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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

Insurance data for research in companion animals: benefits and limitations

Egenvall, Agneta; Nodtvedt, Ane; Penell, Johanna; Gunnarsson, Lotta; Bonnett, Brenda N.


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.

Published in

Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica
2009, volume: 51, article number: 42

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Nødtvedt, Ane (Nødtvedt, Ane)
Norwegian School of Veterinary Science (NVH)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Gunnarsson, Lotta
Agria Insurance
Bonnett, Brenda
University of Guelph

UKÄ Subject classification

Other Veterinary Science

Publication Identifiers


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