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Could Golden Retrievers Save Lives? A Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Thinks So

Feb 12, 2018 07:59PM ● By Victoria Pipas
You might not consider your dog a wealth of scientific data that could be useful to oncology research, but if you own a Golden Retriever, think again. Colorado State University and the Morris Animal Foundation are currently conducting a Golden Retriever Lifetime Study that’s tracking a comprehensive range of elements of the lives of more than 3,000 purebred Goldens. The study aims to reveal previously undiscovered information about not only cancer but also other diseases common to dogs and humans alike.

This longitudinal study, which enrolled dogs before the age of two and tracks them for their entire lives, monitors all possible factors to account for any cause of death or change in health. Initiated in 2012, the study is the first of its kind and size for pets. It tracks not only physiological data but also in-depth information about every aspect of their lifestyles, including outdoor exposure, diet, habits, and ownership. The overarching goal of the study is to identify potential causes of cancer, which is one of the most lethal diseases in dogs and specifically in Golden Retrievers, a breed believed to be more susceptible to cancer.

Scientists are also eager to identify cancer-causing factors in this breed because Goldens are the third-most popular breed in the United States. This could mean that cancer-causing factors that are affecting these dogs might be likely to affect their human companions as well.

The study, entering its sixth year, has not yet yielded major results since many of the canine subjects are still alive and healthy. But enthusiasm about identifying risks for cancer is at its highest among Golden Retriever owners. A strong cohort has formed a community around their participating pets, and support is provided to those whose dogs fall ill. Owners are eager to have researchers identify and figure out how to prevent cancer among this beloved breed, which is also more prone than other breeds to conditions such as hip dysplasia as a result of selective breeding.

The hope is that with new information about the causes and treatment of cancer among Golden Retrievers, the information can be applied to humans since cancer treatments used for humans have historically been the same used for dogs. This transformational study is pushing the boundaries of intersectional medicine, and pet owners could be providing the future of cancer research for all of us.  

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