Insurance Data for Research in Companion Animals: Benefits and Limitations is a review article from Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2009, 51:42 doi:10.1186/1751-0147-51-42 (Open Access, by A. Egenvall, A. Nødtvedt, J. Penell, L. Gunnarsson,and B.N. Bonnett). It covers the use and usefulness of animal health and life insurance data for population-based research. Agria Animal Insurance, Sweden, a Founding Partner of IPFD, through their Agria-Swedish Kennel Club Research Fund has a long history of supporting such research on dogs. The article also discusses other sources of population data, e.g. registries, clinic data, etc. highlighting benefits and limitations. In the Downloads section of DogWellNet are numerous Swedish Insurance Data files for various breeds.
As discussed in the review article, every data source comes with limitations in terms of the population it represents, the data that have been collected, their quality and validity, as well as other issues of methodology, analysis and reporting. To find the best evidence to support our understanding of health and disease in dogs and to find the best quantitative evidence, it is necessary to examine various sources of data, critically, and then collate and compile information from various sources to get as complete a picture as possible.
From "Insurance Data for Research in Companion Animals: Benefits and Limitations"
The primary aim of this article is to review the use of animal health insurance data in the scientific literature, especially in regard to morbidity or mortality in companion animals and horses. Methods and results were compared among studies on similar health conditions from different nations and years. A further objective was to critically evaluate benefits and limitations of such databases, to suggest ways to maximize their utility and to discuss the future use of animal insurance data for research purposes. Examples of studies on morbidity, mortality and survival estimates in dogs and horses, as well as neoplasia in dogs, are discussed.
We conclude that insurance data can and should be used for research purposes in companion animals and horses. Insurance data have been successfully used, e.g. to quantify certain features that may have been hitherto assumed, but unmeasured. Validation of insurance databases is necessary if they are to be used in research. This must include the description of the insured population and an evaluation of the extent to which it represents the source population. Data content and accuracy must be determined over time, including the accuracy/consistency of diagnostic information. Readers must be cautioned as to limitations of the databases and, as always, critically appraise findings and synthesize information with other research. Similar findings from different study designs provide stronger evidence than a sole report. Insurance data can highlight common, expensive and severe conditions that may not be evident from teaching hospital case loads but may be significant burdens on the health of a population."
The article lists publications on dogs from insurance data (full references are available in the full article online: