Landmark canine cancer study enrolling veterinarians

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study officially began enrolling veterinarians and dog owners on August 30, marking the launch of a canine health study of unprecedented size and scope.

Over a period of 10-14 years, veterinarians and pet owners participating in the prospective cohort study undertaken by Morris Animal Foundation will continuously monitor the health of 3,000 golden retrievers. This ongoing collection of data will give researchers deeper insight into how genetics, environment, and diet affect the onset and progression of cancer and other canine diseases.

According to Canine Lifetime Health Project Study Director Michael Guy, DVM, MS, PhD, veterinarians who have discussed the study with him have expressed enthusiasm about the amount of knowledge that will be gained.

“The veterinarians I’ve talked to are excited because they feel that a comprehensive study like this in dogs is very necessary,” Guy said. “We expect to see a lot of information coming out of this study about canine health that will be good for dogs in general.”

How the study aims to improve canine health
The expansive repository of data gleaned from the study will enable researchers to compare and contrast different health variables over time. For example, Guy said scientists can analyze the cancer rate between spayed and neutered golden retrievers over the course of 12 years, or learn how obesity affects the cancer risk in dogs.

To ensure a diverse sample, researchers divided the United States into five geographic zones from which they will recruit a set number of dogs, as well as identified other variables such as male versus female, and spayed versus neutered dogs. Enrollment will be capped for each of these variables once the quota has been reached.

Following the study, data will be shared with the worldwide research community to encourage collaboration in finding:
  • Risk factors for other major health disorders in golden retrievers
  • Better ways of preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer and other canine diseases
  • More information about how environment, genetics, and diet affect canine cancer risk

How veterinarians can participate
Veterinarians who are willing to make a long-term commitment to the study can begin by encouraging eligible patients to join the study, and by signing up at the study’s website. Eligibility requirements include that golden retrievers must be under 2 years of age at the time of enrollment, owners must be at least 18 years of age and live in the contiguous United States, and dogs must have a three-generation pedigree.

Once the veterinarian and pet owner have signed up online and been accepted into the study, over the course of the next 10-14 years the veterinarian will:
  • Examine the dog annually and report all information online
  • Collect samples of hair, toenail clippings, blood, feces, and urine, and send those materials to participating laboratories
  • Report updates online after any additional veterinary visits that occur during the year
  • Collect any tumor tissue samples and send them to be evaluated
  • Inform the dog owner about the value of allowing necropsy when the dog passes away

Besides the valuable knowledge that researchers expect to gain from the study, Guy said veterinarians can benefit from the close collaboration with their clients who are participating in the study.

“The clients who participate are very committed to their dogs. To me, that’s the type of clients a veterinarian wants. Working with a client for 12 years on an annual basis helps to cement a relationship with long-term, committed clients,” he said.

To learn more about the study, visit

Also, view a PSA video about the study that you can share on your website and social media pages.

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