Dr. Ryan Fox and the Golden Retriever Cancer Study

Luna, who is one of the participants in the Golden Retriever Lifetime study, sits in her owner's lap before her appointment.

Luna, who is one of the participants in the Golden Retriever Lifetime study, sits in her owner's lap before her appointment.

The Morris Animal Foundation, founded in 1948, is a nonprofit that funds hundreds of studies on animal health. One of their studies, the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, is the largest observational veterinary study ever conducted with $25 million in funding.


Why Golden Retrievers?

More than half of Golden Retrievers develop cancer. It is also the leading cause of death in all dogs over the age of two. Participants in the study will help scientists:

  • Identify genetic, environmental, and nutritional risk factors for cancer and other major health problems in dogs.

  • Findings from this study could lead to better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer and other canine diseases.

  • Create a brighter, healthier future for all dogs.


Who can participate? What is expected of participants?

  • Golden Retriever Owners over 18 years of age and living in the contiguous United States.

  • Golden Retrievers that are healthy and under 2 years of age at the time of application.

  • Purebred Golden Retrievers that have a three-generation pedigree.

  • The study lasts for the entire duration of your dog’s life.

  • Participants are to complete online questionnaires regarding their dog’s diet and environment.

  • Take their dog to its veterinarian for annual examinations and sample collections (blood, urine, feces, hair, and toenail clippings)

  • Microchip their dog

  • Allow collection of tumor samples for evaluation when applicable.

Kathryn Bowers, co-author of Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health, said that our shared genetics mean that insights from one species, like dogs, can help humans too. “The genomes are different, but they are similar enough because of our millions of years of shared biology … that finding cancer clusters in other animals can help point the way toward suspicious regions on the human side.”

Will those genetic similarities be enough to get human disease insights from this golden retriever study? “That’s the million-dollar question,” said Jeffrey Bryan, an associate professor of oncology and director of the Comparative Oncology and Epigenetics Laboratory at the University of Missouri. “We’re in an era where companion animals are getting greater attention as models for human disease ... This is a centerpiece to where that movement is going. This will give us the best data set we’ve ever had to evaluate.”

“Overall the study is a good concept,” says Dr. Ryan Fox at River Landings Animal Clinic.

He oversees two Golden Retrievers who are part of the study— Lady and Luna. “Obviously it will take years to sort out all of the data and see if anything clinically useful emerges from it.”

Interested in joining the nationwide effort to create a healthier tomorrow for dogs? Registration is available on the Morris Animal Foundation website (here).

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