Published: 18 Apr 2018 | Last Updated: 04 Jul 2023 14:35:05

A Royal Veterinary College (RVC) veterinary researcher has been involved in an exciting collaboration to create a single resource, in an easy-to-read book format, that identifies the health issues that each dog and cat breed is predisposed to. Until now, owners have struggled to find information about the diseases their breeds are prone to because this information was often scattered across thousands of scholarly articles in academic journals. Now, following exhaustive research that examined thousands of peer-reviewed publications on dog and cat health, three veterinary surgeon researchers have finally collated all this information into a single book source for owners, vets, breeders and students. 

The research is published in a new book, entitled ‘Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats 3rd Edition’.Overall, 2,400 breed-disease predispositions were identified across 739 diseases and 200 breeds of dogs. The book also identifies predisposed diseases in 45 cat breeds. Analysis of the overall information in the book revealed some fascinating key insights:

  • German Shepherd Dogs (77 conditions), Boxers (76 conditions), Labrador Retrievers (70 conditions and Golden retrievers (66 conditions) had the highest reported count of predispositions to health issues of all the dog breeds.
  • The most commonly reported predispositions in dogs were cataract (30.6% of breeds affected, 2.6% of all reported diseases), hip dysplasia (22.3% of breeds affected, 1.9% of all reported diseases), patellar luxation (20.9% of breeds affected, 1.7% of all reported diseases) and progressive retinal atrophy (16.5% of breeds affected, 1.4% of all reported diseases).   
  • Overall, 65.1% of breeds were affected by at least one eye condition, 60.1% by at least one musculoskeletal condition and 55.3% by at least one neurological condition.
  • Flat-faced breeds (brachycephalic) had an average of 33 disorders per breed compared with an average of 11 disorders per breed for breeds that were not flat-faced. Examples of common brachycephalic dogs include Pugs, French Bulldogs and bulldogs.

The UK has a current combined dog and cat population of around 20 million animals, and hundreds of different unique breeds. The dog is the most divergent mammalian species on our planet, with over 400 breeds that range in size from the 1kg Chihuahua to the 80kg Mastiff. Cats are now also following suit with many new and often strange breeds becoming increasingly popular. This complexity of breeds creates a minefield for owners, breeders and even vets who are trying to understand breed predispositions (i.e. which diseases are more common in which breeds). The new book seeks to finally solve this problem. By providing clear and evidenced information, which is laid out according to breed, the authors have sought to simplify the task of identifying predispositions and assist anyone to understand the health of their particular breed of dog or cat. In recent years, the RVC’s pioneering technology called Vet Compass™ has substantially increased the volume of breed-related health data which available. Vet Compass™ analyses the veterinary records of 10 million animals from 1,000 veterinary practices in the UK and is now the world’s largest research database of anonymised clinical records with over 35 peer-reviewed publications to date.

Dr Dan O’Neill, Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC and co-author of the new book, said: “Vets, owners and breeders are regularly asked about which diseases dog and cat breeds are prone to. This new book provides rapid access to answers for these commonly asked questions and supports high quality evidence-based advice rather than opinion. This book is a great step forward for companion animal welfare.” Professor David Church, Deputy Principal and Vice Principal Students, said in the book’s foreword: “This book will become an invaluable and constant resource for students, vets, breeders, owners, scientists and indeed anyone interested in companion animal welfare. We are privileged to live at a pivotal tipping point in the generation and application of evidence for better decision-making in companion animal health. This book plays a key role in centralising our current knowledge into a single resource. It is a torch-bearer that finally moves the breed health debate from an endless circular discussion to positive action that will benefit the welfare of our cats and dogs.”

Notes to Editors

For more information please contact: · Uche Graves  or Alex Cassells

Press Line: 0800 368 9520  

Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats: Gough A, Thomas A, O'Neill D: Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 3rd ed. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell; 2018. 

About the Royal Veterinary College

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school, and is a constituent College of the University of London. T
  • he RVC offers undergraduate, postgraduate and CPD programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences, being ranked in the top 10 universities nationally for biosciences degrees.  
  • It is currently the only veterinary school in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC. In 2017, the RVC received a Gold award from the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – the highest rating a university can receive. 
  • A research-led institution, in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) the RVC was ranked as the top vet school in the Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science unit of assessment, with 79% of submitted academics producing world-class or internationally excellent research.
  • The RVC also provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals; the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital in central London, the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals (Europe's largest small animal referral centre), the Equine Referral Hospital, and the Farm Animal Clinical Centre located at the Hertfordshire campus.  

About the VetCompass™ Vet Compass™ is a research programme conducted by the Royal Veterinary College which shares and analyses veterinary clinical information to understand the disorders and improve the welfare of companion animals. Vet Compass ™ uses information from 1000 veterinary practices in the UK (which is over 20% of all UK practices) and shares data of over 10 million companion animals. To date, VetCompass™ has led to over 35 peer-reviewed publications.  

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