Regional K9 disease risks: How common is common?

The reality is… we don’t have much in the way of scientific evidence (aka publications) on the incidence of veterinary diseases (check out this earlier blog on prevalence and preventative care). There, I said it. Gasp…That means that on many of the occasions I tell dedicated dog and cat owners that things occur commonly, and it would be good to: a) test their pet for it, and b) protect their pet against it… I’m full of ‘poopie-caca’ as we say in my house…which likely isn’t a surprise (and is definitely well recognized in my house, i.e. that I am frequently full of @#$!).

This lack of evidence is true for Canada and globally. And, I’m quite aware that this dearth of literature is due to these types of studies being tough to do, i.e. requiring a number of general practice clinics to participate, organize, report and document disease appropriately (and accurately), perform data analysis and I think we won’t go into the odds of obtaining funding for a project of this type. Unfortunately, for all these reasons, veterinarians are left with making ‘guess-ti-mates’ when predicting and preparing for what diseases occur commonly.


This need to ‘guess-ti-mate’ disease occurrence and what’s high risk (or not) is true for myriad concerns in dogs and cats and includes multiple (most) infectious diseases, e.g. canine parvovirus, leptospirosis, Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. As such, DVMs frequently end up relying on the willingness of veterinary diagnostics labs to share test results, extrapolating from the few studies performed at large veterinary centers that in most cases probably don’t accurately reflect the risks for local pets, and/or word of mouth in order to predict regional infectious disease risks.

Our collaborative research team (University of Guelph and PEI) has been working to try and address this lack of information for pets in Canada. As mentioned in earlier blogs, we’re analyzing a dataset of leptospirosis testing of dogs (Lepto results compared to human population). However, we’re also working on this from another angle in Atlantic Canada and in Ontario through the Canadian K9 Lifetime Study, to collect information that allows for further information on specific dog disease incidence and risk.

It’s too soon to submit the paper, but I will share that it’s been interesting to see the leptospirosis test results on puppies and dogs (vaccinated for lepto and not) and the serovar differences between Ontario and Atlantic Canada. I suspect (and hope) that when we expand the study later this summer into Quebec and western Canada there will be further illumination on leptospirosis and tick-borne disease in dogs nationally. Hopefully work like this will allow us to capture true disease incidence information for dogs (and their people) allowing us to best ensure the health of our pets.

Research efforts such as these occur thanks to the participation of the over 400 dog owners and their respective dedicated veterinary teams enrolled in the study to date.

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Happy early birthday Canadian K9 Lifetime Study- it’s been amazing to watch you grow! Due our successful enrollment in Ontario and Atlantic Canada we’ll be closing the study to new puppy enrollment in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island on July 1, 2019. Thanks so much to all of our dedicated veterinary clinics and pet-owner participants. It’s amazing to work with a community of people who are devoted to dog health and continue to be engaged with annual reevaluations so that we can learn all about these puppies as they grow into dogs!