Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Dr. Michael Guy: We’re seeing an epidemic
of cancer. We’re seeing dogs getting cancer earlier than 20 years ago, so it’s a good
time to be doing a study like this. Dr. Rodney Page: This is a landmark study.
This, looking back, will be a seminal piece of work that will change canine health for
many, many decades to come. Dr. Christine Hardy: The Golden Retriever
Lifetime Health Study is a pivotal study for veterinary medicine, because it will give
us the information we need to be able to make evidence-based recommendations to pet owners,
so that their animals can live longer, healthier lives. Dr. Michael Guy: It’s the largest and longest
study ever attempted like this in veterinary medicine. Human studies have done longitudinal
studies, looking at people for more than 60 years, but this is the first time that this
has ever been attempted in the world of veterinary medicine. Dr. Christine Hardy: The ultimate impact and,
really, the Holy Grail is preventive medicine. But to be able to make those recommendations
we need to have scientifically-based evidence, so that we can make the recommendations to
pet owners so that they can make decisions for the betterment of their animals. That’s
when we can have the impact. Aaron Bain: Being involved in the study with
the Morris Foundation is quite an honor for both myself, and I think Ranger is pretty
proud also. Joe Brennan: We knew we wanted to get a Golden
Retriever puppy, so when we picked Piper up, we waited until she was six months old and
we got her enrolled. Dr. Michael Guy: We’re gonna have 3,000 Golden
Retrievers that we’ll be following through the study. We’ll be able to do some accurate
statistical analysis and know what the incident rate is of cancer in this group, and be able
to compare that to the larger population of dogs to see if, in fact, it is a change in
the incident rate or are we, in fact, just becoming more aware of it, more diagnosis. Dr. Rodney Page: In about 2007, we held a
very large cancer congress, and out of that came the concept of actually doing a lifetime
longitudinal study. So we began thinking about a population of dogs that we could monitor
for a very long time, to understand what the impact of their exposures, their diet, their
history, all of the things that happen to them would have on their health. Dr. Michael Guy: We chose the Golden Retriever
for two primary reasons. One, they do have a higher incident of cancer than many other
breeds. It’s thought that about 60% of Golden Retrievers will get some form of cancer during
their life. They’re a very popular breed. And to get 3,000 dogs to participate in a
study like this, we needed to choose a popular breed. So the combination of the popularity
with the high incidence of cancer made the Golden Retriever a good choice for the study. Dr. Rodney Page: We began to think about what
sort of information we wanted to collect, and we actually ended up building a very extensive
questionnaire. Joe Brennan: It’s an intensive questionnaire.
It does ask questions about the dog’s environment, the types of treats the dog’s eating, all
sorts of things you wouldn’t naturally think of. Dr. Michael Guy: We’ve got show dogs, we’ve
got dogs that are out doing hunt tests and field trials every weekend, and we’ve got
plenty of dogs that live in the backyard with five kids and eat macaroni and cheese and
hot dogs every weekend. So we have 3,000 dogs, and the effort to try to get as many diverse
lifestyles as possible. Dr. Rodney Page: The emphasis of this study
is really on the owner’s responsibility to participate. We ask for just an enormous amount
of information. Joe Brennan: We signed up for the study knowing
full well that it would require real attention on Piper, and any changes in Piper’s health
and any vet visits throughout the year. Aaron Bain: I’ve lost two other Goldens to
different forms of Golden Retriever cancer, and just was eager to try to give back. Erin Searfoss: A lot of our stories have dealt
with owners that have lost previous Golden Retrievers to cancer, and a lot of them have
lost young dogs to cancer, which is particularly difficult to see. We have a significant amount
of sibling littermates in the study, so it’ll be interesting to see that genetic aspect. Dr. Rodney Page: Over the course of the 10
year project, we may have 4 or 5 generations of dogs. That would be very, very valuable
in terms of looking at what the influence from the mother to the child might be. Dr. Michael Guy: It’s our hope that we have
a better understanding at the end of this study. What are the important risk factors
for cancer? That this’ll be the first of many more studies done on canine cancer. That this
study will focus future studies in a certain area. Dr. Christine Hardy: Sure, we’re studying
Golden Retrievers and that benefits dogs like Winston and other Golden Retrievers, but really,
what we stand to learn in Golden Retrievers can benefit all dogs. So if we can find a
genetic signature in the Golden, then the question is, well what other breeds also display
those genetic signatures that may put those breeds at risk? Dr. Rodney Page: We have big hopes. We think
we will identify a tremendous amount of information that will be useful to people, not only now,
but in the future. And this is a study that gets more and more valuable as time goes on. Dr. Michael Guy: A diagnostic tool for cancer
would be one thing. Another that I would love to see would be a genetic test that we could
do on Golden Retrievers, and identify that they’ve got a certain gene that makes them
more susceptible to a certain kind of cancer. Dr. Christine Hardy: A study of this magnitude
takes a tremendous amount of resources, and it’s really only made possible by the sponsors,
which include Morris Animal Foundation, Blue Buffalo, which is a pet food company, and
the Petco Foundation. Aaron Bain: To be able to give back and really
contribute to, hopefully, improving the health of Golden Retrievers specifically, but dogs
as a whole. Dr. Christine Hardy: Honestly, Winston lives
in our house. In fact, he sleeps in our bedroom. From time to time, he probably sleeps in the
bed. Don’t tell my husband, because generally that happens when he’s not home. But they
share our environment and as a result of that their lifespans are shorter than ours. But
the health problems that they develop can be indicators of health problems that we may
develop as well, and so that also is really important. Joe Brennan: If we can participate in any
way to learn something about cancer and to learn something about the health issues that
Goldens face, and if in any way, that can translate into the human world, we will have
been very proud to have participated in it, long after Piper is no longer with us.

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