
were not included. No distinction was made between
pre-existing and novel disorder presentations. Disorders
described within the clinical notes using presenting sign
terms (e.g. vomitingor vomiting and diarrhoea), but
without a formal clinical diagnostic term being recorded,
were included using the first sign listed (e.g. vomiting).
The extracted diagnosis terms were mapped to a dual
hierarchy of precision for analysis: fine-level precision
and grouped-level precision as previously described [7].
Briefly, fine-level precision terms described the original
extracted terms at the maximal diagnostic precision re-
corded within the clinical notes (e.g. inflammatory bowel
disease would remain as inflammatory bowel disease).
Grouped-level precision terms mapped the original diagno-
sis terms to a general level of diagnostic precision (e.g. in-
flammatory bowel disease would map to gastro-intestinal).
Statistical analysis
The data were checked for internal validity and cleaned
in Excel (Microsoft Office Excel 2013, Microsoft Corp.).
Internal validity checks assessed for incompatibilities in
extracted data: e.g. a dog that was recorded as having
died but where no date of death had originally been ex-
tracted. For all inconsistencies, the original database was
revisited and corrected data extracted until there were
no internal inconsistencies remained in the analytic
dataset. Cleaning involved standardising the terms used in
the extracted dataset: e.g. the original raw data described
male sex variously as maleor m. These synonymous
terms were cleaned to show a single term in the analytic
dataset. Analyses were conducted using Stata Version 13
(Stata Corporation). The sex, neuter status, age and adult
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8 Page 3 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
bodyweight for Labrador retrievers under veterinary care
during 2013 were described. Annual proportional birth
rates described the relative proportion of Labrador re-
trievers compared with all dogs that were born in each
year from 2004 to 2013 from the cohort that were under
veterinary care in 2013.
The 95% confidence intervals (CI) estimates were de-
rived from standard errors based on approximation to the
normal distribution for disorders with ten or more events
[21] or the Wilson approximation method for disorders
with fewer than ten events [22]. The chi-square test was
used to compare categorical variables and the Students
t-test or Mann-Whitney U test to compare continuous
variables as appropriate [21]. Statistical significance was
set at the 5% level.
Results
Demography
The study population of 455,557 dogs from 304 clinics
in the VetCompassdatabase under primary veterinary
care during 2013 included 33,320 (7.31%) Labrador re-
trievers. Annual proportional birth rates showed that
Labrador retrievers dropped from 9.6% of the annual
VetCompassbirth cohort in 2004 to 5.8% in 2013
(Fig. 1). The most common recorded colours were black
(44.6%), yellow (27.8%) and liver/chocolate (23.8%).
Colour was not recorded in some dogs (n= 139). How-
ever, among those for which colour was recorded, the
most common colours were black (44.6%), yellow (27.8%)
and liver/chocolate (23.8%).
Of the Labrador retrievers with information available,
15,427 (46.4%) were female and 15,252 (53.6%) were male.
Females were more likely to be neutered than males
(59.7% versus 54.8%, P< 0.001). Data completeness varied
across the variables assessed: age 99.1%, sex 99.7%, neuter
80.4% and all-age bodyweight 67.0%. The median age of
the Labrador retrievers overall was 4.9 years (IQR 2.38.3,
range 0.019.8) (Table 1).
Body weight curves
The mean adult bodyweight overall was 33.0 kg (stand-
ard deviation [SD] 6.1). The mean adult bodyweight of
males (35.2 kg, SD 5.9 kg) was higher than for females
(30.4 kg, SD 5.2 kg) (P< 0.001). The median bodyweight
across all ages for males (33.1 kg, IQR: 27.638.0, range:
0.969.3) was higher than for females was (28.7 kg, IQR:
23.933.0, range: 0.766.3) (P< 0.001). Bodyweight growth
curves based on 84,750 bodyweight values from 10,228 fe-
males and 103,819 bodyweight values from 12,069 males
showed that Labrador retriever puppies grow rapidly dur-
ing their first year but that males plateau at a higher adult
bodyweight than females (Fig. 2).
Longevity and cause-specific mortality
There were 176 deaths recorded at any time during the
available clinical records. The median longevity of Lab-
rador retrievers overall was 12.0 years (IQR 9.913.8,
range 0.016.0). Of 176 dogs with sex information available,
the median longevity of females (12.1 years, IQR 9.513.8,
range 00.416.0, n= 81) did not differ to males (12.0 years,
IQR 10.013.8, range 3.815.4, n= 91) (P= 0.856).
The median longevity of neutered animals (12.5 years,
IQR 10.513.9, range 5.516.0) was longer than for
entire animals (11.6 years, IQR 8.912.4, range 0.015.2)
(P= 0.010). There were 29 (16.5%) deaths that did not
have a cause of death stated. Of the remaining 147
deaths, the most common causes of death described
at a grouped-precision level were musculoskeletal disorder
(n= 36, prevalence 24.5%) and neoplasia (31, 21.1%). The
probability of death did not differ between males and
Fig. 1 Annual proportional birth rates (20042013) for Labrador retrievers (n= 33,320) among all dogs (n= 455,557) attending UK primary-care
veterinary clinics participating in the VetCompassProgramme
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8 Page 4 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
females for any of the 10 most common causes of mortal-
ity (Table 2). The median age at death from these 10
causes varied from 9.1 years (IQR: 8.212.1 years) for heart
disease to 13.4 years (interquartile range: 11.514.0 years)
for musculoskeletal disorders (Table 2). The median lon-
gevity of non-chocolate coloured dogs (n= 139, 12.1 years,
IQR 10.213.9, range 0.016.0) was longer than for choc-
olate coloured animals (n= 34, 10.7 years, IQR 9.012.4,
range 3.815.5) (P= 0.028).
Disorder prevalence
The EPRs of a random sample of 2074 (6.2%) of Labra-
dor retrievers were manually examined to extract all
recorded disorder data for 2013. There were 1277
(61.6%) Labrador retrievers with at least one disorder re-
corded during 2013 while the remaining 38.4% had no
disorder recorded and either presented for prophylactic
management only or did not present at all during 2013.
The median count of disorders per Labrador retriever
during 2013 was 1 disorder (IQR 02, range 011) and
did not differ between females (median 1, IQR 02,
range 011) and males (median 1, IQR 02, range 07)
(P= 0.796).
The study included 2291 unique disorder events re-
corded during 2013 that encompassed 254 distinct
fine-level disorder terms. The most prevalent fine-level
precision disorders recorded were otitis externa (n= 215,
prevalence 10.4%, 95% CI: 9.111.8), overweight/obesity
(183, 8.8%, 95% CI: 7.610.1), degenerative joint disease
(115, 5.5%, 95% CI: 4.66.6), lameness (91, 4.4%, 05% CI:
3.55.4) and periodontal disease (87, 4.2%, 95% CI:
3.45.1). Among the 20 most common fine-level pre-
cision disorders, males were more likely than females
to be diagnosed with vomiting (4.6% versus 2.5% re-
spectively, P= 0.009) (Table 3). Overweight/obesity
was not statistically significantly associated with neutering
in females (8.3% of entire versus 12.5% of neutered,
P= 0.065) but was associated with neutering in males
(4.1% of entire versus 11.4% of neutered, P< 0.001).
There some significant associations between on coat colour
associations with ear and skin disease (see Table 5). The
prevalence of otitis externa in black dogs was 12.8%, in
yellow dogs it was 17.0% but, in chocolate dogs, it rose to
23.4% (P < 0.001). Similarly, the prevalence of pyo-traumatic
dermatitis in black dogs was 1.1%, in yellow dogs it was
1.6% but in chocolate dogs it rose to 4.0% (P= 0.011).
