MAF's Golden Retriever Lifetime Study completes enrollment with 3,000 dogs

MAF's Golden Retriever Lifetime Study completes enrollment with 3,000 dogs

Veterinary researchers to study participants long term to learn about cancer, other diseases.
Apr 07, 2015
By staff

Morris Animal Foundation has announced that a golden retriever named Chloe is the 3,000th dog to be enrolled in the foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, achieving researchers’ goals for the study. Chloe and other golden retrievers participating in the study will help veterinarians better understand the role of environment, nutrition, exercise, behavior, genetics and other factors in the development of (or protection from) canine diseases—particularly cancer, the leading cause of death in dogs.

“We are extraordinarily grateful not only to the thousands of owners who enrolled their dogs in this study, but also to the many veterinarians who are on the front lines helping us gather data,” says David Haworth, DVM, PhD, president and CEO of Morris Animal Foundation, in a foundation release. “Of course, the real heroes are all the beautiful golden retrievers we will be following throughout their lives.”

While common in human medical research, longitudinal studies of this magnitude that record lifestyle details and collect biological samples from subjects over an extended period of time have not been done before in veterinary medicine, Morris representatives say. Such long-term studies can reveal health effects that evolve over many years—such as the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer in people—helping to unravel mysteries surrounding causes of disease and revealing clues to good health.

“A study like this can only happen through the active participation of an extended community of dog owners, dogs, veterinarians and study sponsors,” Haworth says. “I think I can say with absolute certainty that we have one of the most active groups of study subjects of any longitudinal health study ever initiated. They are, after all, golden retrievers!”

Though the study focuses on golden retrievers, Haworth says other dog breeds—and even other species, including humans—will benefit from what is learned.

“When we look at the similarities among animal species, we can see that there will be health risk or benefit factors that we can extrapolate from this study to other dog breeds or even to other animals,” Haworth says. “The study will provide its own revelations about risk factors and disease correlations, and possible causations, as well as lead us to new areas of scientific inquiry both in veterinary and human medicine.”

Similar to ongoing longitudinal studies in people, veterinarians, dog owners and dogs won’t have to wait until the study is complete to see results—data is streaming into the study real time and, once validated, trends will be published as they emerge.

“Some tests are run immediately and the results are returned to study veterinarians. Other samples are stored for future analysis,” says Rod Page, DVM, DACVIM (oncology), director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University and principal investigator for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. “The questionnaire data actually is analyzed on a running basis every six months. In other words, it isn’t being put aside for evaluation at a later date. Our goal is to share the findings as quickly as possible once we feel comfortable that the statistics support a solid trend. We want to have positive impacts on animal health not only in the future, but also for our patients today.”

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is the largest of the more than 2,300 studies funded by Morris Animal Foundation since it was founded nearly 70 years ago.