The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Data cleaning method lends insights into dog health

Scientists are gaining accurate insights into the healthy development of Labrador retriever puppies, thanks to a new method of removing errors in data from surveys.

The technique to keep data clean is the latest outcome from a long-term, large-scale study into the health of the UK’s most popular breed of dog.

Researchers have applied their housekeeping method to remove or correct data errors from thousands of survey results on the height and weight of dogs for the study, known as Dogslife.

Accurate results in the study database will help scientists to understand the relationships between lifestyle factors in dogs, such as exercise and feeding, and how these might impact on the animals’ health over time.

Dogslife is the largest study of its type into dog health.
Dogslife is the largest study of its type into dog health.

Extensive information

Scientists from the Hospital for Small Animals at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies developed their method using seven years of Dogslife data, including more than 43,000 weight and 28,000 height measurements.

They designed a computer algorithm to clean data, which opted to modify or delete measurements, based on a combination of pre-defined cut-offs and logic.

Researchers checked their newly devised system using data from three other studies on dog and human health.

Their method was able to find up to 26 per cent more errors in the data compared with other methods. In addition, it was less likely to identify correct entries as being incorrect, compared with other published methods.

Researchers say their findings, published in PLoS One, could be applied to other studies involving large amounts of data, across many fields of research.

The Dogslife study, which has been operating for a decade, has offered many valuable insights into Labrador retriever health.

The project has recorded thousands of questionnaires and photos, documented thousands of illnesses and collected thousands of DNA samples.

It has found that illnesses in puppies are most common in the first year of life, with gastrointestinal upset peaking between three and six months of age.

It has shown that many dogs do not visit the vet during a gastrointestinal upset, underscoring the value of owner studies such as Dogslife in forming accurate records.

An effective approach to ensuring clean data from the Dogslife study – which is the largest study of its type – will make sure that its findings are accurate, reliable and useful.

Dr Dylan ClementsRoyal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Related links

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The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than eight hundred staff and almost fourteen hundred students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.

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