Scientific Results: Development and Validation of a Novel Instrument to Capture Companion Dog Mortality Data: The Dog Aging Project End of Life Survey

May 25, 2023 - 4 minutes read

Posts in our Scientific Results series introduce recent papers published in the scientific literature by members of the Dog Aging Project research team. Follow this series to learn more about the scientific questions we’re asking, the kinds of results we’re getting, and what it all means for you and your dog.

Who worked on this research?

Kellyn E. McNulty
Kate E. Creevy
Annette Fitzpatrick
Vanessa Wilkins
Brain G. Barnett
Audrey Ruple

Where was it published?

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA)

What is this paper about?

This manuscript details the creation, development, and validation of the End of Life Survey (EOLS), which is used to obtain information about Dog Aging Project participating dogs who have died by gathering the information directly from dog owners.

What do these results mean for me and my dog?

This was a “methods” paper, meaning that its purpose was to describe why it was necessary to create this survey, how the survey was created, and how we demonstrated that it was a valid survey. Some high-level results from the survey are presented, including:

  • 83% of Dog Aging Project dogs who die are euthanized
  • Top cause of death is illness or disease, followed by “old age”
  • Top reason for euthanasia is pain and suffering followed by poor quality of life

Where can I learn more?

McNulty, K. E., Creevy, K. E., Fitzpatrick, A., Wilkins, V., Barnett, B. G., Dog Aging Project Consortium, & Ruple, A. (2023). Development and validation of a novel instrument to capture companion dog mortality data: the Dog Aging Project End of Life Survey, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (published online ahead of print 2023). DOI:


Objective: The researchers and clinicians within the Dog Aging Project (DAP), a longitudinal cohort study of aging in companion dogs, created and validated a novel survey instrument titled the End of Life Survey (EOLS) to gather owner-reported mortality data about companion dogs.

Sample: Bereaved dog owners who participated in the refinement, face validity assessment, or reliability assessment of the EOLS (n=42) and/or completed the entire survey between January 20 and March 24, 2021 (n=646).

Procedures: The EOLS was created and modified by veterinary health professionals and human gerontology experts using published literature, clinical veterinary experience, previously created DAP surveys, and feedback from a pilot study conducted with bereaved dog owners. The EOLS was subjected to qualitative validation methods and post hoc free-text analysis to evaluate its ability to thoroughly capture scientifically relevant aspects of companion dogs’ death.

Results: The EOLS was well-received with excellent face validity as assessed by dog owners and experts. The EOLS had fair to substantial reliability for the three validation themes: cause of death (kappa = 0.73; 95% CI [0.5-0.95]), perimortem quality of life (kappa = 0.49; 95% CI [0.26-0.73]), and reason for euthanasia (kappa = 0.3; 95% CI [0.08-0.52]) and had no need for any substantial content alterations based on free-text analysis.

Clinical Relevance: The EOLS has proven to be a well-accepted, comprehensive, and valid instrument for capturing owner-reported companion dog mortality data and has the potential to enhance veterinarians’ ability to care for the aging dog population by illuminating their understanding of companion dogs’ end-of-life experiences.