Data analysis links purebred dogs to higher rate of cancer

Investigators with pet health insurer Nationwide examined claims for 1.6 million dogs

Claims data analyzed by Nationwide’s pet insurance team indicated that purebred dogs are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than non-purebred dogs. As a group, purebred dogs have a relative risk that is 1.9 times higher than crossbred and mixed-breed dogs.

Results of the analysis were recently revealed at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas and have been published in a series of white papers.

The investigators analyzed the policy and claims data of 1.61 million dogs. They found that the prevalence of cancer in purebred dogs varies by individual breed. Data for 25 breeds were analyzed, and the investigators found that although purebred dogs overall were twice as likely to have a claim for cancer than nonpurebred dogs, some breeds fare far better than average while others fare far worse. The top 3 breeds for cancer claims were boxer, beagle, and golden retriever. The 3 breeds with the lowest claims for cancer were Pomeranian, Chihuahua, and French bulldog.

“We insure hundreds of breeds, but we focused on the top 25 most popular in our white paper since they represent roughly 70% of all Nationwide-insured purebreds,” said Jules Benson, BVSc, MRCVS, chief veterinary officer for Nationwide, in a company release.

According to Benson, Nationwide was the first pet health insurer in the United States and has compiled policy and claims data for a 40-year period. “In analyzing the millions of claims over a 6-year period (2015-2021) and making that information public, we’re using our data to help pet parents and veterinary teams make more informed decisions about pet care, both in terms of early detection and treatment,” he added.

Nationwide investigators also found the following:

  • By breed and affected body system. The literature has long established that some purebreds are overrepresented in specific cancer types, according to Nationwide. The data analysis helped identify which breeds and body systems may be at greatest risk. For example, the analysis shows that Rottweilers are 10 times more likely to have a claim for bone cancer than the average dog.
  • By breed and age. In examining which body systems are most affected by cancer earliest in a dog’s life, the data show that some breeds see significantly younger average ages for cancer claims.

“Despite the higher relative risk for cancer purebreds as a group show, the top 25 also contain breeds—all relatively small in stature—that have a relative risk for cancer claims not only below other purebreds but also below the average risk for all dogs, ”said Benson, in the company release.

In 2021, Nationwide reached the milestone of actively insuring more than a million companion animals in the United States. At the same time, the company established a dedicated veterinary analytics team with the goal of using insurance data to promote better health for all pets.

“The link between dog size and cancer risk is the topic of our next study on cancer in dogs, to be released later this year,” Benson added.


Some high, some low: purebred cancer rates you need to know. News release. Nationwide. March 8, 2022. Accessed March 11, 2022.


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