Background: Population-based information on disease occurrence is paramount in clinical decision making and in designing preventative measures, but such information is scarce.
Hypothesis: The risk of cardiac death is higher in certain breeds and mortality varies by age and sex.
Dogs: Dogs that were life insured by an animal insurance company between 1995 and 2002.
Methods: The mortality pattern for heart disease in insured dogs up to 10 years of age was studied. The influences of sex, age, breed, month, and geographic location were investigated by means of incidence rates, proportions, and survival proportions. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to model time to heart disease.
Results: 405,376 dogs contributed to a denominator of 1,431,933 dog-years at risk (DYAR) and 3,049 dogs had been assigned a cardiac-related diagnosis as cause of death. The cardiac-related mortality for dogs < 10 years of age, was 21.3 deaths per 10,000 DYAR. This mortality in males and females was 27.3 deaths and 15.4 deaths per 10,000 DYAR, respectively. Twelve of 54 breeds had a point estimate above the overall rate. The 3 breeds with the highest point estimates were: Irish Wolfhounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Great Danes (rates of 356, 247, and 179 deaths per 10,000 DYAR, respectively).
Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Breed, age, and sex affect cardiac mortality in certain breeds of dogs, but no effects of month and geographic location were identified. These findings can assist clinicians in establishing diagnoses, and can assist breeders in defining priorities for preventative measures.