Table 1 Demography of Labrador retrievers under primary
veterinary care at practices participating in the VetCompass
Programme in the UK from January 1st 2013 to December 31st
2013 (n= 33,320)
Variable Category Count
a
Percent
Sex Female 15,427 46.4
Male 17,796 53.6
Female neuter Entire 5007 40.3
Neutered 7419 59.7
Male neuter Entire 6460 45.2
Neutered 7828 54.8
Age (years) < 3.0 4892 32.1
3.05.9 4094 26.8
6.08.9 3141 20.6
9.011.9 2026 13.3
12.0 1103 7.2
a
Count covers dogs with available data
Fig. 2 Bodyweight growth curves overlaid with a cross medians line plot for female and male Labrador retrievers attending UK primary-care
veterinary clinics participating in the VetCompassProgramme. (Females n= 10,228, Males n= 12,069)
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8 Page 5 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Table 2 Mortality in Labrador retrievers with a recorded cause of death under primary-care veterinary at UK practices participating
in the VetCompassProgramme from January 1st, 2013 to December 31st, 2013 (n= 147)
Grouped-level disorder Overall Count (%) Female count (%) Male Count (%) P-Value male vs female Age at death [years]: Median
(interquartile range)
Musculoskeletal disorder 36 (24.5) 18 (24.3) 18 (25.0) 0.925 13.4 (11.514.0)
Neoplasia 31 (21.1) 13 (17.6) 18 (25.0) 0.272 10.6 (8.512.4)
Mass lesion 11 (7.5) 5 (6.8) 6 (8.3) 0.718 9.7 (9.010.1)
Brain disorder 8 (5.4) 5 (6.8) 3 (4.2) 0.492 11.8 (9.513.1)
Liver disorder 8 (5.4) 3 (4.1) 5 (6.9) 0.443 12.0 (9.312.9)
Renal disease 8 (5.4) 5 (6.8) 3 (4.2) 0.492 11.3 (8.713.3)
Endocrine disorder 7 (4.8) 5 (6.8) 2 (2.8) 0.261 12.1 (11.113.7)
Enteropathy 5 (3.4) 3 (4.1) 2 (2.8) 0.672 10.3 (5.411.0)
Heart disease 5 (3.4) 2 (2.7) 3 (4.2) 0.627 9.1 (8.212.1)
Urinary system disorder 4 (2.7) 1 (1.4) 3 (4.2) 0.297 12.7 (11.513.9)
Other 24 (16.3)
Total 147 (100)
The P-value reflects comparison between the prevalence in females and males
Table 3 Prevalence of the most common disorders at a fine-level of diagnostic precision recorded in Labrador retrievers (n= 2074) attending
UK primary-care veterinary practices participating in the VetCompassProgramme from January 1st, 2013 to December 31st, 2013
Fine-level disorder Count Overall prevalence % 95% CI Female prevalence % Male prevalence % P-Value
Otitis externa 215 10.4 9.111.8 10.3 10.6 0.821
Overweight/obesity 183 8.8 7.610.1 9.8 8.0 0.139
Degenerative joint disease 115 5.5 4.66.6 5.9 5.2 0.480
Lameness 91 4.4 3.55.4 4.1 4.7 0.521
Periodontal disease 87 4.2 3.45.1 4.5 3.9 0.525
Lipoma 85 4.1 3.35.0 3.8 4.4 0.484
Vomiting 74 3.6 2.84.5 2.5 4.6 0.009
Diarrhoea 67 3.2 2.54.1 2.9 3.4 0.494
Conjunctivitis 57 2.7 2.13.5 3.0 2.6 0.577
Skin mass 51 2.5 1.83.2 2.4 2.6 0.756
Pruritus 43 2.1 1.52.8 2.2 2.0 0.832
Anal sac impaction 38 1.8 1.32.5 1.6 2.0 0.522
Pyoderma 36 1.7 1.22.4 1.5 1.9 0.499
Coughing 33 1.6 1.12.2 1.6 1.6 0.885
Stiffness 33 1.6 1.12.2 2.2 1.1 0.057
Undesirable behaviour 31 1.5 1.02.1 1.3 1.7 0.551
Pyo-traumatic dermatitis 28 1.4 0.91.9 1.1 1.6 0.396
Alopecia 26 1.3 0.81.8 1.0 1.5 0.367
Pododermatitis 26 1.3 0.81.8 1.0 1.5 0.367
Laceration 25 1.2 0.81.8 1.3 1.1 0.632
The P-value reflects prevalence comparison between females and males
P-values in bold are statistically significant
CI confidence interval
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8 Page 6 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
There were 51 distinct grouped-level precision disorder
terms recorded. The most prevalent grouped-level precision
disorders were musculoskeletal (n= 261, prevalence: 12.6%,
95% CI: 11.114.1), aural (219, 10.6%, 95% CI: 9.312.0),
gastrointestinal (210, 10.1%, 95% CI: 8.911.5), dermatological
(202, 9.7%, 95% CI: 8.511.1) and overweight/obesity (183,
8.8%, 95% CI: 7.610.1). Among the 15 most common
grouped-level precision disorders, females were more likely
than males to be diagnosed with a urinary system disorder
(2.3% versus 0.9% respectively, P=0.014)(Table 4).
Discussion
The main findings from the current study are that the
most common disorders among Labrador retrievers were
overweight/obesity, otitis externa and degenerative joint
disease. Overweight/obesity was not statistically signifi-
cantly associated with neutering in females but was associ-
ated with neutering in males. This is important not least
because males were significantly heavier.
Demography and mortality
The median longevity of Labrador retrievers in the current
study overall was 12.0 years; this was similar to a previous
estimate, based on a sample of 418 dogs, of 12.5 years [7].
The overall median longevity for dogs of 12.0 years re-
ported here aligns with the historic median estimate of
12.0 years among Labrador retrievers insured in the UK
or attending dog shows [23]. From the current sample, the
median longevity of females did not differ to males, but
the median longevity of neutered animals was longer than
for entire animals. This is in keeping with studies of other
breeds [7].
The current study has shown that annual proportional
birth rates for Labrador retrievers in the UK dropped
from 9.6% of the annual VetCompassbirth cohort in
2004 to 5.8% in 2013. By definition, this drop represents
an underestimate of early cohorts because 2025% of
early cohorts are likely to have died before 2013 and
thus are not in the dataset.
The apparent drop in the relative popularity of Labrador
retrievers may reflect an indirect effect of the nascent rise
in popularity of the brachycephalic breeds, such as French
bulldogs, whose registrations rose from third in 2016 to
second in 2017 [2]. The decline of the annual proportional
birth rates for Labrador retrievers in the UK may also
reflect the rise of designer hybrid cross-bred dogs, notably
poodle crosses. Unfortunately, the true scale of the rise in
the popularity of such crosses is difficult to monitor since
litters are not registered. Equally, monitoring the health of
these dogs is hampered by the persistent absence of veri-
fied data on parentage to establish which are first crosses,
second crosses or other [24].
The relationship between coat colour and longevity is
intriguing and has not, to the authorsknowledge, been
reported in other breeds. The significantly shorter life-
span of chocolate dogs compared with non-chocolate
dogs may reflect differences in lifetime burden of
disease, notably disorders of the integument (see below),
that may create differences in accumulated immune
response.
Table 4 Prevalence of the most common grouped-level disorders recorded in Labrador retrievers (n= 2074) attending UK primary-
care veterinary practices participating in the VetCompassProgramme from January 1st 2013 to December 31st 2013
Grouped-level disorder Count Overall prevalence 95% CI Female prevalence % Male prevalence % P-Value
Musculoskeletal 261 12.6 11.114.1 13.5 11.8 0.248
Aural 219 10.6 9.312.0 10.5 10.7 0.835
Enteropathy 210 10.1 8.911.5 8.7 11.3 0.052
Dermatological 202 9.7 8.511.1 9.6 9.9 0.832
Overweight/obesity 183 8.8 7.610.1 9.8 8.0 0.139
Neoplasia 153 7.4 6.38.6 7.4 7.4 0.963
Dental 114 5.5 4.66.6 5.7 5.3 0.679
Mass-associated 100 4.8 3.95.8 4.7 5.0 0.799
Ophthalmological 97 4.7 3.85.7 5.3 4.0 0.164
Traumatic 73 3.5 2.84.4 3.0 4.0 0.190
Upper respiratory tract 54 2.6 2.03.4 2.7 2.6 0.892
Undesirable behaviour 53 2.6 1.93.3 2.4 2.8 0.570
Anal sac 46 2.2 1.62.9 2.1 2.4 0.605
Parasitic 36 1.7 1.22.4 1.6 1.8 0.735
Urinary system 32 1.5 1.12.2 2.3 0.9 0.014
The P-value reflects prevalence comparison between females and males
P-values in bold are statistically significant
CI confidence interval
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8 Page 7 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
In the current study, the most common causes of
death described at a grouped-precision level were
musculoskeletal disorder and neoplasia. Of these two
disorders, neoplasia had more effect on longevity than
musculoskeletal disease, being associated with a median
age at death of 10.6 years versus 13.4 years. Although,
one of the important causes of death was neoplasia,
cancer did not figure as being a disease of major preva-
lence. This serves to highlight that most common
diseases are not terminal and that disease predisposition
in life is not the same as disease predisposition as a
cause of death.
In males, the possible benefits of neutering may in-
clude reducing the risk of later testicular disease, and re-
ducing the risks from androgen-dependent disorders
such as perineal hernias, perineal adenomas, prostatitis
and benign prostatic hyperplasia [25]. In females, neuter-
ing was also reported to reduce the risk of mammary
neoplasia [26], but a recent review stated that the evi-
dence for such an association as only weak [27]. The as-
sociation of neutering to longevity could be more closely
associated to the level of health care provided by con-
scientious owners, but this has yet to be validated in any
external study.
Colour
There some significant associations between on coat colour
associations with ear and skin disease (see Table 5). The
prevalence of otitis externa was significantly higher in choc-
olate dogs than in non- chocolate dogs. Similarly, the preva-
lence of pyo-traumatic dermatitis was more than twice as
high in chocolate dogs than in non- chocolate dogs. We
were interested in the association with coat colour because
chocolate pigmentation is recessive in dogs [28]. So, if choc-
olate coat colour is desired in litters, breeders may be mo-
tivate to breed from certain lines that may inadvertently
increase the ensuing puppiespredisposition to certain dis-
eases. It is possible that a more restricted population gene
pool has a higher carriage rate of the disease risk genes in-
volved in ear and skin conditions. This finding merits fur-
ther investigation, for example, in the extant VetCompass
databases for other differentially pigmented breeds such as
pugs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels.
Obesity
The current results for obesity indicate that Labrador
retrievers are at increased risk of being overweight or
obese. If we compare the current results to the results for
other VetCompassbreed studies using the same
Table 5 Colour variation among Labrador retrievers in their prevalence of the most common disorders at a fine-level of diagnostic
precision recorded at UK primary-care veterinary practices participating in the VetCompassProgramme from January 1st, 2013 to
December 31st, 2013
Fine-level disorder Overall prevalence % Black prevalence % Chocolate prevalence % Yellow prevalence % P-Value
Otitis externa 10.4 12.8 23.4 17.0 < 0.001
Overweight/obesity 8.8 13.0 15.4 16.7 0.272
Degenerative joint disease 5.5 10.7 6.7 8.8 0.152
Lameness 4.4 6.9 6.7 7.7 0.850
Periodontal disease 4.2 7.6 5.7 6.9 0.581
Lipoma 4.1 7.2 4.7 8.0 0.217
Vomiting 3.6 6.0 6.7 4.0 0.259
Diarrhoea 3.2 5.4 6.4 4.2 0.468
Conjunctivitis 2.7 4.3 5.0 4.5 0.900
Skin mass 2.5 3.8 4.7 3.5 0.701
Pruritus 2.1 2.9 4.7 3.2 0.371
Anal sac impaction 1.8 3.4 2.0 2.7 0.473
Pyoderma 1.7 2.9 4.0 2.1 0.349
Coughing 1.6 2.5 3.3 2.1 0.605
Stiffness 1.6 2.4 3.0 2.4 0.824
Undesirable behaviour 1.5 3.3 1.7 2.1 0.314
Pyo-traumatic dermatitis 1.4 1.1 4.0 1.6 0.011
Alopecia 1.3 2.0 3.0 1.3 0.303
Pododermatitis 1.3 1.4 3.0 1.9 0.284
Laceration 1.2 2.4 1.7 1.6 0.661
The P-value reflects prevalence comparison between the three colours. (n= 2074)
P-values in bold are statistically significant
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8 Page 8 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
methodology, we can see that the prevalence in Labrador
retrievers of overweight/obese of 8.8% (95% CI: 7.610.1)
is less than that reported for pugs (prevalence: 13.18%,
95% CI: 11.1215.43 [29]) but more than that for Border
terriers (7.01%, 95% CI: 5.698.52 [30]) Rottweilers
(7.06%, 95% CI: 6.028.21 [31]), German shepherd dogs
(5.18%, 95% CI: 4.166.36 [32]) and French bulldogs, for
which overweight/obese did not appear in the top 25 most
common disorders [33]. As with all studies of canine obes-
ity that rely on attending veterinarianssubjective assess-
ments of bodyweight, the current data rely entirely on
veterinarians recording this information in the text of the
clinical record. Furthermore, we note that the terms obes-
ity and overweight are often used synonymously and that,
especially for breed-specific studies such as the current
one, actual bodyweight is more informative than these
overarching and often overlapping labels.
