Benefits of Mixed Breed Dogs

Fascinating data regarding canine cancer from Nationwide's pet insurance team.

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In 2021, the Nationwide pet insurance company reached a landmark of actively insuring more than a million pets. At the same time, the company established a dedicated veterinary analytics team with the goal of using insurance data to promote better health for all pets. So far this year, the team has released two fantastic white papers that contain a treasure trove of information about the relative risks of various illnesses in various breeds and mixed-breed dogs. More releases are forthcoming.

The Nationwide team’s first release concerned dogs whose popularity has exploded in the past decade: Poodle-mixes. Poodle-crosses dramatically increased as a relative share of Nationwide’s pet health insurance policies, while the relative share of the parent breeds decreased. The number of Goldendoodles insured by Nationwide increased 347% from 2013 to 2021. Labradoodles increased 196%. All Poodle-mixes increased 160%. In contrast, the number of Standard Poodles and Labrador Retrievers each decreased by 32%. 

More significantly, as part of a larger study on relative cancer risk in 1.61 million dogs over a six-year period, Nationwide looked at Doodles and cancer. Relative risk for cancer claims is dramatically lower in Labradoodles and Goldendoodles compared with their contributing breeds (Standard Poodles, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers). Goldendoodles were shown to have a 75% reduction in cancer risk than the parent breeds’ relative risk. Labradoodles had a 62% reduction in cancer risk than their parent breeds’ relative risk.

The second white paper released by Nationwide looked at the risk of cancer by breed and by body system. Purebred dogs as a group have a higher risk for cancer claims than do crossbred and mixed-breed dogs, at 1.9 times the relative risk.

The relative risk for cancer claims in purebred dogs varies significantly by breed and size. Boxers, Beagles, and Golden Retrievers have the highest relative risk for a cancer claim in the top 25 breeds by popularity, while Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and French Bulldogs have the lowest. Toy and small dogs of all kinds consistently had lower relative risks for a cancer claim.

The literature has long established that some purebreds are over-represented in specific cancer types. Nationwide’s data quantified those values and identified which breeds and body systems may be at greatest risk. If you own a purebred dog, it would definitely be worth your time to look up these white papers and check the data for your breed’s cancer risk, for greater awareness and so you can provide appropriate surveillance. See petinsurance.com/petdata and click on “Download the white paper.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve always had a mixed mutt. While both Caesar and Ramses got cancer, they both got it in old age, Caesar at 12 and Ramses at 14. Cancer is the disease of the old. If you outlive everything else, you will eventually get cancer. This is simply Earth Mammal biology.

    I think it is a matter of age. I think in some cases the mixed breeds live a bit longer and so the cancer is delayed longer. In that way they seem to be more resistant when they are simply healthier and live longer. Of course, we also feed our dogs better and they have a lot better healthcare than they used to have. It’s easier for my dog to get an appointment with her primary care vet than it is for me to get one with my primary care physician. Dogs also have the benefits of the same tests, medications and treatments that people do.

    This does support a long standing belief that mutts are healthier than pure breeds. I’d still like to read the paper.

  2. I have owned primarily mixed-breed dogs. I’ve subscribed to Whole Dog Journal for many years now. As soon as I learned through WDJ about the concerns and potential health issues related to over-vaccination of dogs, particularly into their senior years, we stopped the recurring vaccinations that used to be routine in the annual veterinary visit. The only dog since that has died from cancer was a purebred Irish Setter, at age 12.

  3. I’ve had purebred dogs since 1974. I had ONE that had cancer at 13 years old. Having worked for my vet and having seen all of the different doodle dogs over the years, most of whom came from “breeders” who did zero health checks on the parents, I’ve seen not only cancer, but behavioral issues, eye and hip issues, and plenty of allergies. So, they do make up for not having high cancer stats by all of the other issues they present. This is really not a victory for the “adopt, don’t shop” crowd, but I’m sure they’ll take it and run with it. Major veterinary universities have done similar studies and determined that there is little to no difference between purebred and mixed bred dogs health wise. I’d rather trust veterinarians doing research than an insurance company. BTW, I limit my dog’s vaccines, too, do titers, and feed what WDJ has recommended. My setters have all been healthy well into old age.

  4. This is not a statistically significant study nor is it controlled. This is just data from an insurance company…one source. I have had 8 clients doodles come in after being diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma in one year, but only 1 pure bred dog. If I look at ratios in my practice and research over the years, the numbers are equivalent. It isn’t normally the breed that is the issue with cancer (exceptions exist of course), it is the environmental triggers – toxins.

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