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Mortality resulting from undesirable behaviours in dogs aged under three years attending primary-care veterinary practices in England

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2023

C Boyd*
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush EH25 9RG, UK
S Jarvis
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush EH25 9RG, UK SRUC, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK
PD McGreevy
Sydney School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
S Heath
Behavioural Referrals Veterinary Practice, 10 Rushton Drive, Upton, Chester CH2 1RE, UK
DB Church
Clinical Sciences and Services, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Herts AL9 7TA, UK
DC Brodbelt
Production and Population Health, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Herts AL9 7TA, UK
DG O’Neill
Production and Population Health, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Herts AL9 7TA, UK
Contact for correspondence and requests for reprints:


Undesirable behaviours (UBs) are common in dogs and can jeopardise animal and human health, leading to dog abandonment and euthanasia. Dogs exhibiting UBs may have compromised welfare from underlying emotional motivations for the behaviour (eg anxiety) or from the methods used by owners to resolve the problem (eg aversive techniques). The objective of this study was to estimate proportional mortality due to UBs and risk factors for death due to UBs, including death from road traffic accidents, in dogs under three years of age attending primary-care veterinary practices in England from 2009-2014. Cases were identified by searching de-identified electronic patient records from primary-care veterinary practices participating in the VetCompass Programme. The findings highlight that dogs under three years of age are at a proportionately high risk of death due to UBs (33.7%) compared with other specific causes of death (eg gastrointestinal issues: 14.5%). Male dogs had 1.40x the odds of death from UB compared with females. The proportional mortality from UB for male dogs where information on the cause of death was available was 0.41. Neutered dogs had 1.94x the odds of death due to a UB compared with entire dogs. Aggression was the most prevalent UB overall. Veterinarians had recommended referral in 10.3% of cases where dogs died due to exhibiting a UB and had dispensed nutraceutical, pheromone or pharmacological treatment to 3.0% of the UB cases that died. This study shows that undesirable behaviours require better preventive measures and treatment, through further research and education of veterinarians, other professionals within the dog industry and owners.

© 2018 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare

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