Variables associated with owner perceptions of the health of their dog: Further analysis of data from a large international survey

PLoS One. 2024 May 15;19(5):e0280173. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280173. eCollection 2024.

Abstract

In a recent study (doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0265662), associations were identified between owner-reported dog health status and diet, whereby those fed a vegan diet were perceived to be healthier. However, the study was limited because it did not consider possible confounding from variables not included in the analysis. The aim of the current study was to extend these earlier findings, using different modelling techniques and including multiple variables, to identify the most important predictors of owner perceptions of dog health. From the original dataset, two binary outcome variables were created: the 'any health problem' distinguished dogs that owners perceived to be healthy ("no") from those perceived to have illness of any severity; the 'significant illness' variable distinguished dogs that owners perceived to be either healthy or having mild illness ("no") from those perceived to have significant or serious illness ("yes"). Associations between these health outcomes and both owner-animal metadata and healthcare variables were assessed using logistic regression and machine learning predictive modelling using XGBoost. For the any health problem outcome, best-fit models for both logistic regression (area under curve [AUC] 0.842) and XGBoost (AUC 0.836) contained the variables dog age, veterinary visits and received medication, whilst owner age and breed size category also featured. For the significant illness outcome, received medication, veterinary visits, dog age and were again the most important predictors for both logistic regression (AUC 0.903) and XGBoost (AUC 0.887), whilst breed size category, education and owner age also featured in the latter. Any contribution from the dog vegan diet variable was negligible. The results of the current study extend the previous research using the same dataset and suggest that diet has limited impact on owner-perceived dog health status; instead, dog age, frequency of veterinary visits and receiving medication are most important.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet, Vegan
  • Dog Diseases* / psychology
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Ownership
  • Perception
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.