Epidemiological study of congenital heart diseases in dogs: Prevalence, popularity, and volatility throughout twenty years of clinical practice

PLoS One. 2020 Jul 27;15(7):e0230160. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0230160. eCollection 2020.


The epidemiology of Congenital Heart Diseases (CHDs) has changed over the past twenty years. This study aimed to evaluate the prevalence of CHDs in the population of dogs recruited in a single referral center (RC); compare the epidemiological features of CHDs in screened breeds (Boxers) versus non-screened (French and English Bulldogs, German Shepherds); investigate the association of breeds with the prevalence of CHDs; determine the popularity and volatility of breeds over a 20-year period; analysed the trends of the most popular breeds in the overall population of new-born dogs registered in the Italian Kennel Club (IKC) from 1st January 1997 to 31st December 2017. The RC's cardiological database was analysed, and 1,779 clinical records were included in a retrospective observation study. Descriptive statistics and frequencies regarding the most representative breeds and CHDs were generated. A logistic regression model was used to analyse the trends of the most common CHDs found in single and in cluster of breeds. The relationship between breed popularity and presence of CHDs was studied. The most common CHDs were Pulmonic Stenosis, Patent Ductus Arteriosus, Subaortic Stenosis, Ventricular Septal Defect, Aortic Stenosis, Tricuspid Dysplasia, Atrial Septal Defect, Double Chamber Right Ventricle, Mitral Dysplasia, and others less frequent. The most represented pure breeds were Boxer, German Shepherd, French Bulldog, English Bulldog, Maltese, Newfoundland, Rottweiler, Golden Retriever, Chihuahua, and others in lower percentage. Chihuahuas, American Staffordshire Terriers, Border Collies, French Bulldogs, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel were the most appreciated all of which showed a high value of volatility. This study found evidence for the value of the screening program implemented in Boxers; fashions and trends influence dog owners' choices more than the worries of health problems in a breed. Effective breeding programs are needed in order to control the diffusion of CHDs without impoverishing the genetic pool.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breeding
  • Dog Diseases / diagnosis
  • Dog Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnosis
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / epidemiology*
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial / diagnosis
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial / epidemiology
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular / diagnosis
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Valve Stenosis / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Valve Stenosis / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.