Top causes of death in dogs and cats

One would think finding out the most common cause of death for dogs and cats would be simple.  For was it not The Police, nearly 30 years ago, who gave voice to our data-saturated existence with the song "Too Much Information"?  Indeed.


However, no national database of pet death records exists.  At least not one that is publicly available.  And so, we are left with a few ad hoc academic studies to piece together how pets die.


One study tracked the cause of death of military dogs from 1993 - 1996.  The results:

  1. Appendicular degenerative joint disease
  2. Neoplasia (or tumors in lay terms)
  3. Spinal cord disease
  4. Old age
  5. Gastric dilatation-volvulus


The sample size was significant, 927 total cases.  In addition to "natural" deaths, the study also included deaths due to euthanasia resulting from the above conditions.  However, the limited number of dog breeds (Belgian and German Shepards) used for military purposes certainly skews the results and would not likely apply to the general dog population.


For cats, a study conducted in Great Britain in 2001, listed the top causes of death:

  1. Old age
  2. Cancer
  3. Kidney failure
  4. Traffic accidents


The sample size was smaller for this study, at 182 respondents.  Interestingly, the older cats became, the less likely they were to die as a result of traffic accidents.  So, while you may not be able to teach old dogs new tricks, your old cat can learn to avoid "high risk" behavior like crossing the street.


Causes of death or reasons for euthanasia in military working dogs: 927 cases (1993-1996).  Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2001 Jul 15;219(2):209-14

A Pilot Study on the Longevity and Causes of Death of Cats in Britain.  Animal Welfare and Human-Animal Interactions Group, University of Cambridge.  ISAZ 10th Anniversary Conference.  August 2nd-4th, 2001

karina halphen
Comment - 3 years ago

I came here to make sure my cat lives as long as possible.
Good thing old age is number one. :) ;)

Comment - 3 years ago

My cat was having fever and cught sometime anyway I treated that but after a while he stopped eating and drinking water so started to fed him
And when ever he see's me he makes a sound like I need help and like I feel ya but I don't what wrong with ya i went to the doctor all he says there is nothing else I can do and now my cat can't walk like before and makes a tiny lil sound and I thing if I don't get help he is gona die and I don't want that to happen I love him some much and I don't thing I can live with him by the way I live in KSA they done care about bets

Comment - 2 years ago

my dog is having seziure like "attacks" losing control of bodily functions. but then later on (around 15-20 mins) shes as playful as ever i dont understand whats going on....
should i let her be as is right now or put her down?

Comment - 2 years ago

I feel for you garret and aamer. That is so sad. It hurts to have to let go of a loved and loyal companion. Best wishes to you all. And may your memories of your fury friends keep you at peace if they do depart this earth too soon.