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Groundbreaking study from Nationwide offers guidance for care of senior pets

Policy and claims analysis show dog breeds at highest risk for common diseases of aging, helps veterinary healthcare teams and pet parents tailor treatment

Columbus, OH – Growing old is unavoidable for our pets, but the latest study from the Nationwide® Pet Health Analytics and Insights Team gives a clear roadmap to what pet families can expect with senior diseases – and some clear guidelines around prevention, intervention, and veterinary care.

With the release of “Aging Well: Old Dogs, New Data (Part 1)” at the American Veterinary Medical Association’s annual convention, Nationwide’s latest analysis draws on data from more than 4 million years' worth of recent policy and claims data to provide insights on which breeds are most at risk for various diseases affecting senior dogs.

As the largest U.S. pet health insurer, Nationwide is able to access millions of health records for hundreds of breeds which offer unmatched depth of risk analysis and statistical credibility. These analyses also incorporate American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Life Stage Guidelines to allow for the creation of more dynamic studies and actionable insights that can drive key health interventions.

“Having a better understanding of senior pet risks by breed and dog type can help pet families and veterinary healthcare teams partner together for informed prevention, early diagnosis, and optimal disease management along a spectrum of care with targeted, personalized education throughout the life of companion animals,” said Dr. Jules Benson, Nationwide’s Chief Veterinary Officer and lead author on the study.

The study focused on the following diseases most commonly found in aging pets. Below are a few highlights from the white paper.   

  • Miniature Schnauzers and Miniature Pinschers were the top breeds for diabetes and pancreatitis - The analysis shows a clear overlap between the two diseases, and which disease is likely to be diagnosed first. This information can help veterinary teams educate owners of these breeds on what symptoms to look out for, and to be aware of the high chance for the other disease to become an issue.
  • Arthritis is the most common condition of aging pets - A ranking of breeds most likely to be affected can help minimize the effects of the disease, and guide treatment options. In particular, owners of Rough Collies (four times the relative risk), Samoyeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Old English Sheepdogs and other high-risk breeds should be looking for the early onset of arthritis as their dogs age.
  • Relative risk for cardiac disease increases more than 10-fold once dogs enter senior life stage - Toy and small dogs such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Cavachons, Japanese Chins, and Whippets are most likely to be affected. While cardiac disease may be an inevitability for some dogs, long-term outcomes for at-risk dogs can be vastly improved through good lifelong habits, early detection, and optimal disease management.
  • Relative risk for kidney disease increases more than 15-fold as dogs reach the senior life stage - Toy and small breed dogs, especially purebreds, are at increased risk with Shetland Sheepdogs, Yorkshire Terriers and Silky Terriers the most affected.

“This is the fourth study since we launched our concerted effort to use Nationwide data to provide information and assistance to pet families and veterinary healthcare teams,” said Dr. Benson. “It’s also the first time this new team of veterinarians, biostatisticians, and breed experts worked with outside organizations. Using the AAHA Lifestyle Guidelines for this study shows the value to all when we work together for better pet health.”

AAHA Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jessica Vogelsang agreed, "AAHA puts a tremendous amount of time and thought into our Life Stages Guidelines to help the profession better understand the unique needs of our patients,” she said. “We are so happy that the talented team at Nationwide has been able to build on this framework.  The more we know, the better we do."

“Aging Well: Old Dogs, New Data (Part 1)” is the first of two studies of some of the most common diseases in aging pets. The second part of the study, with more canine diseases and an analysis of the diseases of senior cats, will be released in the fall.

To read more about Nationwide's findings on senior pets, previous studies of canine cancer, or to review methodology, visit www.petinsurance.com/veterinarians/research.

About Nationwide pet insurance
With more than 1.1 million insured pets, Nationwide is the first and largest provider of pet health insurance in the United States. Nationwide pet health insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Products underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (CA), Columbus, OH; National Casualty Company (all other states), Columbus, OH. Agency of Record: DVM Insurance Agency. All are subsidiaries of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. Pet owners can find Nationwide pet insurance on Facebook or follow on Twitter. For more information about Nationwide pet insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit petinsurance.com.

About Nationwide

Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities, mutual funds and ETFs; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit www.nationwide.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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