Excessive bodyweight (overweight and obesity) is very
common in domestic dogs, and linked to various associated
conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and
also to reduced longevity [12]. Weight loss is known to
improvequalityoflifeindogs[11,34] reflecting other
benefits such as improved insulin resistance [35]and
reduced lameness [36]. Weight loss can be achieved
through dietary energy restriction [37] along with increased
protein:fat dietary rations, but compliance to the diet must
be maintained [38]. Physical activity should be part of a
weight reduction programme.
Complementary interactions of dog mobility and physical
activity have been shown for both dogs and their owners
[39,40], and it has been proposed that obese owners may
be more likely to have obese dogs [4143]. Males plateau at
a higher adult bodyweight than females,andneutereddogs
are more prone to obesity than entire dogs [44,45]. These
associations may be due to a reduced metabolic rate [46,
47]. The current analysis did not explore the temporality of
whether dogs were neutered before or after being classified
as overweight; a possible avenue for future research on data
from EPR. In the current Labrador retriever sample, only
males were significantly predisposed to obesity when neu-
tered. The question of when, during the maturation of Lab-
rador retrievers, this dimorphism arises warrants deeper
scrutiny. The generalised decline in bodyweight from
10 years onward may reflect an effect of wasting disorders
and flux in the ratio of muscle to bone mass.
Apart from obesity/overweight (discussed above), the
main disorders that merit discussion in the current report
are musculoskeletal, periodontal, enteropathy, aural and
urinary disease. The results relating to these conditions are
explored sequentially below.
Musculoskeletal
The hypothesis that DJD is more prevalent in males than
in females was not supported by the current data. This
finding is consistent with a recent report that focused on
appendicular arthritis [13]. Musculoskeletal disorders,
primarily identified as DJD, lameness and stiffnessat
the fine diagnostic level, proved to be the most prevalent
group level disorder, with 261 counted among the 2074
in our random cohort of Labrador retrievers (See Table
3). It was also the most common recorded cause of
death, accounting for nearly a quarter of all mortalities.
This finding is consistent with a study of 212 insured
Swedish Labradors in that 29% of mortalities were at-
tributed to non-traumatic and non-neoplastic musculo-
skeletal disorders [48].
DJD accounted for at least 115 of the 261 counted
cases of musculoskeletal disorders (44%) in the current
study and potentially an unknown number of cases charac-
terised as lameness or stiffness at the fine level of diagnostic
precision. In dogs, DJD is usually secondary to a primary
joint problem such as a traumatic injury, a developmental
abnormality or, more rarely, infectious or autoimmune in-
flammation [4951]. Labrador retrievers are known to be
at risk for common developmental joint disorders including
canine elbow dysplasia [5254], canine hip dysplasia
[5255], and humeral head osteochondrosis [53,56]and
are also prone to cranial cruciate ligament rupture [57].
In these diseases, developmental joint incongruity lead-
ing to abnormal transmission of weight bearing forces
and/or failure of endochondral ossification are believed to
lead to progressive cartilage damage, and subsequent DJD
[58]. Similarly, degenerative joint disease develops pro-
gressively in canine hip dysplasia due to the transmission
of weight-bearing forces though abnormally loose and in-
creasingly dysplastic hip joints [59], and humeral head
osteochondrosis results from failure of endochondral
ossification. While several of these conditions have
sex predispositions reported in the literature in some stud-
ies [53,54,57,60], cases of DJD were not significantly
different by sex in this study.
The current study identified a further 91 cases of lame-
ness and 33 cases of stiffness, in addition to the 115 cases
of DJD. Diagnostic terms such as lameness and stiffness
while non-specific could represent milder or less thor-
oughly investigated cases of DJD or acute/sub-acute pri-
mary injuries which could predispose the dog to secondary
DJD such as an initial presentation of a cranial cruciate
ligament rupture, traumatic injuries and fractures, neuro-
logical conditions and other miscellaneous disorders. We
acknowledge the risk that including some presenting signs
that are not diagnostic may compromise phenotypic
rigour. For example, by regarding stiffnessas a musculo-
skeletal term, we may risk including some dogs that have
weakness from a systemic disorder, such as pyrexia, rather
than a strictly musculoskeletal disease. Further investiga-
tion could help elucidate the extent to which lameness
and stiffnessare used as a euphemism for DJD.
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8 Page 9 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
The current results do not suggest more frequent DJD
or obesity in males. We acknowledge that it is difficult
to disambiguate the development of the musculoskeletal
disorders and obesity. It appears that male dogs are less
likely to be diagnosed as obese even when heavier per-
haps, as has been proposed in various breeds of cats be-
cause of having a larger frame [61]. Also some of the
causal factors of DJD have (often inconsistent) sex predis-
positions reported in the literature [5254], so if males are
more inclined to obesity this might be offset by a lower
tendency to certain diseases which lead to secondary DJD.
Future iterations of this analysis should consider a closer
investigation of the determinants of the patterns of disor-
ders identified in this study.
Periodontal disease
Periodontal disease was a common finding in the current
population of Labrador retrievers. If we compare the
current results for Labrador retrievers to the results for
other VetCompassbreed studies using the same method-
ology, we can see that the prevalence of periodontal dis-
ease of 4.2% (95% CI: 3.45.1) is less than that reported
for pugs (prevalence: 6.14%, 95% CI: 4.747.81 [29]) but
much more than that for German shepherd dogs (1.14%,
95% CI: 0.691.78 [32]). Given that Labrador retrievers
are mesocephalic, whereas pugs are brachycephalic and
German shepherd dogs tend towards dolichocephalism,
this suggests that cephalic index may have a bearing on
periodontal health [62] and seems to merit further in-
vestigation. That said, periodontal disease had a preva-
lence of 17.63% in (mesocephalic) Border terriers (95%
CI: 15.6219.79 [30]) does not appear in the list of the 26
most common disorders recorded in French Bulldogs [33].
Gastrointestinal disease
Gastrointestinal disease had an overall prevalence of
10.1% in the current sample (95% CI: 8.911.5). It en-
compasses a variety of disorders including pancreatitis,
idiopathic gastroenteritis, dietary indiscretion, intestinal
foreign bodies, infectious gastroenteritis and chronic
conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. There
have been no studies of overall gastrointestinal disease
diagnosed at veterinary practices in dogs, but a telephone
survey of owners did report gastrointestinal disease as one
of the major disease presentation [63]. Conversely, in an-
other study of pedigree dogs visiting first opinion veterin-
ary practices in the UK, gastrointestinal disease was not
one of the most prevalent disorders [7]; additionally, Lab-
rador retrievers have been reported to have a decreased
risk of acute pancreatitis [64]. Potential reasons for Labra-
dor retrievers to have a higher incidence of gastrointes-
tinal disorders includes their anecdotal propensity to
scavenge food [35] and hence potentially a higher
incidence of disease such as gastroenteritis or foreign body
obstruction. Although the level of detail is not adequate
from our analysis to determine the true primary diagnosis
for each case, the large number of clinical records evalu-
ated is likely more reflective of the true incidence in the
general population. The current finding that males are sig-
nificantly more likely than females to present with vomit-
ing merits further scrutiny but there is a need for caution
here since vomiting may be reported as part of a suite of
gastrointestinal disease. It is also interesting that vomiting
was more prevalent than diarrhoea in the current popula-
tion of Labrador retrievers [3.6% (CI: 284.5) versus 3.2%
(CI: 2.54.5)] whereas the reverse trend was apparent
in German shepherd dogs [29] [2.53% (CI1.833.40) ver-
sus 5.24% (CI: 4.226.42] using the same methodology
and in Labrador retrievers using a longitudinal cohort
design [65].
Aural and dermatological
Given that both conditions affect the integument, we shall
consider aural and dermatological diseases together. Aural
disease was common among the current population of
Labrador retrievers with a prevalence of 10.6% (95% CI:
9.312.0) but was less than that reported for pugs (preva-
lence: 15.06%, 95% CI: 12.9117.42 [29]), French Bulldogs
(14.0%, 95% CI: 12.615.5 [33]) and German shepherd
dogs (11.14%, 95% CI: 9.6712.76 [329]). Similarly, the
prevalence of dermatological (or cutaneous) diseases in
Labrador retrievers was considerable at 9.7% (95% CI:
8.511.1) and more than that reported for Rottweilers
(2.91%, 95% CI: 2.253.70 [31]) but again less than that re-
ported for pugs (prevalence: 15.60%, 95% CI: 13.3817.95
[29]) and for German shepherd dogs (13.98%, 95% CI:
12.3415.74 [33]). Hair coat length and aural conform-
ation may influence predisposition to these disorders but
most of the disorders are related to atopy. The predispos-
ition of chocolate Labrador retrievers in the current sample
suggests further avenues of immunological research within
the breed.
