On May 24th, 2012, Morris Animal Foundation enlisted the aid of 50 Golden Retriever owners to begin participation in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study; open enrollment began that summer. In March of 2015, with the 3000th Golden, enrollment in the study was complete. The study will last more than ten years, following these dogs over their entire lives. The large number of dogs enrolled and the length of the program make it unusual in the animal health world, where a study of such scope hasn't been done before.
The purpose of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is to "help scientists better understand the role of environment, nutrition, exercise, behavior, genetics and other factors in the development of (or protection from) canine diseases—particularly the greatest health threat to all dogs, cancer." It has been estimated that cancer is the number one killer of dogs over 2 years old, and Golden Retrievers are particularly susceptible—some studies have indicated that 60% of these dogs die of cancer.
Because the study examines the participants over such a long period of time, a much clearer picture is formed of how health evolves over the years and as well as how disease develops and what factors may contribute to it. All of the dogs participating in the study were under two years old at the time of enrollment.
So how is the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital involved in this? Dr. Janet Figarra explains:
We have two clients enrolled in the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. Once a year we collect blood, urine, feces, hair and toenails and submit all for the study. Throughout the year, any additional visits (vaccines, ear infection, diarrhea, etc.) are reported along with medications prescribed. Particular attention is spent on checking for, measuring and reporting any 'lumps'. The goal is to try to find markers for any types of cancer possible as well as to collect data to study other diseases. The study is following an unprecedented number of dogs through the course of their lives and is expected to yield very helpful results.
Head over to the Morris Animal Foundation site to read more about the study.