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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.