Labrador retrievers are reported in dermatology referral
caseloads as having a predisposition to otitis [9]. Dermato-
logical problems in our cohort included atopic dermatitis
(that may account for the accompanying prevalence of oti-
tis externa) and pyo-traumatic dermatitis that may reflect
to some extent the breeds fondness for swimming and
retrieving from water. Otitis externa is one of the most
common problems reported in canine practice [66], as
acute cases manifest with head-shaking that is distressing
for dogs and owners alike, dogs are often presented swiftly
and can be managed with topical polyvalent ear prepara-
tions. A range of organisms can be implicated in cases of
otitis, including Gram-positive cocci, Gram-negative rods
such as Pseudomonas, and the yeast Malassezia pachyder-
matis [67]. However, Nuttall [66] states that in most cases
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8 Page 10 of 13
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bacterial culture and sensitivity testing is not usually per-
formed, and cytology can be helpful in identifying the
most likely causative organisms. However, allergic disease,
notably atopic dermatitis, is the most common primary
trigger for otitis externa [9]. Indeed, a review of referred
cases of otitis in dogs concluded that 75% had atopic
dermatitis as a primary trigger [9]. Acute otitis externa
cases frequently progress into chronic or recurrent disease
that is much harder to resolve, and along with accumu-
lated immunological events, are thought to increases the
risk of aural haematomata [68]. Refractory cases are par-
ticularly problematic in fearful dogs that learn to avoid
having their ears examined and treated by owners.
Urinary disease
Females in the current study were more likely than
males to be diagnosed with a urinary system disorder.
This sex-related difference is unlikely to be peculiar to
Labrador retrievers because it is reported that, apart
from obstructions, urinary disorders are generally more
common in females than males with, for example, urin-
ary tract infections being more than twice as common
[69]. Additionally, urinary incontinence due to urethral
sphincter mechanism incontinence occurs predominantly
in neutered female dogs [70] and has been reported to
occur more frequently in larger-breed animals [71]. Urin-
ary system disorders were recorded as a cause of death in
only 2.7% of Labrador retrievers in the current study and
specific details on the frequency of individual urinary
conditions were not collated as part of the current study.
Study limitations
The findings of this study should be interpreted in light
of some limitations. First, we have considered a random
sample of dogs from the VetCompassUK database with
the objective of estimation of prevalence of common disor-
ders, which may underpowered for less common disorders
or causes of mortality. In this study, as a secondary aim,
measures of disease frequency for cause-specific mortality
were quantified from clinical records, which may arguably
not provide an accurate representation of all mortality
events in the population. In a similar vein, we acknowledge
that, although VetCompassoffers the best resource cur-
rently available for studying the national dog population in
the UK, demography of an entire population, rather than
the veterinary population, may be difficult to infer from
clinical data. The current report includes the results of
multiple testing and therefore strict adherence to a 0.05
p-value cut-off risks Type 1 error of accepting false positive
findings. We suggest that the readers explore the differ-
ences in the reported prevalence or other results to under-
stand the meaning of these values rather than relying on
p-values [72]. Some of the results reported in this study
were based on relatively small sample sizes and therefore
the risks of Type II error (false negative) need to be consid-
ered for these analyses. The focus of the current article was
on disorder prevalence rather than mortality. Future stud-
ies looking more closely at the latter outcomes could be
designed could focus on all dead animals reported in the
database as a starting point (with a record of death) and in-
vestigate the mortality status of those assumed alive by
following up with their owners.
Conclusion
This study of over two thousand Labrador retrievers
provides important disorder information on the general
population of Labrador retrievers. The most common
disorders in Labrador retrievers were otitis externa,
overweight/obesity and degenerative joint disease. Otitis
externa and pyo-traumatic dermatitis were less prevalent
in black dogs yellow dogs than in chocolate dogs. Choc-
olate dogs had a significantly shorter lifespan than
non-chocolate dogs. These results provide a framework to
identify health priorities in Labrador retrievers and can
contribute positively to reforms to improve health and
welfare within the breed.
Abbreviations
CI: Confidence interval; DJD: Degenerative joint disease; EPR: Electronic
patient record; IQR: Interquartile range; SD: Standard deviation
Acknowledgements
The first author acknowledges the role of Hamish, Guinness, Betty, Marcus
and Bundy in inspiring him to care about and investigate the health and
welfare of Labrador retrievers. Thanks to Noel Kennedy (RVC) for
VetCompasssoftware and programming development. We acknowledge
the Medivet Veterinary Partnership, Vets4Pets/Companion Care, Blythwood
Vets, Vets Now and the other UK practices who collaborate in VetCompass.
We are grateful to The Kennel Club, The Kennel Club Charitable Trust and
Dogs Trust for supporting VetCompass.
Funding
During part of this study, DON was supported at the RVC by an award from
the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. Neither the Kennel Club Charitable Trust
nor the Kennel Club had any input in the design of the study, the collection,
analysis and interpretation of data nor in writing the manuscript. PDM was
supported by the University of Sydney Special Studies Leave Programme.
Availability of data and materials
The datasets generated and analysed during the current study are not
publicly available due to their use in ongoing primary research but
subsections may be made available from the corresponding author on
reasonable request.
Authorscontributions
PDM and DON were mainly responsible for the conception and design,
acquisition, extraction and cleaning of data. PDM was responsible for coding
the records and DON carried out the data analyses. PDM, BJW, CSM, DCB,
DBC, ND, RJSM and DON were involved in interpreting the results, drafting
and revising the manuscript and gave final approval of the version to be
published. PDM, BJW, CSM, DCB, DBC, ND, RJSM and DON agree to be
accountable for all aspects of the accuracy or integrity of the work.
Ethics approval
Ethics approval was granted by the RVC Ethics and Welfare Committee
(reference number URN 2015 1369).
McGreevy et al. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018) 5:8 Page 11 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Consent for publication
Not applicable.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
PublishersNote
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in
published maps and institutional affiliations.
Author details
1
Sydney School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW
2006, Australia.
2
Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of
Melbourne, Werribee, VIC 3030, Australia.
3
Pathobiology and Population
Sciences, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms,
Hatfield, Herts AL9 7TA, UK.
4
Clinical Sciences and Services, The Royal
Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Herts AL9 7TA,
UK.
5
Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006,
Australia.
6
UQ Spatial Epidemiology Laboratory, School of Veterinary Science,
The University of Queensland, Gatton, QLD 4343, Australia.
7
Childrens Health
and Environment Program, Child Health Research Centre, The University of
Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
Received: 2 June 2018 Accepted: 30 August 2018
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... The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders reported in Labrador Retrievers in the current study (14.91%) lies between previously reported estimates from studies with similar designs based on Labrador Retrievers under primary-veterinary care (12.6-16.2%) 27,28 and is similar to the prevalence of 'extremity-related' diseases reported in clinical data from Labrador Retrievers in the Netherlands (15.6%) 35 . At a specific-level of diagnostic precision, Labrador Retrievers had higher odds of osteoarthritis (OR 2.83) compared to non- www.nature.com/scientificreports/ ...
... for neoplasia and 4.80-8.26% for mass disorders 27,28 . These results are supported by reported predispositions in Labrador Retrievers to neoplasms including lingual squamous cell carcinoma 70 , mast cell tumours [71][72][73] , soft tissue sarcoma 72 melanomas 74 and various neoplasms of the thoracic limb 75 . ...
... www.nature.com/scientificreports/ to a KC-registered breed based study which did not identify Labrador Retrievers with significantly higher or lower within breed prevalence of kennel cough compared to the prevalence across breeds overall 36 . Increased odds of coughing or upper respiratory tract disorders in Labrador Retrievers were not identified in the current study and the prevalence of these two conditions reported was similar to those reported previously by studies with similar methodologies 27,28 . Coughing is a pathognomonic presenting sign of the kennel cough syndrome that can involve a spectrum of infectious agents including viral, bacterial and Mycoplasma 77 . ...
Article
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The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide, therefore it is important to have reliable evidence on the general health issues of the breed. Using anonymised veterinary clinical data from the VetCompass Programme, this study aimed to explore the relative risk to common disorders in the Labrador Retriever. The clinical records of a random sample of dogs were reviewed to extract the most definitive diagnoses for all disorders recorded during 2016. A list of disorders was generated, including the 30 most common disorders in Labrador Retrievers and the 30 most common disorders in non-Labrador Retrievers. Multivariable logistic regression was used to report the odds of each of these disorders in 1462 (6.6%) Labrador Retrievers compared with 20,786 (93.4%) non-Labrador Retrievers. At a specific-level of diagnostic precision, after accounting for confounding, Labrador Retrievers had significantly increased odds of 12/35 (34.3%) disorders compared to non-Labrador Retrievers; osteoarthritis (OR 2.83) had the highest odds. Conversely, Labrador Retrievers had reduced odds of 7/35 (20.0%) disorders; patellar luxation (OR 0.18) had the lowest odds. This study provides useful information about breed-specific disorder predispositions and protections, which future research could evaluate further to produce definitive guidance for Labrador Retriever breeders and owners.
... The poodle breed itself is a water hound which enhances the behavior trait for excessive swimming, thus a higher likelihood of moist ear canals and Swimmer's ear [25]. This poodle predisposition may even be increased by crossing a poodle with a spaniel which is another predisposed breed type with pendulous pinnal carriage, or with a breed such as the Labrador Retriever that is prone to primary skin disease contributing to aural atopic disease [53][54][55]. Therefore, breeders of designer-types need to be wary to avoid selecting towards a phenotype that combines differing risk factors from parental breeds and therefore could increase disease risk in the first generation of puppies (often called the F1 hybrids) [56,57]. ...
