That New Canine Cancer Risk Data

Nationwide Veterinary Analytics released the second of three white papers with important canine cancer risk data in March 2022. Here’s a video talking about the headlines and showing the main charts and much of the same information in the text below also. They focused on the top 25/most popular dog breeds, so many of us don’t get information about our own dog breeds. It’s still very interesting. Let’s take a look at what we learned.


^^ Sorry, the text of the video is a bit pixelated. I didn’t want the file to be large, so I saved it in lower quality. Lesson learned, I guess.

March 2022 – Cancer risk data

In March 2022, Nationwide® Veterinary Analytics released a white paper containing data on the relative risk of pet insurance claims for cancer, broken down by:

  • raise
  • Dog breed + body system affected
  • Breed of dog + age of the initial request

You can download and read the announcement, whitepaper, and methodology and math details.

Canine Cancer Risk Data White Paper and Methodology Papers

Data on the relative risk of canine cancer

Prior to writing this white paper, Nationwide® Veterinary Analytics performed a univariate analysis of pet insurance claims:

  • 1.61 million dogs
  • 6 years between 2015 and 2021
  • Purebred dogs represent approximately 60% of the dogs studied.

Next, they took a closer look at the top 25 breeds represented in this dataset. Nearly 70% of all nationally insured purebred dogs are included in the top 25 breeds [sample size of at least 10,000 dogs across the sample period].

  1. Labrador Retrievers
  2. Golden retriever
  3. french bulldog
  4. German shepherd
  5. Yorkshire terrier
  6. Shih Tzu
  7. english bulldog
  8. Boxer
  9. Chihuahua
  10. American Pit Bull Terrier
  11. Dachshund / Miniature
  12. Maltese
  13. siberian husky
  14. Schnauzer / Dwarf
  15. Pug
  16. Great Dane
  17. Pomeranian
  18. Beagle
  19. boston terrier
  20. Rottweiler
  21. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  22. Australian shepherd
  23. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  24. Poodle / Toy
  25. Doberman Pinscher

What relative risk means

Basically, the relative risk provides a comparison to cancer claim rates for the average of all dogs. If all dogs have a relative risk of 1.0 or 100%, then anything:

  • Greater than 1.0 or 100% represents a higher relative risk
  • Less than 1.0 or 100% represents a lower relative risk

Relative Risk Precautions/Limitations

To help us understand what the white paper is and isn’t saying, Nationwide® Veterinary Analytics explains… “These relative risk values ​​indicate the likelihood that dogs of this breed have had at least one cancer claim. They do not infer the overall health of the breed, the severity of any cancer, or the effect of these cancer claims on a breed’s longevity.

Headlines – Canine Cancer Risk Data

“As a group, purebred dogs represent about 60% of dogs studied, with an overall rate of cancer claims almost twice (189% or 1.9x) that of non-purebred dogs.”

3 breeds with the highest relative risk
  • Boxers – 261% relative risk
  • Beagles – 198% relative risk
  • Golden Retrievers – 195% relative risk

However, since the overall relative risk for purebred dogs is 189%, this data for boxers stands out more than the others at the top.

3 breeds with the lowest relative risk
  • French Bulldogs – 63% relative risk
  • Chihuahuas – 52% relative risk
  • Pomeranians – 45% relative risk
canine cancer risk data - relative risk of the top 25 breeds
Relative Risks of Boxers by Body System
  • Skin tumors – relative risk of 420%
  • Cardiac – relative risk of 462%
  • Lymphatic – relative risk of 357%
  • Neurological – relative risk of 492%
Relative Risks of Beagles by Body System
  • Urinary – 632% relative risk – Apparently Beagles often get bladder cancer.
  • Endocrine – relative risk of 264%
  • Liver – relative risk of 333%
  • Breast – relative risk of 234%
  • Rate – 242% relative risk
Relative Risks of Goldens by Body System

These splenic and cardiac data (common points where hemangiosarcoma occurs) are not at all surprising to Goldens.

  • Rate – relative risk of 320%
  • Bone – 235% relative risk
  • Cardiac – relative risk of 420%
  • Liver – 280% relative risk
  • Lymphatic – 265% relative risk
canine cancer risk data - table of top 3 breeds by body system

Rottweiler news! Phew! Our Rottie friends have a relative risk of bone cancer of 1009%. This means they are 10 times more likely to get bone cancer than the average dog.

But, their relative risk of cancers overall is 81% due to lower cancer risks “in almost every other body system.”

Youngest Breeds for Age of First Claim
  • Boxers (7.6 years old)
  • Rottweiler (7.8 years old)
  • Doberman (7.4) years old

Driven by several factors, especially “the body systems most commonly affected by cancer in these breeds”

canine cancer risk data - age of first claim

This large painting sums it all up.

canine cancer risk data - main table of top 25 breeds with relative cancer risk and age of first claim

Note that the first claims for cancer occur from the age of 6.2 years in Great Danes and 6.8 years in French Bulldogs. This means that we really need to monitor our dogs and alert our veterinary teams to any changes from when they are around 6 or 7 years old.

Post a comment if there’s anything in the data that surprised you.

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