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HEALTH SURVEY RESULTS

Introduction
The Rottweiler Health Foundation contacted us about conducting a general health survey for Rottweilers. The purpose was to determine the frequency of specific health problems affecting the breed, and whether there was a relationship between sex of the Rottweiler and the frequency of any health problems.

 Materials and Methods
The questionnaire was designed to survey common health problems in Rottweilers. Respondents were asked to complete the survey for any dogs they currently owned, or who had died while living with them since 1994. The survey was divided into five main sections. The first section asked for general information on the number of Rottweilers currently owned, the number of years respondents had owned Rottweilers, and what activities owners were involved in with their Rottweilers. The second section asked for information on all Rottweilers owned since 1994 including current age or age at time of death, sex, and cause of death if applicable. The third section addressed specific categories of health problems in Rottweilers. Respondents were to indicate how many of their Rottweilers had a particular disease as well as the sex of those Rottweilers. The fourth section examined breeding and reproductive problems in Rottweilers, as well as puppy abnormalities. An area for respondent opinions and suggestions was included in the last section.

The questionnaire was distributed twice to 1200 subscribers of the ARK, the quarterly newsletter of the American Rottweiler Club. The first distribution of the survey appeared in the March 2000 issue, followed by the second distribution in the July 2000 issue. Forty-one local Rottweiler clubs in addition to the ARK, were sent the questionnaire to be included in club newsletters at their discretion. Information on whether these clubs distributed the survey, number of surveys distributed, and number of times the survey was distributed is unknown. Based on characteristics of the surveys we received (color, size, page numbers, etc), there were at least 6 different distributors. Ten surveys were also received from Italy, where the questionnaire was distributed in an Italian Rottweiler club newsletter. A separate analysis for the Italian surveys is included at the end of this report.

A chi-squared test was used to analyze the data from this health survey. A p-value less than or equal to 0.05 was considered statistically significant and indicated a difference between males and females in the frequency of these health problems.

Results
Over 1200 questionnaires were sent to Rottweiler owners from the United States and Canada. The exact number of questionnaires sent is unknown since several organizations may have distributed the survey. Some Rottweiler owners could have received the survey more than once if they belonged to more than one organization. The final sample size for this health survey was 225 Rottweiler owners. Since the number of questionnaires mailed is unknown, we are unable to determine an overall response rate. One hundred and eighty-six (82.7%) respondents were willing to supply pedigree information on dogs afflicted with a particular health problem, two (0.8%) were possibly willing, three (1.3%) responded that this information was unavailable, five (2.2%) were unwilling to supply this information, and 29 (12.9%) did not respond. Information regarding the number of respondents is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: General survey information for the Rottweilers in this study

Survey Information on Rottweilers

 

 

 

 

Variable

 

 

 

 

 

No.

    Total number of surveys mailed out

 

 

 

Unknown

    Total number of respondents

 

 

 

225

    Overall response rate for Wheaten owners

 

 

Unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Total number of dogs involved in the survey

 

 

1035

    Total number of dogs currently owned by respondents

 

717

       Females currently owned

 

 

 

437

       Males currently owned

 

 

 

280

    Total number of deceased dogs in survey

 

 

318

       Females deceased

 

 

 

177

       Males deceased

 

 

 

 

141

 

The average number of Rottweilers currently owned by respondents was three, the median number of Rottweilers currently owned was one, and the number of Rottweilers currently owned ranged from zero to twenty-four.  In completing this survey, respondents were to include any Rottweilers they currently owned, co-owned, and those who died under their ownership since 1994.  The 1,035 Rottweiler sample size of this study is comprised of the 717 Rottweilers currently owned plus the 318 deceased Rottweilers.  Table 2 shows the information on Rottweilers included in this study.  The “no data” column is for those Rottweilers whose owners did not provide a response for that question.

Table 2: General information on the Rottweilers included in this study

General Information on Rottweilers from the Survey

 

 

Variable

 

 

 

No.

Median

(Minimum,

No data

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maximum)

 

    Years of owning Rottweilers

 

3299

14.5

(2, 47)

3

    Rottweilers currently owned

 

717

1

(0, 24)

 

        Age of males currently owned

 280

4

(0.1, 13)

63

        Age of females currently owned

 437

5.5

(0.2, 14)

24

    Deceased Rottweilers

 

318

 

 

 

        Life span of deceased males (yrs)

141

9

(1, 13.5)

 

        Life span of deceased females (yrs)

177

9

(1, 15)

 

For those Rottweilers that were deceased, respondents were asked to give the cause of their deaths.  Table 3 lists the most common causes of death in Rottweilers from this health survey, which includes 81% of all causes of death.