... A report based on 273 dogs presenting to teaching and referral hospitals in India similarly identified higher prevalence of otitis externa in male dogs compared to females [24]. Several UK breed-based reports failed to identify sex-related differences for otitis externa [15,17,55,64]. However, a significantly higher prevalence of otitis externa in males compared to females has been reported in the West Highland White Terrier [16] and Chihuahua [65]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background Otitis externa is a commonly diagnosed disorder in dogs and can carry a high welfare impact on affected animals. This study aimed to report the prevalence and explore the role of breed and aural conformation as predisposing factors for canine otitis externa in the UK. The study used a cohort design of dogs under UK primary veterinary care at clinics participating in the VetCompass Programme during 2016. Risk factor analysis used multivariable logistic regression modelling. Results The study included a random sample of 22,333 dogs from an overall population of 905,554 dogs under veterinary care in 2016. The one-year period prevalence of otitis externa was 7.30% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 6.97 to 7.65). Breed and ear carriage were the highest ranked risk factors. Compared with crossbred dogs, sixteen breed types showed increased odds, including: Basset Hound (odds ratio [OR] 5.87), Chinese Shar Pei (OR 3.44), Labradoodle (OR 2.95), Beagle (OR 2.54) and Golden Retriever (OR 2.23). Four breeds showed protection (i.e. reduced odds) of otitis externa: Chihuahua (OR 0.20), Border Collie (OR 0.34), Yorkshire Terrier (OR 0.49) and Jack Russell Terrier (OR 0.52). Designer breed types overall had 1.63 times the odds (95% CI 1.31 to 2.03) compared with crossbred dogs. Compared with breeds with erect ear carriage, breeds with pendulous ear carriage had 1.76 times the odds (95% CI 1.48 to 2.10) and breeds with V-shaped drop ear carriage had 1.84 times the odds (95% CI 1.53 to 2.21) of otitis externa. Conclusions Breed itself and breed-associated ear carriage conformation are important predisposing factors for canine otitis externa. Greater awareness of these associations for both predisposed and protected breeds could support veterinary practitioners to promote cautious and low-harm approaches in their clinical advice on preventive care for otitis externa, especially in predisposed breeds.
... From the primary care studies that have been published, the breeds reported with frequent periodontal disease tended to be smaller sized dogs and include Yorkshire Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, Border Terriers and Poodles (Marshall et al. 2014, O'Neill et al. 2014, Wallis & Holcombe 2020. Medium-and large-sized breeds, including Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, German Shepherd Dogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, tended to be reported with lower frequencies of periodontal disease (O'Neill et al. 2017a, O'Neill et al. 2017c, McGreevy et al. 2018, Pegram et al. 2020. Greyhounds are a reported exception to this trend, with a recent study identifying 39% of Greyhounds under primary veterinary care in the UK as affected during a single year (O'Neill et al. 2019c). ...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives Periodontal disease is a frequent diagnosis of dogs and can have severe negative impacts on welfare. It was hypothesised that breeds with skull shapes that differ most in conformation from the moderate mesocephalic skull shape have higher odds of periodontal disease. Materials and Methods The cohort study included a random sample of dogs under primary veterinary care in 2016 from the VetCompass Programme database. Risk factor analysis used random effects multivariable logistic regression modelling. Results The study included a random sample of 22,333 dogs. The 1-year period prevalence for diagnosis with periodontal disease was 12.52% (95% CI: 12.09 to 12.97). Eighteen breeds showed increased odds compared with crossbred dogs. Breeds with the highest odds included Toy Poodle (odds ratio 3.97, 95% confidence intervals 2.21 to 7.13), King Charles Spaniel (odds ratio 2.63, 95% confidence interval 1.50 to 4.61), Greyhound (odds ratio 2.58, 95% confidence interval 1.75 to 3.80) and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (odds ratio 2.39, 95% confidence interval 1.85 to 3.09). Four breeds showed reduced odds compared with crossbreds. Brachycephalic breeds had 1.25 times the odds (95% confidence interval 1.11 to 1.42) of periodontal disease compared with mesocephalic breeds. Spaniel types had 1.63 times the odds (95% confidence interval 1.42 to 1.87) compared with non-spaniel types. Increasing adult bodyweight was associated with progressively decreasing odds of periodontal disease. Clinical Significance The high prevalence identified in this study highlights periodontal disease as a priority welfare concern for predisposed breeds. Veterinarians can use this information to promote improved dental care in predisposed dogs, especially as these dogs age.
... That study included 3,884 dogs from 89 clinics and identified the most frequently recorded disorders as otitis externa, periodontal disease and anal sac impaction. Following that original report on dogs overall, subsequent publications have reported the most common disorders within individual dog breeds and highlighted clearly differing disorder profiles between breeds: Border Terrier [24], Bulldog [25], Cavalier King Charles Spaniel [26], Chihuahua [27], French Bulldog [28], German Shepherd Dog [29], Greyhound [30], Labrador Retriever [31], Miniature Schnauzer [32], Pug [33], Rottweiler [34] and West Highland White Terrier [35]. These breed-specific studies also began to explore disorder associations with age, sex and neuter, and exposed the substantial complexity behind disorder occurrence in dogs. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background Although dogs are a commonly owned companion animal in the UK, the species experiences many health problems that are predictable from demographic information. This study aimed to use anonymised veterinary clinical data from the VetCompass™ Programme to report the frequency of common disorders of dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK during 2016 and to explore effects associated with age, sex and neuter status. Results From an available population of 905,543 dogs under veterinary care at 886 veterinary clinics during 2016, the current study included a random sample of 22,333 (2.47 %) dogs from 784 clinics. Prevalence for each disorder was calculated at the most refined level of diagnostic certainty (precise-level precision) and after grouping to a more general level of diagnostic precision (grouped-level precision). The most prevalent precise-level precision disorders recorded were periodontal disease (prevalence 12.52 %, 95 % CI: 12.09–12.97), otitis externa (7.30 %, 95 % CI: 6.97–7.65) and obesity (7.07 %, 95 % CI: 6.74–7.42). The most prevalent grouped-level disorders were dental disorder (14.10 %, 95 % CI: 13.64–14.56), skin disorder (12.58 %, 95 % CI: 12.15–13.02) and enteropathy (10.43 %, 95 % CI: 10.04–10.84). Associations were identified for many common disorders with age, sex and neuter. Conclusions The overall findings can assist veterinarians and owners to prioritise preventive care and to understand demographic risk factors in order to facilitate earlier diagnosis of common disorders in dogs. The information on associations with age, sex and neuter status provides additional contextual background to the complexity of disorder occurrence and supports targeted health controls for demographic subsets of dogs.
... In Labrador Retrievers, coat color is associated with a number of disease conditions, likely through positive selection pressure resulting from artificial selection [23,24]. We found no association with pNfL concentration and coat color in this study population. ...
Article
Full-text available
Plasma neurofilament light chain (pNfL) concentration is a biomarker for neuroaxonal injury and degeneration and can be used to monitor response to treatment. Spontaneous canine neurodegenerative diseases are a valuable comparative resource for understanding similar human conditions and as large animal treatment models. The features of pNfL concentration in healthy dogs is not well established. We present data reporting basic pNfL concentration trends in the Labrador Retriever breed. Fifty-five Labrador Retrievers were enrolled. pNfL concentration was measured and correlated to age, sex, neuter status, height, weight, body mass index, and coat color. We found increased pNfL with age (P < 0.0001), shorter stature (P = 0.009) and decreased body weight (P < 0.001). These are similar to findings reported in humans. pNfL concentration did not correlate with sex, BMI or coat color. This data further supports findings that pNfL increase with age in a canine population but highlights a need to consider weight and height when determining normal pNfL concentration in canine populations.
Article
Full-text available
A life table is a tabulated expression of life expectancy and mortality-related information at specified ages in a given population. This study utilised VetCompass data to develop life tables for the UK companion dog population and broken down by sex, Kennel Club breed group, and common breeds. Among 30,563 dogs that died between 1st January 2016 and 31st July 2020, life expectancy at age 0 was 11.23 [95% confidence interval (CI): 11.19–11.27] years. Female dogs (11.41 years; 95% CI: 11.35–11.47) had a greater life expectancy than males (11.07 years; 95% CI: 11.01–11.13) at age 0. Life tables varied widely between breeds. Jack Russell Terrier (12.72 years; 95% CI: 12.53–12.90) and French Bulldog (4.53 years; 95% CI: 4.14–5.01) had the longest and shortest life expectancy at age 0, respectively. Life tables generated by the current study allow a deeper understanding of the varied life trajectory across many types of dogs and offer novel insights and applications to improve canine health and welfare. The current study helps promote further understanding of life expectancy, which will benefit pet owners and the veterinary profession, along with many other sectors.
Article
Full-text available
Background: Cutaneous neoplastic diseases are the most and second-most frequently reported tumors in male and female dogs, respectively. The aims of this study were to report the occurrence of canine cutaneous tumors in a pathology laboratory located in Northern Portugal between 2014 and 2020, and to characterize and categorize the anatomical locations, breed, age, and sex of the animals affected with different types of neoplasms. Results: Throughout the 7-year study, 1,185 cases were diagnosed as cutaneous tumors, with 62.9% being classified as benign, and 37.1% as malignant. Mast cell tumors (22.7%) were the most frequently diagnosed tumor type, followed by benign soft tissue tumors (9.7%), sebaceous gland tumors (8.1%), vascular tumors (7.9%) and soft tissue sarcomas (7.6%). Cutaneous tumors commonly exhibited multicentric occurrence (14.6%) followed by single occurrence in hindlimb (12.1%), forelimb (8.6%), buttock (7.1%), abdominal (6.5%) and costal (5.2%) areas. The odds of developing cutaneous neoplasia were higher with increasing age (p < 0.001). Females had an increased odds of developing skin tumors compared to males (crude OR = 2.99, 95% (2.51, 3.55); adj OR = 2.93, 95% (2.46, 3.49). Purebred dogs, as a group, showed a reduced odds of developing cutaneous tumors when compared to mixed-breed dogs (crude OR = 0.63, 95% (0.53, 0.74); adj OR = 0.75, 95% (0.62, 0.89). Conclusions: Mast cell tumors, benign soft tissue tumors and sebaceous tumors were the most common histotypes encountered. The epidemiological survey achieved with this study demonstrates the relative frequency of different types of tumors in this particular population. Furthermore, the results herein achieved can act as a basis or a beneficial reference for local veterinarians helping in the establishment of a preliminary and presumptive diagnosis of canine cutaneous tumors histotypes. Skin tumors are the most and second-most frequently reported tumors in male and female dogs, respectively. The aim of this study was to report the occurrence of canine skin tumors in a diagnostic pathology laboratory located in Northern Portugal, between 2014-2020 and to characterize the anatomical distributions, breed, age, and sex of the animals affected by different skin tumors. During this period, 1,185 cases were diagnosed as skin tumors; 62.9% were diagnosed as benign, while 37.1% were malignant. Mast cell tumors (22.7%) were the most frequently diagnosed neoplasia, followed by benign soft tissue tumors (9.7%), sebaceous gland tumors (8.1%), vascular tumors (7.9%) and soft tissue sarcomas (7.6%). Skin tumors commonly developed in more than one location (14.6%) followed by solitary development in hindlimb (12.1%), forelimb (8.6%), buttock (7.1%), abdominal (6.5%) and costal (5.2%) areas. An increased odds of developing skin neoplasms as the patient's age increase was detected. Females showed an increased odds in comparison to male dogs. Purebred dogs presented decreased odds for developing skin tumors in comparison to mixed-breed dogs. The information relevance achieved with this study demonstrates the relative frequency of different types of tumors in this particular population, acting as a basis or a beneficial reference for regional veterinarians when providing an initial diagnosis of canine skin tumors.
