Do you own a golden retriever? If so, you have a lot of company — and with good reason. Goldens have a well-deserved reputation for being excellent family dogs, which probably explains why they were ranked at number four in the American Kennel Club’s latest ranking of the most popular dogs in the U.S.

If you own a golden and want to give something back to the breed that you love, here’s your opportunity. The Morris Animal Foundation is looking to enroll golden retrievers in their new Canine Lifetime Health Project (CLHP). The foundation’s aim is to enroll up to 3,000 goldens beginning in 2012 for a study that could last 10 to 14 years. The research aims to:

  • Identify ways in which genetics, environment and diet may affect a dog’s risk for cancer
  • Determine risk factors for other major health disorders in golden retrievers
  • Learn how to better prevent, diagnose and treat cancer and other canine diseases
  • Improve the health of future generations of golden retrievers

To become a part of this study, dogs must be healthy, under two years of age at the time of enrollment, and have a three-generation pedigree. Owners must be 18 years of age or older, live in the continental U.S., and be willing to complete a screening questionnaire and arrange an initial veterinary examination for their dogs.

Don’t enter into the study lightly. If you and your dog are accepted, you will need to:

  • Agree to participate for the life of the dog
  • Use a veterinarian who agrees to participate in the study (They also have to comply with specific terms to be involved)
  • Complete annual online questionnaires regarding the dog’s nutrition, environment, behavior and health
  • Take the dog to the veterinarian for annual examination and sample collection, including blood, urine, feces, hair and toenail clippings
  • When applicable, allow collection of tumor samples for evaluation
  • Be willing to consider a necropsy (the animal equivalent of an autopsy)

Owners are responsible for all costs associated with the annual exam, sample collection, and laboratory test results. Morris Animal Foundation will reimburse you for up to $75 of these costs per year after verification that the exam and sample collection has been completed. You may donate this compensation directly back to Morris Animal Foundation to support the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

If you can participate, please do so. According to the CLHP, cancer is the #1 cause of death in dogs over the age of two, and more than half of all golden retrievers die of the disease. The hope is that this study will identify the genetic, nutritional, and environmental risk factors for cancer and other diseases affecting goldens, and provide valuable information into prevention strategies, early diagnosis, and new treatments for cancer and other dog diseases. Check out the CLHP website for more information and to sign up either as an owner or veterinarian.

Hopefully, this study (the largest and longest ever undertaken to improve the lives of dogs, according to the CLHP) will prove to be a game-changer. I euthanized an absolutely lovely, seven-year-old golden over the weekend because of liver cancer. Anything we can do to reduce the likelihood that dogs, owners, and vets have to suffer through heartbreaking experiences like this one will be well worth the effort.

 

Dr. Jennifer Coates

 

 

Image: Marianne W. Dent / via Shutterstock