Table 3: Common causes of death in the Rottweilers of this study

Most Common Causes of Death in Rottweilers

Cause

 

No. of instances

 

 

Males

Females

Total

Bone cancer

 

26

28

54

Cancer (unspecified)

 

22

26

48

Kidneys

 

4

16

20

Old age

 

6

13

19

Lymphosarcoma

 

8

10

18

Bloat

 

6

8

14

Heart

 

4

10

14

Unknown

 

7

7

14

Euthanized

 

6

4

10

Arthritis

 

2

6

8

Accident

 

4

3

7

Stroke

 

2

4

6

Liver cancer

 

3

2

5

Liver failure

 

3

2

5

Hemangiosarcoma

 

2

2

4

Malignant histiocytosis

 

3

1

4

Melanoma

 

2

2

4

Pneumonia

 

3

1

4

Respondents were also asked about the types of activities they participated in with their Rottweilers.  Respondents could choose more than one activity.  Table 4 shows their responses.

Table 4: Rottweiler/Owner activities in this study

Rottweiler/Owner Activities

Activity

 

 

 

No. of owners

   Pet/Companion

 

 

210

   Obedience

 

 

178

   Conformation

 

 

152

   Therapy dog

 

 

 

78

   Herding

 

 

59

   Agility

 

 

48

   Other activities

 

 

 

 

       Schutzhund

 

 

 

23

       Tracking

 

 

 

20

       Carting

 

 

 

16

       Rescue

 

 

 

6

Table 5 shows the health problems listed in the survey and the number of male and female Rottweilers along with the percentage of total Rottweilers with the problem.  The values for percentage of total males or total females with a particular health problem were small due to the large population of total male Rottweilers (421) and total female Rottweilers (614). 

Table 5: Descriptive statistics for health problems in the Rottweiler survey

Rottweiler General Health Survey

Health Problem

 

 

No. of

% of

No. of

% of

 

 

 

 

males

421 males

Females

614 females

Skin

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Demodex (mange)

 

 

 

11

2.6%

9

1.5%

  Flea allergy

 

 

26

6.2%

29

4.7%

  Food allergy

 

 

25

5.9%

27

4.4%

  Inhalent allergy (atopy)

 

 

19

4.5%

14

2.3%

  Sebaceous adenitis

 

 

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

  Sebaceous cysts

 

 

 

18

4.3%

31

5.0%

  Seborrhea

 

 

 

1

0.2%

5

0.8%

  Other

 

 

 

10

2.4%

17

2.8%

Ophthamology (Eyes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Cataracts

 

 

27

6.4%

41

6.7%

  Progressive retinal atrophy

 

1

0.2%

1

0.2%

  Retinal dysplasia

 

 

 

2

0.5%

0

0.0%

  Other

 

 

 

9

2.1%

15

2.4%

Nervous System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Slipped disc

 

 

5

1.2%

8

1.3%

  Hydrocephalus

 

 

 

1

0.2%

0

0.0%

  Seizures/Epilepsy

 

 

 

6

1.4%

15

2.4%

  Wobbler’s Syndrome

 

 

 

3

0.7%

2

0.3%

  Other

 

 

 

7

1.7%

5

0.8%

Orthopedic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Arthritis

 

 

 

91

21.6%

116

18.9%

  Cruciate rupture

 

 

 

28

6.7%

66

10.7%

  Elbow dysplasia

 

 

 

25

5.9%

41

6.7%

  Hip dysplasia

 

 

59

14.0%

68

11.1%

  Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)

 

 

 

15

3.6%

22

3.6%

  Panosteitis

 

 

 

27

6.4%

25

4.1%

  Spondylosis

 

 

 

6

1.4%

7

1.1%

  Other

 

 

 

6

1.4%

3

0.5%

Stomach and Intestines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Colitis

 

 

9

2.1%

2

0.3%

  Inflammatory bowel disease

 

 

10

2.4%

12

2.0%

  Liver disease

 

 

6

1.4%

6

1.0%

  Long-term diarrhea

 

 

 

12

2.9%

8

1.3%

  Megaesophagus

 

 

 

3

0.7%

4

0.7%

  Stomach bloat

 

 

 

15

3.6%

12

2.0%

  Stomach torsion

 

 

 

13

3.1%

9

1.5%

  Other

 

 

 

3

0.7%

4

0.7%

Cancer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Adrenal tumor

 

 

 

