small terrier dog getting checked at veterinary clinic


How data science is helping us predict dogs’ chronic kidney disease risk

In a recent study, scientists and veterinary teams at the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, Antech and Banfield Pet Hospital, in partnership with Process Integration and Predictive Analytics (PIPA), have identified an early prediction model for chronic kidney disease (CKD) in dogs.  

Chronic kidney disease in dogs: a silent illness 

Like the function of our own kidneys, dogs’ kidneys remove waste from the blood, regulate levels of certain essential minerals, conserve water and produce urine. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) happens when the kidneys become damaged and lose their ability to filter waste efficiently.  

Just like in cats, the causes of CKD in dogs can be difficult to determine, and signs of the condition in its early stages are hard to detect, so it might be months to years before the problem becomes evident – at which point, the kidneys can be damaged beyond repair. CKD in dogs is fairly prevalent, with risk increasing with age and affecting up to 25% of certain breeds: Cocker Spaniel, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Border Collie and some terriers. Unfortunately, dogs with CKD have a worse prognosis and shorter survival times than cats with CKD, making early detection vital.   

The power of routine lab data from medical records  

By reviewing routine clinical lab test data (creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, urine specific gravity, urine protein) from Banfield Pet Hospital health records of 57,402 dogs, and connecting this to dogs’ weight and age, the computer model was able to predict with 99% accuracy which dogs would not go on to develop CKD in the next 3.5 years.

Pending further algorithm validation, and alignment on appropriate clinical and nutritional treatment paths, veterinary practitioners could use this novel approach to effectively support proactive wellness recommendations and give pet owners peace of mind about their dog’s overall health. Veterinarians may go on to use the model in conjunction with existing diagnostic tests that predict which dogs will go on to develop CKD.  

“At Mars Petcare, we’re harnessing the power of data so we can better understand how diseases develop and catch them before they strike. Chronic kidney disease is one of the most serious illnesses affecting both cats and dogs, and this new work is paving the way for future preventive pet health care solutions - all in service of our Purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS”, said Darren Logan, Head of Research at Waltham Petcare Science Institute. 

This research is yet another example of our work to advance the science behind preventive pet health, giving veterinarians and pet owners the opportunity to intervene early and help keep pets healthy for as long as possible.   

Find out more about our science and how it’s driving preventive pet health.