Canine mortality: Veterinary researchers conduct 20-year study of dog breed diseases, death rates


Two decades of mortality data is analyzed by breed, age and size.

Athens, Ga.

— It’s commonly accepted that large-breed dogs have shorter lifespans than small-breed dogs, but a new 20-year retrospective by researchers at the University of Georgia offers additional details about canine mortality trends.

Toy breeds like Chihuahuas (19 percent of deaths) are known to have high rates of cardiovascular disease, but Dr. Kate Creevy, assistant professor in the University of Georgia (UGA) College of Veterinary Medicine, and Daniel Promislow, a genetics professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, say Fox Terriers trailed Chihuahuas by just 3 percent. Additionally, Golden retrievers and boxers have been noted to suffer from cancer at a high rate (50 and 47 percent of deaths, respectively), but the more rare breed Bouvier des Flandres actually dies from cancer more frequently than the boxer (47 percent of deaths is Bouvier).

“With rare breeds, an individual veterinarian may not see enough cases to be able to develop the opinion on whether the breed has a high incidence of conditions such as cancer,” Creevy says. “But if you analyze records that have been compiled over 20 years, you can detect patterns that you wouldn’t notice otherwise.”

Overall, Creevy and Promislow found that larger dogs most often die of muskoskeletal and gastrointestinal diseases or cancer. Smaller breeds most often died from metabolic diseases, the study notes. Additionally, younger dogs most often died of gastrointestinal or infectious diseases, while causes of death in older dogs shifted to neurologic and neoplastic causes.

The study breaks down a number of causes of death according to age, breed and breed size. Researchers, led by Dr. Jamie Fleming of Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists, used records from the Veterinary Medical Database (VMDB), established in 1964 by the National Cancer Institute. Data was culled from records of 74,556 canine deaths from 1984 to 2004, according the study, which was published in the current edition of the

Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine


See more details from the study in the June edition of

DVM Newsmagazine


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