Article
Objective: To determine the longevity of the working life of gundogs in the UK, whether owners' considered retirement was premature and to identify risk factors associated with such work. Sample population: Six hundred sixty-five dogs METHODS: A web-based survey seeking owner information as to the longevity of their dogs' working life and why they were retired, euthanised or died. Results: The median age at which Springer spaniels stopped work was 11 years and for Cocker spaniels, it was 9 years. The median age for Labrador retrievers was 10 years; for Golden retrievers, 11 years and Flat-coated retrievers, 9.5 years. Cocker spaniels stopped work at a significantly younger age than Springer spaniels (p = 0.0003) or Labrador retrievers (p = 0.0407). There was no significant difference between the other major breeds. The majority of owners (54.3%) were satisfied with the working lifespan of their dog. Seventy per cent of dogs were retired, the three most prevalent reasons being lameness (25.2%), old age (23.7%) and deafness (7.8%). Forty-four dogs died (6.6%) and 158 (24%) were euthanised, with cancer (58%) being the most common reason. Conclusions: No work-related issues were identified and gundogs appear to have similar causes of mortality to the general canine population.
Article
Background: In early 2020, the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network reported evidence of an outbreak of acute prolific vomiting in dogs in the UK. The aims of this study were to investigate whether there was evidence for a vomiting outbreak in Dogslife and Google Trends data and to describe its characteristics. Methods: Incidence of Dogslife vomiting reports and the Google search index for 'dog vomiting' and 'puppy vomiting' between December 2019 and March 2020 was compared to the respective data from the same months in previous years. Risks for dogs vomiting and factors influencing veterinary attendance in Dogslife were identified using multivariable logistic regression. Results: This study confirmed a vomiting outbreak was evident in UK dogs between December 2019 and March 2020 using data from Dogslife and Google Trends. The odds of a vomiting incident being reported to Dogslife was 1.51 (95% CI: 1.24-1.84) in comparison to previous years. Dogslife data identified differences in owner-decision making when seeking veterinary attention and identified factors associated with dogs at higher odds of experiencing a vomiting episode. Conclusion: Owner-derived data including questionnaires and internet search queries should be considered a valid, valuable source of information for veterinary population health surveillance.
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Cirneco dell’Etna is an old Italian breed of scent hunting dogs. Commonly used genomic measures such as heterozygosity, fixation indexes, and runs of homozygosity can help to improve knowledge about its genetic diversity. This study aimed to: (i) investigate Cirneco’s genomic background, (ii) quantify its genomic inbreeding, and (iii) detect genomic regions differentiating the Cirneco’s two allowed coat colours, self-coloured fawn and tan and white. Canine 230 K SNP BeadChips was used to investigate 24 Cirneco (19 self-coloured fawn, and 5 tan and white) and other 106 dogs from eight phylogenetically and historically related breeds. The genetic distance, ancestry, and relationship among breeds were explored by multidimensional scaling, Reynolds distances, phylogenetic tree, and admixture analysis. The genomic inbreeding (F ROH) was calculated for each breed. Averaged Wright’s fixation index F ¯ ST was used to identify the genes that most differentiated the two groups of Cirneco. All analyses highlighted that Segugio Italiano and Kelb tal Fenek are the closest breeds to Cirneco. Within the breed, tan and white subjects showed a more heterogeneous genetic background and a lower inbreeding in comparison with self-coloured fawn ones, even though more than half of the latter presented a superimposable admixture. The gene that most differentiated these two groups is Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor (MITF), previously associated with white spotting in other breeds. Given the small size of the Cirneco population and its open registry, its management should carefully combine morphological and genealogical evaluations with genetic tools to identify the best breeders while maintaining an acceptable genetic pool. • Highlights • The genomic analysis demonstrated that Segugio Italiano and Kelb tal Fenek are genetically related to the Cirneco. • The MITF gene is responsible for white blazing in Cirneco as in many other dog breeds. • Genomic tools should be integrated with phenotypic and genealogic evaluations in the management of Italian autochthonous dog breeds to safeguard their welfare and biodiversity.
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Background Despite its Gallic name, the French Bulldog is a breed of both British and French origin that was first recognised by The Kennel Club in 1906. The French Bulldog has demonstrated recent rapid rises in Kennel Club registrations and is now (2017) the second most commonly registered pedigree breed in the UK. However, the breed has been reported to be predisposed to several disorders including ocular, respiratory, neurological and dermatological problems. The VetCompass™ Programme collates de-identified clinical data from primary-care veterinary practices in the UK for epidemiological research. Using VetCompass™ clinical data, this study aimed to characterise the demography and common disorders of the general population of French Bulldogs under veterinary care in the UK. Results French Bulldogs comprised 2228 (0.49%) of 445,557 study dogs under veterinary care during 2013. Annual proportional birth rates showed that the proportional ownership of French Bulldog puppies rose steeply from 0.02% of the annual birth cohort attending VetCompass™ practices in 2003 to 1.46% in 2013. The median age of the French Bulldogs overall was 1.3 years (IQR 0.6–2.5, range 0.0–13.0). The most common colours of French Bulldogs were brindle (solid or main) (32.36%) and fawn (solid or main) (29.9%). Of the 2228 French Bulldogs under veterinary care during 2013, 1612 (72.4%) had at least one disorder recorded. The most prevalent fine-level precision disorders recorded were otitis externa (14.0%, 95% CI: 12.6–15.5), diarrhoea (7.5%, 95% CI: 6.4–8.7), conjunctivitis (3.2%, 95% CI: 2.5–4.0), nails overlong (3.1%, 95% CI% 2.4–3.9) and skin fold dermatitis (3.0%, 95% CI% 2.3–3.8). The most prevalent disorder groups were cutaneous (17.9%, 95% CI: 16.3–19.6), enteropathy (16.7%, 95% CI: 15.2–18.3), aural (16.3%, 95% CI: 14.8–17.9), upper respiratory tract (12.7%, 95% CI: 11.3–14.1) and ophthalmological (10.5%, 95% CI: 9.3–11.9). Conclusions Ownership of French Bulldogs in the UK is rising steeply. This means that the disorder profiles reported in this study reflect a current young UK population and are likely to shift as this cohort ages. Otitis externa, diarrhoea and conjunctivitis were the most common disorders in French Bulldogs. Identification of health priorities based on VetCompass™ data can support evidence–based reforms to improve health and welfare within the breed.
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Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease diagnosed in veterinary medicine and poses considerable challenges to canine welfare. This study aimed to investigate prevalence, duration and risk factors of appendicular osteoarthritis in dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK. The VetCompassTMprogramme collects clinical data on dogs attending UK primary-care veterinary practices. The study included all VetCompassTMdogs under veterinary care during 2013. Candidate osteoarthritis cases were identified using multiple search strategies. A random subset was manually evaluated against a case definition. Of 455,557 study dogs, 16,437 candidate osteoarthritis cases were identified; 6104 (37%) were manually checked and 4196 (69% of sample) were confirmed as cases. Additional data on demography, clinical signs, duration and management were extracted for confirmed cases. Estimated annual period prevalence (accounting for subsampling) of appendicular osteoarthritis was 2.5% (CI95: 2.4-2.5%) equating to around 200,000 UK affected dogs annually. Risk factors associated with osteoarthritis diagnosis included breed (e.g. Labrador, Golden Retriever), being insured, being neutered, of higher bodyweight and being older than eight years. Duration calculation trials suggest osteoarthritis affects 11.4% of affected individuals' lifespan, providing further evidence for substantial impact of osteoarthritis on canine welfare at the individual and population level.