0

0.0%

1

0.2%

  Hemangiosarcoma

 

 

4

1.0%

4

0.7%

  Lymphosarcomas

 

 

 

16

3.8%

18

2.9%

  Malignant Histiocytosis

 

 

 

4

1.0%

4

0.7%

  Mast cell tumor

 

 

 

7

1.7%

8

1.3%

  Melanoma

 

 

 

5

1.2%

9

1.5%

  Osteosarcoma/Bone cancer

 

 

 

36

8.6%

39

6.4%

  Squamous cell tumor

 

 

 

0

0.0%

7

1.1%

  Other

 

 

 

20

4.8%

23

3.7%

Temperament

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Aggressive (to other dogs)

 

 

 

46

10.9%

62

10.1%

  Aggressive (to people)

 

 

 

23

5.5%

14

2.3%

  Other

 

 

 

6

1.4%

8

1.3%

Muscular

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Inguinal Hernia

 

 

2

0.5%

1

0.2%

  Umbilical Hernia

 

 

10

2.4%

14

2.3%

  Other

 

 

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

Urinary Tract

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Bladder infection

 

 

14

3.3%

86

14.0%

  Bladder stones

 

 

 

4

1.0%

2

0.3%

  Kidney disease

 

 

9

2.1%

18

2.9%

  Other

 

 

2

0.5%

3

0.5%

Hormone-related

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Addison’s Disease

 

 

 

1

0.2%

2

0.3%

  Cushing’s Disease

 

 

0

0.0%

1

0.2%

  Hypothyroidism

 

 

 

26

6.2%

48

7.8%

  Pancreatic insufficiency

 

 

2

0.5%

4

0.7%

  Other

 

 

3

0.7%

2

0.3%

Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Cardiomyopathy

 

 

5

1.2%

5

0.8%

  Congestive Heart Failure

 

2

0.5%

8

1.3%

  Heart murmur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Patent ductus arteriosis

 

 

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

    Ventricular septal defects

 

 

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

    Unidentified

 

 

4

1.0%

15

2.4%

  Pulmonary stenosis

 

 

1

0.2%

1

0.2%

  Valve dysfunction

 

 

0

0.0%

2

0.3%

  Other

 

 

3

0.7%

10

1.6%

Blood

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Anemia

 

 

4

1.0%

4

0.7%

  Hemophilia type disorders

 

 

0

0.0%

1

0.2%

  Von Willebrand’s Disease

 

 

 

3

0.7%

2

0.3%

  Other

 

 

1

0.2%

1

0.2%

Autoimmune

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Autoimmune hemolytic anemia

 

 

 

0

0.0%

1

0.2%

  Autoimmune thyroiditis

 

 

2

0.5%

7

1.1%

  Lupus erythromatosus

 

 

0

0.0%

1

0.2%

  Rheumatoid arthritis

 

 

 

4

1.0%

1

0.2%

  Other

 

 

 

1

0.2%

1

0.2%

Vaccine-related

 

 

 

 

 

  Vaccine failure

3

0.7%

5

0.8%

  Vaccine reaction

 

 

17

4.0%

10

1.6%

  Other

 

 

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

The most common health problems were food and flea allergies, cataracts, cruciate ruptures, hip and elbow dysplasia, panosteitis, bone cancer, aggression towards other dogs, bladder infections, and hypothyroidism.  The median age of onset of cataracts was 2.5 years.

In order to determine whether there were any associations between sex and occurrence of a particular health problem, a chi-squared test was used.  This test was performed for health problems where there was at least a 2% difference between the sexes.  Two percent was chosen as a level that may be of clinical importance, as a difference of about 20 dogs would be involved.  These health problems included flea and inhalent allergies, arthritis, cruciate ruptures, hip dysplasia, panosteitis, bone cancer, aggression towards people, bladder infections, and vaccine reactions.  A p-value of 0.05 or less was considered significant in determining an association.  There was an association between sex and the occurrence of bladder infections, cruciate ruptures, aggression towards people, inhalent allergies, and vaccine reactions.  A significantly higher percentage of males than females developed aggression towards people, inhalent allergies, and vaccine reactions based on these results.  A significantly higher percentage of females than males developed bladder infections and cruciate ruptures based on these results.

