Background: Corneal ulcerative disease (CUD) has the potential to adversely affect animal welfare by interfering with vision and causing pain. The study aimed to investigate for the first time the prevalence, breed-based risk factors and clinical management of CUD in the general population of dogs under primary veterinary care in England.
Results: Of 104,233 dogs attending 110 clinics participating within the VetCompass Programme from January 1st to December 31st 2013, there were 834 confirmed CUD cases (prevalence: 0.80%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.75-0.86). Breeds with the highest prevalence included Pug (5.42% of the breed affected), Boxer (4.98%), Shih Tzu (3.45%), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (2.49%) and Bulldog (2.41%). Purebred dogs had 2.23 times the odds (95% CI 1.84-2.87, P < 0.001) of CUD compared with crossbreds. Brachycephalic types had 11.18 (95% CI 8.72-14.32, P < 0.001) and spaniel types had 3.13 (95% CI 2.38-4.12, P < 0.001) times the odds for CUD compared with crossbreds. Pain was recorded in 385 (46.2%) cases and analgesia was used in 455 (54.6%) of dogs. Overall, 62 (7.4%) cases were referred for advanced management and CUD contributed to the euthanasia decision for 10 dogs.
Conclusions: Breeds such as the Pug and Boxer, and conformational types such as brachycephalic and spaniels, demonstrated predisposition to CUD in the general canine population. These results suggest that breeding focus on periocular conformation in predisposed breeds should be considered in order to reduce corneal disease.
Keywords: Brachycephalic; Corneal ulceration; First opinion; General practice; Spaniel; Ulcerative keratitis; VetCompass.