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Background The Border Terrier is a working terrier type that is generally considered to be a relatively healthy and hardy breed. This study aimed to characterise the demography and common disorders of Border Terriers receiving veterinary care in England using de-identified electronic patient record data within the VetCompass™ Programme. ResultsAnnual birth proportion for Border Terriers showed a decreasing trend from 1.46% in 2005 to 0.78% in 2014. The median adult bodyweight for males (10.9 kg, IQR: 9.6–12.3, range: 6.3–25.0) was higher than for females (9.1 kg, IQR: 8.2–10.3, range: 5.2–21.6) (P < 0.001). The median longevity was 12.7 years (IQR 9.3–14.3, range 1.0–17.5).The most prevalent fine-level disorders recorded were periodontal disease (17.63%, 95% CI: 15.62–19.79), overweight/obesity (7.01%, 95% CI: 5.69–8.52) and otitis externa (6.71%, 95% CI: 5.42–8.19). The most prevalent grouped-level precision disorders were dental disorder (18.54%, 95% CI: 16.48–20.74), enteropathy (11.68%, 95% CI: 10.00–13.53), and skin disorder (10.17%, 95% CI: 8.60–11.93).Syndromic analysis showed that the most prevalent body locations affected were the head-and-neck (37.75%, 95% CI: 35.14–40.43), abdomen (18.61%, 95% CI: 16.55–20.81) and limb (11.53%, 95% CI: 9.86–13.37). At least one organ system was affected in 834 (62.85%) Border Terriers. The most prevalent organ systems affected were the digestive (32.03%, 95% CI: 29.52–34.61), integument (26.68%, 95% CI: 24.31–29.14), connective/soft tissue (11.15%, 95% CI: 9.51–12.97) and auditory (9.87%, 95% CI: 8.32–11.60). At least one affected pathophysiological process was described in 881 (66.39%) Border Terriers. The most prevalent pathophysiologic processes recorded were inflammation (31.65%, 95% CI: 29.15–34.23), nutritional (9.04%, 95% CI: 7.55–10.72), mass/swelling (8.89%, 95% CI: 7.42–10.55), traumatic (7.99%, 95% CI: 6.59–9.58) and infectious (7.76%, 95% CI: 6.38–9.33). Conclusions This study documented a trend towards reducing ownership and relatively long-livedness in the Border Terrier. The most common disorders were periodontal disease, overweight/obesity and otitis externa. Predisposition to dental and neurological disease was suggested. These results can provide a comprehensive evidence resource to support breed-based health plans that can contribute positively to reforms to improve health and welfare within the breed.
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Background Rottweilers are reportedly predisposed to many disorders but accurate prevalence information relating to the general population are lacking. This study aimed to describe demography, mortality and commonly recorded diseases in Rottweilers under UK veterinary care. Clinical health records within the VetCompass Programme were explored for disorders recorded during 2013. Results Rottweilers comprised 5321 (1.17%) of 455,557 dogs attending 304 clinics. Annual proportional birth rates dropped from 1.75% in 2006 to 1.07% in 2013. Median adult bodyweight overall was 44.9 kg (IQR 39.55–51.00, range 20.00–88.80). Median male adult bodyweight (48.5 kg, interquartile range [IQR] 43.0–54.0, range 20.0–88.8) was heavier than female (41.5 kg, IQR 37.0–46.4, range 21.1–73.5) (P < 0.001). Median longevity overall was 9.0 years (IQR 7.2–10.5, range 0.0–17.0). Median female longevity (9.5 years, IQR 7.8–11.0) was greater than male (8.7 years, IQR 6.8–10.1) (P = 0.002). The most common causes of death were neoplasia (33.0%), inability to stand (16.0%) and mass-associated disorder (7.1%). At least one disorder was recorded for 60.31% of Rottweilers. The most prevalent specific disorders recorded were aggression (7.46%, 95% CI 6.40–8.64), overweight/obesity (7.06%, 95% CI: 6.02–8.21), otitis externa (6.14%, 95% CI: 5.18–7.23) and degenerative joint disease (4.69%, 95% CI: 3.84–5.66). Male Rottweilers had higher prevalence than females for aggression (9.36% versus 5.47%, P = 0.001) and pyotraumatic dermatitis (4.05% versus 1.76%, P = 0.001). Aggression was more prevalent in neutered than entire females (7.5% versus 3.1%, P = 0.003) but did not differ between neutered and entire males (9.6% versus 9.0%, P = 0.773). The most frequent disorder groups were musculoskeletal (12.01%, 95% CI: 10.69–13.45), dermatological (10.96%, 95% CI: 9.69–12.35), gastro-intestinal (195, 8.87%, 95% CI: 7.72–10.14), undesirable behaviour (7.96%, 95% CI: 6.87–9.18) and neoplasia (7.96%, 95% CI: 6.87–9.18). Conclusions The current study assists prioritisation of health issues within Rottweilers. Rottweilers are relatively short-lived and neoplasia is a common cause of death. The most common disorders were aggression, overweight/obesity, otitis externa and degenerative joint disease. Males were significantly heavier, shorter-lived and predisposed to aggression than females. These results can alert prospective owners to potential health issues and optimise sex selection decision-making.
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Background The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) has been widely used for a variety of working roles. However, concerns for the health and welfare of the GSD have been widely aired and there is evidence that breed numbers are now in decline in the UK. Accurate demographic and disorder data could assist with breeding and clinical prioritisation. The VetCompassTM Programme collects clinical data on dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK. This study included all VetCompassTM dogs under veterinary care during 2013. Demographic, mortality and clinical diagnosis data on GSDs were extracted and reported. Results GSDs dropped from 3.5% of the annual birth cohort in 2005 to 2.2% in 2013. The median longevity of GSDs was 10.3 years (IQR 8.0–12.1, range 0.2–17.0). The most common causes of death were musculoskeletal disorder (16.3%) and inability to stand (14.9%). The most prevalent disorders recorded were otitis externa (n = 131, 7.89, 95% CI: 6.64–9.29), osteoarthritis (92, 5.54%, 95% CI: 4.49–6.75), diarrhoea (87, 5.24%, 95% CI: 4.22–6.42), overweight/obesity (86, 5.18%, 95% CI: 4.16–6.36) and aggression (79, 4.76%, 95% CI: 3.79–5.90). Conclusions This study identified that GSDs have been reducing in numbers in the UK in recent years. The most frequent disorders in GSDs were otitis externa, osteoarthritis, diarrhoea, overweight/obesity and aggression, whilst the most common causes of death were musculoskeletal disorders and inability to stand. Aggression was more prevalent in males than in females. These results may assist veterinarians to offer evidence-based advice at a breed level and help to identify priorities for GSD health that can improve the breed’s health and welfare.
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Dogslife collects data directly from owners of Labrador Retrievers across the UK including information regarding signs of illness irrespective of whether the signs precipitated a veterinary visit. In December 2015, the cohort comprised 6084 dogs aged up to six years and their owners had made 2687 and 2601 reports of diarrhoea and vomiting respectively. The co-occurrence of vomiting and diarrhoea with other signs was described and the frequencies and durations of the two signs were examined with reference to veterinary visitation. Age-specific illness rates were described and Cox Proportional Hazards models were used to estimate risk factors. Just 37% of diarrhoea reports were associated with a veterinary visit and the proportion was even lower for vomiting at 28%; indicating that studies of veterinary practice data miss the majority of signs of gastrointestinal upset. In terms of frequency and duration, diarrhoea typically needed to last two days before the dog would be taken to the vet but if the dog vomited at least every six hours, the owner would be more likely to take the dog to the vet after one day. The illness rates of both signs peaked when the dogs were aged between three and six months. There was also a seasonal pattern to the incidents with the lowest hazards for both in May. Diarrhoea incidents peaked in August-September each year but, while vomiting appeared to be higher in September, it peaked in February. Having another dog in the household was associated with a lower hazard for both vomiting and diarrhoea but having a cat was only associated with a reduced hazard of vomiting. In addition to the distinct seasonal patterns of reporting, there were clear differences in the geographic risks for the two signs. The hazard of diarrhoea was positively associated with human population density within Great Britain (according to home post code) whereas no significant geographical association was found with vomiting. This study is particularly relevant for dog owners because it highlights the wealth of gastrointestinal illnesses in dogs that are dealt with by owners but never seen by veterinarians. The risk factor analyses make use of owner-reported demographic information, highlighting the differences between vomiting and diarrhoea. The analyses give rise to the possibility that the presence of other pets in households may affect rates of illness and indicate new avenues for investigations of these distinct, and oft-suffered conditions.