Table 6: Information on the association between sex and occurrence of health problems

Association between sex and health problems in Rottweilers

Health problem

 

No. with

No. without

P-value

 

 

 

problem

Problem

 

Arthritis

 

 

 

 

0.28

  Male

 

 

91

330

 

  Female

 

 

116

498

 

Hip dysplasia

 

 

 

0.16

  Male

 

 

59

362

 

  Female

 

 

68

546

 

Bladder infection

 

 

 

0.000*

  Male

 

 

14

407

 

  Female

 

 

86

528

 

Cruciate rupture

 

 

 

 

0.02*

  Male

 

 

28

393

 

  Female

 

 

66

548

 

Bone cancer

 

 

 

0.18

  Male

 

 

36

385

 

  Female

 

 

39

575

 

Flea Allergies

 

 

 

0.31

  Male

 

 

26

395

 

  Female

 

 

29

585

 

Panosteitis

 

 

0.09

  Male

 

 

27

394

 

  Female

 

 

25

589

 

Aggression towards people

 

 

 

0.007*

  Male

 

 

23

398

 

  Female

 

 

14

600

 

Inhalent allergies

 

 

 

0.04*

  Male

 

 

19

402

 

  Female

 

 

14

600

 

Vaccine reactions

 

 

 

 

0.02*

  Male

 

 

17

404

 

  Female

 

 

10

604

 

Table 7 lists breeding, reproductive, and puppy health information.  Failure to conceive was the most common reproductive health problem.

Table 7: Breeding and reproductive information for Rottweilers in this study

Breeding/Reproductive Problems

 

 

General Information

No.

 

Number of bitches bred

190

 

Number of males bred

 

78

 

Total litters

 

 

285

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puppy Problems

 

No. pups

 

Cleft palates

 

8

 

Failure to walk

 

10

 

Hydrocephalus

 

4

 

Unthrifty, small

 

22

 

Other

 

 

19

 

 

 

 

 

 

Female Reproductive Problems

No.

% of 190 females

Abortion/Resorption

 

20

10.5%

Difficulty in whelping

 

27

14.2%

Failure to conceive

 

43

22.6%

Irregular heat cycles

 

25

13.2%

Mastitis

 

 

30

15.8%

Primary uterine inertia

 

12

6.3%

Pyometra

 

 

14

7.4%

Other

 

 

10

5.3%

 

 

 

 

 

Male Reproductive Problems

No.

% of 78 male

Abnormal semen

 

1

1.3%

Cryptorchidism

 

1

1.3%

Other

 

 

4

5.1%

Respondents were also asked which health problems they were most concerned with in the Rottweiler breed.  One hundred and ninety-eight respondents answered this question.  The most common health concerns were cancer, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia.


Summary
Although the overall response rate for this survey could not be determined, we know that it was very low.  Only 225 surveys were received from over 1200 mailed, which would give a response rate of less than 19%.  With such a low number of respondents, over 80% of possible respondents did not tell us about their dogs.  A higher response rate would likely change these results dramatically.

The major causes of death for Rottweilers in this study were bone cancer and other cancers. 

The most common activity that owners of this study were involved in with their Rottweilers was pet/companionship.  Other common activities included obedience and conformation.

The most common health problems in the Rottweilers of this study were food and flea allergies, cataracts, cruciate ruptures, hip and elbow dysplasia, panosteitis, bone cancer, aggression towards other dogs, bladder infections, and hypothyroidism.  Males were more likely than females to become aggressive towards humans, develop inhalent allergies, and react to vaccines.  Females were more likely than males to develop bladder infections and cruciate ruptures.

Italian Survey Results
Since the number of Italian surveys sent out is unknown, we are unable to calculate a response rate.  A total of 27 Rottweilers, 25 currently owned and 2 deceased dogs, make up the sample size for the Italian survey.  The average number of Rottweilers currently owned by respondents was 2.5, the median number of Rottweilers currently owned was two, and the number of Rottweilers currently owned ranged from one to eight.  Causes of death in the deceased Rottweilers were leukemia and heart problems.

Very few health problems were reported in the Italian survey.  Health problems were reported at a frequency of only one or two dogs out of the 27 included in the survey.  These problems were mange, food allergies, sebaceous cysts, seborrhea, cataracts, cruciate ruptures, elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, aggression towards dogs, aggression towards humans, umbilical hernias, and anemia.

Three respondents reported having bred their Rottweilers, with a total of 17 bitches and 20 males bred.  The breeding problems reported for the bitches included abortion/resorption (1 bitch), difficulty in whelping (2), failure to conceive (1), irregular heat cycles (4), mastitis (2), primary uterine inertia (1), and pyometra (1).  No breeding problems were reported for the male Rottweilers.  Twenty litters were produced from the dogs bred in this survey.  No health problems were reported for the puppies from these litters.

 

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