The Royal Veterinary College has published the results of a study which has found that rottweilers are the breed most predisposed to suffer from osteoarthritis.

For the study the RVC used VetCompass, its pioneering technology which analyses the veterinary records of 10 million animals from 1,000 veterinary practices in the UK and is now the world’s largest research database of anonymised clinical records.

The college says this made the study the largest-ever conducted into osteoarthritis in dogs under veterinary care – covering 455,557 dogs.

The study found that: 

  • Rottweilers are the breed most prone to osteoarthritis, with the Old English Sheepdog and Dogue de Bordeaux also being very prone to the condition.  

  • The large population of Labrador Retrievers in the UK makes them the most commonly treated breed for osteoarthritis in the UK.

  • 2.5% of dogs involved in the study had osteoarthritis (which would equate to a total of around 200,000 dogs in the UK).

  • Dogs that were above average weight for their breed were nearly 2.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition.

  • Males dogs were 1.2 times more likely to have osteoarthritis than female dogs. 

  • For treatments: Weight loss was recommended in 25.5% of cases, exercise restriction was advised in 18.8% of cases and in 4.8% of cases the dogs underwent surgery following the condition.

The RVC says that on average, dogs receive their first diagnosis by the age of 10.5 years. Of the dogs who are diagnosed with osteoarthritis, 75% of cases are recommended to remain on medication as a form of pain relief.

It is hoped that this research will improve diagnosis times, which will enable dogs suffering from osteoarthritis to be treated faster.

Dr Dan O’Neill, RVC Senior Lecturer and co-author said: "Breed predisposition to disease is now recognised as one of the biggest problems facing dogs. Studies of huge populations, such as this one, are giving us vital insights into breed-related health problems in dogs that would have been impossible before VetCompass. This study has enabled us to positively support changes in dog welfare."


Anderson KL, O'Neill DG, Brodbelt DC, Church DB, Meeson RL, Sargan D, et al.: Prevalence, duration and risk factors for appendicular osteoarthritis in a UK dog population under primary veterinary care. Scientific Reports 2018,8(1):5641.

Photo: Dog hip arthritis. Richard Meeson. 

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