Health-related welfare prioritisation of canine disorders using electronic health records in primary care practice in the UK

BMC Vet Res. 2019 May 22;15(1):163. doi: 10.1186/s12917-019-1902-0.


Background: Evidence-based comparison of the disorder-specific welfare burdens of major canine conditions could better inform targeting of stakeholder resources, to maximise improvement of health-related welfare in UK dogs. Population-level disease related welfare impact offers a quantitative, welfare-centred framework for objective disorder prioritisation, but practical applications have been limited to date due to sparse reliable evidence on disorder-specific prevalence, severity and duration across the canine disease spectrum. The VetCompass™ Programme collects de-identified electronic health record data from dogs attending primary-care clinics UK-wide, and is well placed to fill these information gaps.

Results: The eight common, breed-related conditions assessed were anal sac disorder, conjunctivitis, dental disease, dermatitis, overweight/obese, lipoma, osteoarthritis and otitis externa. Annual period prevalence estimates (based on confirming 250 cases from total potential cases identified from denominator population of 455, 557 dogs) were highest for dental disorder (9.6%), overweight/obese (5.7%) and anal sac disorder (4.5%). Dental disorder (76% of study year), osteoarthritis (82%), and overweight/obese (70%) had highest annual duration scores. Osteoarthritis (scoring 13/21), otitis externa (11/21) and dermatitis demonstrated (10/21) highest overall severity scores. Dental disorder (2.47/3.00 summative score), osteoarthritis (2.24/3.00) and overweight/obese (1.67/3.00) had highest VetCompass Welfare Impact scores overall.

Discussion: Of the eight common, breed-related disorders assessed, dental disorder, osteoarthritis and overweight/obese demonstrated particular welfare impact, based on combinations of high prevalence, duration and severity. Future work could extend this methodology to cover a wider range of disorders.

Conclusions: Dental disorders, osteoarthritis and overweight/obese have emerged as priority areas for health-related welfare improvement in the UK dog population. This study demonstrated applicability of a standardised methodology to assess the relative health-related welfare impact across a range of canine disorders using VetCompass clinical data.

Keywords: Breed-related; Canine; Duration; EHR, EPR; Evidence-based; Prevalence; Prioritisation; Severity; VetCompass; Welfare.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Animals
  • Dog Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Dogs
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology

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