Owners of golden retrievers, along with their veterinarians, have an opportunity to improve the health of future generations of dogs, thanks to a study being conducted by Morris Animal Foundation (MAF). According to the nonprofit organization, 3,000 dogs will be enrolled over the next two years to participate in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, the largest and longest observational study ever launched in an effort to better understand the genetic, nutritional and environmental risk factors for cancers and other canine diseases.
Dogs must be in good health and less than 2 years of age to be considered for enrollment. In addition, participants are required to commit to the study for the entire life of their dog.
According to study director Michael Guy, DVM, PhD, dogs that meet the initial criteria for participation must go through a comprehensive screening process in order to be considered for the study. Additionally, pet owners will fill out a questionnaire on their dog’s history, which covers topics such as diet, reproduction, environment and travel. If accepted into the study, laboratory tests and physical exams are repeated annually, in addition to the owner questionnaire.
Guy states that one of the main goals of the study is to look at the incidence of four major types of cancer--hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, osteosarcoma and mast cell tumors--commonly seen in golden retrievers and other breeds. “We expect that over the lifetime of this study, when these dogs approach 10 to 12 years of age, somewhere in the range of 500 participants will have presented with these types of tumors,” Guy says.
Response to the study has been positive, says Guy, who states that since enrollment opened, more than 400 golden retrievers have been approved to participate the study based on the initial screening results.
The study has also received significant support from sponsors such as the Morris family, the Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Petco, Pfizer Animal Health and VCA Antech, which collectively have contributed more than $18 million toward the project. Additional sponsors include the Hadley and Marion Stuart Foundation and Mars Veterinary.
The study was first announced at the North American Veterinary Conference in 2011 and is the first of its kind in the Canine Lifetime Health Project (CLHP). “CLHP is the umbrella for the research we’re doing,” says Guy. At present time, the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is the only study under way, but Guy expects that in the future, a number of studies will be running simultaneously.
Owners interested in participating can register their dogs at CanineLifetimeHealth.org.