Science offers window into canine health

Judging from all the dogs strolling with their owners at the Harrison Festival of the Arts this weekend, folks are pretty devoted to ensuring their pets’ long, healthy lives. Generally, there is a guideline as to which breeds are at risk for certain diseases. But now there’s a new study that provides a rare and comprehensive look at the causes of death in more than 80 breeds.

Judging from all the dogs strolling with their owners at the Harrison Festival of the Arts this weekend, folks are pretty devoted to ensuring their pets’ long, healthy lives. Generally, there is a guideline as to which breeds are at risk for certain diseases. But now there’s a new study that provides a rare and comprehensive look at the causes of death in more than 80 breeds.

The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, is bound to be helpful in developing breed-specific maintenance programs.

“If we can anticipate better how things can go wrong for dogs, we can manage their wellness to keep them as healthy as possible,” said study co-author Dr. Kate Creevy, assistant professor with the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine.

Creevy and her colleagues looked at data from the Veterinary Database to find the causes of death of nearly 75,000 dogs spanning 82 breeds over a 20-year period from 1984 to 2004. They classified the deaths by organ systems and disease processes and analyzed the data by breed, age and body mass.

“The study was the idea of my collaborator, Daniel Promislow, who is a geneticist,” said Creevy. “He studies aging in a variety of species and became intrigued with the fact that large mammals live longer than small mammals but that situation is reversed among dog breeds. He became curious as to why that might be and whether finding differences in the causes of death based on the sizes of dogs might yield information that applies not only to dogs but also to people.”

Scientists first mapped the dog genome in 2003 and have since compiled data on genetic variations for over 80 breeds. By combining that data with the study material, they could search for genes that influence the risks of diseases.

Some of their findings surprised them. Toy breeds such as Chihuahuas and Maltese are known to have high rates of cardiovascular disease (19 and 21 per cent of breed deaths respectively), but they found that fox terriers also have high rates of cardiovascular disease at 16 per cent.

Golden retrievers and boxers are known to have high rates of cancer (50 and 44 per cent of deaths respectively) but they found that the Bouvier des Flandres actually has a higher death rate from cancer at 47 per cent than the boxer.

They found that larger breeds are more likely to die of musculoskeletal disease, gastrointestinal disease and, most notably, cancer. Smaller breeds had higher death rates from endocrine causes.  But breeding for certain traits may also increase the risk of disease.

For instance, short noses in bulldogs could increase the risk of upper respiratory diseases because of the altered airflow. Respiratory disease, though, was also the most common cause of death for Afghan hounds and the Vizsla, which couldn’t be explained.

“Sometimes the cause of death may be related to how we use dogs more than their genetic background,” Creevy said. “Treeing walker coonhounds have a high proportion of deaths from infection.”

Coonhounds are woodland hunting dogs in the U.S. southeast. The question becomes do these dogs have genetically poor immune systems or are they are higher risk because of the kind of environment they are exposed to?

The study intriguingly raised more questions than it answered and their research continues in the search to understand breed-based genetic differences.

“(We will be) looking at individual breeds and individual diseases,” said Creevy. “It is at this level that the work will become the most valuable to dog breeders and owners.”

Learning about canine disease genetics could also help develop new strategies for diagnosis and treatment for human health.

Just Posted

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema, a member of the Canadian national women’s soccer squad.
Another scoreless draw for Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canadian national women’s soccer squad

Canada played Brazil to a 0-0 tie days after doing the same in a friendly against the Czech Republic

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Chilliwack firefighters watch as an O’Connor Towing operator removes a stolen Volkswagen station wagon from the Fraser River off Cannor Road in west Chilliwack on June 13, 2021. (William Snow photo)
PHOTOS: Stolen vehicle dumped in Fraser River in Chilliwack Sunday

Search and Rescue determined there was no one inside the car found upside down off Cannor Road

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Most Read