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Dogs and humans have evolved alongside one another over a long period of time but all is not well in the ‘Land of Dog’. We breed from dogs with negligible emphasis on temperament, even though problem behaviours are the main trigger for euthanasia in young dogs. We want dogs that are devoted to us but somehow expect them to cope when left alone. We persistently frustrate our canine companions by ignoring what they truly value. This book is about dogs’ needs and how we can improve our understanding of dogs and how best to look after them in the 21st century. Drawing on the latest research and my expertise as a veterinary behaviourist who has spent a lifetime with dogs, my aim is to suggest a new approach to owning a dog. I hope to explain why dogs thrive on three key things: fun, exercise and training. Most importantly, I offer fresh ideas about how we, as dog owners, can help our dog meet these needs. Salman Rushdie described dogs as the ‘loving, half-comprehending, half-mystified aliens who live within our homes’. A Modern Dog’s Life looks at aspects of our behaviour that are particularly mystifying to dogs and establishes why dogs may never comprehend some of our characteristics and tendencies. It also examines features of dog management that many owners struggle to get right – and sets out some blunt home truths about the realities of keeping a dog. Ultimately, A Modern Dog’s Life is for anyone who wants to understand more and therefore demystify their dog. Its aim is to help you to become a better dog-watcher, team player, caregiver, companion and life-coach by knowing when and how to intervene. This is not a book about the charm of dogs or the many ways of caring for them. There are hundreds of such books already out there. Instead, my premise is that owning a dog takes time and thought and is not always a pleasure. Despite figures pushed out annually by pet food manufacturers as they insist that pets are good for our health, we all know that dogs can also cause tremendous distress to humans around them, and not only to their owners. This book asks why dogs can be distressing and why they get distressed. It offers solutions to some common doggy dilemmas but does not shy away from the fact that many dogs lead less than ideal lives. In a sense then, this book is for those who strive to do the best for their dogs rather than those who need to get the best out of their dogs. My aim with this book is to deliver insights and challenges that prompt you to reflect on your own dog’s behaviour. All the dogs you have shared time with offer examples of the concepts I describe. When exploring the unwelcome consequences of our actions on the welfare of dogs, I promise not to use the trite and inadequate remark: How would you like it? This is not useful because our chief challenge is to think like dogs rather than expect them to have the same sensitivities we have. My pledge is to avoid interpreting dog behaviours in human terms. Any statement suggesting that dogs are almost human is, for many dog enthusiasts, nothing short of an insult. In return, I encourage you to use my reflections to improve the lot of the dogs you know now or are yet to meet. This book gives dogs the benefit of the doubt (and of the latest research) when it comes to their feelings, but never assumes that they have human intelligence. Dogs have canine intelligence – for them, a far more useful attribute. As we gather more information on dogs and their behaviour, we begin to realise how much there is still to discover. Humans owe dogs a great deal, and vice versa. We have co-evolved, exploiting one another to various degrees. Indeed, we continue to do so in novel ways that I note throughout this book. If dogs were to become scientists, I believe they would be baying for more funding for studies touched on by A Modern Dog’s Life. What is ‘natural behaviour’ for a dog? Dog keeping may be as old as hunting, grunting and cave painting, but studying domestic dogs in family homes is a complex business. Each dog’s behaviour and motivation may seem clear enough but they usually reflect human differences. One family may lavish attention on their dog while another virtually ignores theirs. One person within a family may be a great trainer while another, within the same household, may be inconsistent or incompetent. If we want to understand dog behaviour as clearly as possible, the most helpful observations come from populations of free-ranging dogs living ‘in the wild’, uncontaminated by direct contact with humans. No collars, no leashes, no bowls, no beds, no fences. Such dogs come from the same stock as our domesticated dogs but live separate from humans. Completely unpolluted data can be very difficult to obtain. Although free-ranging dogs tend to stay away from disruptive and dangerous human activity, they often are still affected by people. Even dogs living on a garbage tip can be influenced by the humans who deliver the rubbish, while those hiding in remote forests and waste ground can be disturbed by human activity at the boundaries of their territory. Dogs considered feral may have been dumped as pups and so are products of the human–dog interaction. Traditionally, we have tended to regard the wolf as the perfect model of what dogs are like without human interference. To an extent, this is entirely valid since we believe dogs evolved from wolves. The domestic dog is a subspecies of its ancestor, the grey wolf. Indeed, at times in the chapters that follow, I will refer to the grey wolf as ‘Uncle Wolf’ as a nickname for the archetypal lupine forebear. And to save time, when offering examples of free-ranging or feral dog behaviour, I shall refer to them as ‘Feral Cheryl’. The critical DNA sequences of the domestic dog differ from those of the grey wolf by only 0.2%. This means the two are very closely related and explains why they can interbreed. By contrast, the difference between the grey wolf and its closest wild relative, the coyote, is around 4%. Given that dogs and wolves are virtually indistinguishable genetically, the enormous variation in body size and shape in the dog is truly remarkable. For example, whereas an adult wolf usually weighs around 45 kg, an adult dog can weigh between 1.2 and 90 kg (obesity can send this upper limit even higher – but more of that in chapter 6, ‘Sex, disease and ageing’). The breadth of behavioural differences that accompany these variations is also extraordinary. Did you know? During the process of domestication and the development of breeds, the skull characteristics of dogs have changed considerably. Skull length in adult dogs can vary between 7 and 28 cm, whereas in adult wolves it is around 30 cm. Unsurprisingly, the organs within the skull have also changed. For example, the brain-to-bodyweight ratio of domestic dogs is one-third of that in wolves, so a 45 kg wolf has a brain three times heavier than a 45 kg dog. Although it is clearly flawed to suppose that a dog is a dog is a dog, with this statistic in mind, I’ve become interested in how the entire nervous system, including the brain, may differ from one breed to another. Clearly, differences in the nervous system have profound implications for the difference in behaviour of different breeds. Although the wolf is a popular model for canine behaviour, Australian dingoes are probably a better one. Sadly, they are under threat in their pure state, because there are now so few that have not been crossed with modern breeds. However, their behaviour is more that of the unfettered dog than any wolf’s will ever be. Behaviourally, dingoes respond to their pack members in ways that are rarely evident in wolf packs. For example, adult dingoes play with one another far more than adult wolves; they vocalise more and are generally more flexible in their responses to strangers. In these ways they are typical of dogs. These behavioural differences are just the tip of the iceberg, since the assumption that all dogs behave the same way is as flawed as the notion that they all look the same. Breeds, after all, were originally the physical manifestation of the human desire to distil particular behavioural traits, often accompanied by recognisable shapes, colour and coat lengths that can act as markers for those behaviours. As we explore the science of dog behaviour we must accept that much of what we think we know is still only speculation. It would surprise most dog owners to discover that academic animal behaviour journals report many more studies on bees than on dogs. Why? The average person spends a great deal more time with dogs than with bees so surely we need to know more about dog packs than bee swarms? Purists might argue that bees are more interesting than dogs to serious students of animal behaviour (ethologists) because their behaviour is less the product of human interference in the form of genetic selection and husbandry. It is almost as if familiarity has bred ignorance. Happily, I can report that domesticated species have recently become the focus of vigorous scientific study as the field of applied ethology emerges to help solve behavioural problems. The bad news is that, among the domestic species being studied, dogs are bringing up the rear because they are regarded as less important than more commercially productive species, such as pigs, cattle and chickens. Perhaps this is a small price to pay for dogs not being regarded as a food source in the Western world (although, with the advent of fusion cuisine, Chow Chow and chips may not be that far away!). A note of caution With any research effort, it always pays to ask: Who funds the study? Usually, costs are justified if there is a human benefit. Wealthy countries that use dogs in military service devote significant dollars to researching their behaviour. Pet food manufacturers often fund studies that explore the benefits of pet ownership and ways in which pet ownership can be made easier. Guide-dog associations may support studies that make dogs generally healthier or more successful in training. All of the above have human benefits: war dogs keep us safe from terrorism, pet dogs keep us happy, and guide-dogs keep partially sighted people from becoming partially flattened. Given that most research benefits humans, what about studies that benefit dogs? Much of the work some stakeholders would not wish to be associated with is funded by animal-welfare charities. Conspicuously little has been done in this domain but the strides that have been made recently should be celebrated. That is part of what I hope to achieve with A Modern Dog’s Life. I also hope to excite you with the prospect of a rosier future for ‘dogdom’.
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Background: The Pug is an ancient dog breed and was the fifth most commonly registered UK pedigree breed in 2014. However, the breed has been reported to be predisposed to several disorders including ocular, respiratory and dermatological problems. The VetCompass Programme collates de-identified clinical data from primary-care veterinary practices in the UK for epidemiological research. Using VetCompass clinical data, this study aimed to characterise the demography and common disorders of the general population of Pugs under veterinary care in England. Results: Pugs comprised 2709 (1.03 %) of 264,260 study dogs under veterinary care from September 1(st), 2009 to 30(th) April, 2015. Annual proportional birth rates showed that Pugs rose from less than 1 % of annual birth cohorts before 2008 to comprise 2.8 % of the 2013 annual birth cohort. The most common colours of Pugs were fawn (63.1 %), black (27.7 %), apricot (7.6 %) and silver (2.1 %). Of the 1009 pugs under veterinary care in the study during 2013, 688 (68.19 %) had at least one disorder recorded. The most prevalent disorders recorded overall were overweight/obesity (number of events: 133, prevalence: 13.18 %, 95 % CI: 11.12-15.43), corneal disorder (88, 8.72 %, 95 % CI: 7.05-10.63) and otitis externa (76, 7.53 %, 95 % CI: 5.98-9.34). The most prevalent disorder groups were ophthalmological (n = 164, prevalence: 16.25 %, 95 % CI: 14.03-18.68), dermatological (157, 15.60 %, 95 % CI: 13.38-17.95) and aural (152, 15.06 %, 95 % CI: 12.91-17.42). The most prevalent body locations affected were the head-and-neck (n = 439, prevalence = 43.51 %, 95 % CI: 40.42-46.63) and abdomen (195, 19.33 %, 95 % CI: 16.93-21.90). The most prevalent organ systems affected were the integument (321, 31.81 %, 95 % CI: 28.15-35.72) and digestive (257, 25.47 %, 95 % CI: 22.54-28.65). The most prevalent pathophysiologic processes recorded were inflammation (386, 38.26 %, 95 % CI: 34.39-42.27) and congenital/developmental (153, 15.16 %, 95 % CI: 12.61-18.13). Conclusions: Ownership of Pugs in England is rising steeply. Overweight/obesity, corneal disorder and otitis externa are the most common disorders in Pugs. Identification of health priorities based on VetComapss data can support evidence-based reforms to improve health and welfare within the breed.
Book
It is widely accepted that almost all dog and cat breeds have specific diseases to which they are particularly prone (i.e. predisposed). Indeed, many textbooks and published research papers include lists of breed predispositions as a standard feature when describing specific disease conditions. To extend this focus, the first edition of Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats, published in 2004, aimed to provide a single reference resource for breed predispositions that would better illuminate our understanding of breed health (Gough & Thomas, 2004). The concept for the first edition was born during discussions between the two original authors (Alex Gough and Alison Thomas) while preparing for their RCVS Certificate in Small Animal Medicine exams in 2001. This book was the first of its kind to focus purely on breed-specific predispositions and was widely welcomed by academics, veterinarians, breeders and owners. That original edition was compiled mainly from secondary sources of evidence such as textbooks, reviews and conference proceedings and did not provide detailed reference citations for all the breed-disease combinations reported. The second edition, published in 2010, redressed many of these shortcomings and was updated with more recent publications while also ensuring that every cited disease had at least one supporting reference. However, much of the disease information still came from secondary sources such as textbooks, review articles and conference proceedings. The implication of this was that the second edition was substantially reliant on expert opinion. At that time, almost a decade ago, this approach may have been acceptable, but as we progress into the modern age of evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM), expert opinion is now generally considered to be weak evidence, and reliance should instead be placed on the results of original research (Holmes & Ramey, 2007).
Article
Otitis externa in dogs is a very common clinical problem encountered in general practice; it is also a very frustrating one to treat, especially when cases are recurrent. Many organisms can be implicated in cases of otitis, including Gram-positive cocci, Gram-negative rods, such as Pseudomonas, and the yeast Malassezia pachydermatis. This article will focus on the investigation and treatment of cases of Pseudomonas otitis. Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://www.bmj.com/company/products-services/rights-and-licensing/.