Morris Animal Foundation is looking for healthy golden retrievers over 12 years of age to help answer why some dogs get cancer and others don’t. Enrolled Golden Oldies will participate as controls for the Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, which seeks to determine potential risk factors that may lead to the development of cancers common in the breed.
The Study’s scientific team will compare the genetics of dogs in the Study that died from cancer with older golden retrievers that have successfully avoided cancers. Because a small percentage of the Study’s currently enrolled dogs are just entering their senior years, the enrollment of new dogs over the age of 12 for this project will help speed up scientific inquiry and outcomes.
“These older dogs will allow us to expedite our process so we can share meaningful results faster with veterinarians, dog owners and researchers,” said Dr. Janet Patterson-Kane, Morris Animal Foundation Chief Scientific Officer. “Just one veterinary visit from each of these Golden Oldies could make a world of difference to their breed and potentially every dog around the world.”
The genetic comparison between the two groups of dogs will help identify regions in the dog genome that may contribute to cancer susceptibility and allow the team to start analyzing Study cancer samples much sooner. Team members anticipate the information gained could help lead to genetic screening tests, targeted therapies for treatment and recommendations for informed breeding that might help reduce cancer rates in golden retrievers and other dogs over time.
The Foundation will begin recruiting later this summer. To participate, dogs must be purebred golden retrievers, from within the continental United States, and preferably be registered with the American Kennel Club. For DNA extraction, each dog will have a blood sample drawn by their family veterinarian. Owners will complete a brief survey to sign up and then, if selected, fill out a short questionnaire.
Though staff are primarily examining the older dogs’ genetics, some questions will cover the dogs’ environments and lifestyles. For instance, did they live in rural, urban or suburban areas most of their lives? What were their jobs were before retirement? A hunting dog living on a farm will have different environmental exposures than a companion pet living in a city.
The University of California, Davis, College of Veterinary Medicine, is providing additional samples to the Golden Oldies project through their ongoing longevity study – Understanding the Genes Behind Old Age and Longevity in Large Breed Dogs – for which there are existing samples.
The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is one of the largest studies of its kind ever undertaken in veterinary medicine. Its purpose is to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs. Each year, with the help of veterinarians and dog owners, the Foundation collects health, environmental and behavioral data on more than 3,000 enrolled golden retrievers.
Morris Animal Foundation, headquartered in Denver, is one of the largest nonprofit animal health research organizations in the world, funding more than $155 million in studies across a broad range of species.