Issues of reporting in observational studies in veterinary medicine

Prev Vet Med. 2014 Feb 15;113(3):323-30. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2013.09.004. Epub 2013 Sep 21.


Observational studies are common in veterinary medicine; the results may be used to inform decision-making, future research, or as inputs to systematic reviews or risk assessment. To be of use, the results must be published, all of the outcomes that were assessed must be included in the publication, and the research (methods and results) must be reported in sufficient detail that the reader can evaluate the internal and external validity. In human healthcare, concerns about the completeness of reporting - and evidence that poor reporting is associated with study results - have led to the creation of reporting guidelines; these include the STROBE statement for observational studies. There is evidence from a limited body of research that there also are reporting inadequacies in veterinary observational studies. There are differences between human and veterinary observational studies that might be relevant to recommendations for reporting. Such differences include: the use of observational studies in animal populations for simultaneously estimating disease frequency and risk-factor identification; the distinction between the animal owners who consent to participate and the animals that are the study subjects; and the complexity of organizational levels inherent in animal research (in particular, for studies in livestock species). In veterinary medicine, it is common to have clustering within outcomes (due to animal grouping) and clustering of predictor variables. We argue that there is a compelling need for the scientific community involved in veterinary observational studies to use the STROBE statement, use an amended version of STROBE, or to develop and use reporting guidelines that are specific to veterinary medicine to improve reporting of these studies.

Keywords: Reporting guidelines; STROBE statement; Veterinary observational studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Biomedical Research / standards
  • Observational Studies as Topic / methods
  • Observational Studies as Topic / veterinary*
  • Publishing
  • Veterinary Medicine / methods*