History’s largest dog study gets ready for takeoff
By Heidi Jeter
Most of us know that smoking increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke and physical activity reduces the risk of both. What many may not know is that these scientific findings and many more all sprouted from a small project that began in 1948. The Framingham Heart Study recruited residents of Framingham, Mass., to observe them throughout their lives and identify risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This study, which has since followed three generations of participants, is now recognized as perhaps the most influential study of all time for human medicine.
Morris Animal Foundation has embarked on a project that could have similar health implications for dogs. Through its recently launched Canine Lifetime Health Project, the Foundation will manage groundbreaking studies designed to learn how to better prevent and treat major diseases affecting dogs.
The first study under the Canine Lifetime Health Project umbrella will focus on identifying the genetic, nutritional and environmental risk factors for cancer and other diseases in Golden Retrievers. Projected to last 10 to 14 years and enroll up to 3,000 dogs, the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study will be the largest and longest observational study ever undertaken to improve the health of dogs.
“This is truly the biggest scientific effort that Morris Animal Foundation has ever undertaken,” says Dr. David Haworth, Foundation president and CEO. “And the benefits for advancing animal health will be huge.”
He adds that just having the compilation of detailed health information for a big population of pets will lead to enormous insights into the lives and well-being of all dogs.
“We’re very excited to be in a position to coordinate a project of this magnitude for the veterinary profession, and we’re grateful that so many corporate and private parties have agreed with us about the value of this family of studies,” Dr. Haworth says.
The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is expected to provide valuable information for identifying prevention strategies, methods for early diagnosis and new treatments for cancer and other diseases.
The study’s success depends on highly committed Golden Retriever owners who are willing to participate for the length of the study. This spring, Morris Animal Foundation will begin actively recruiting Golden Retriever owners who are older than 18 years and live in the contiguous United States. Dogs must be healthy, under 2 years old at the time of enrollment and have a three-generation pedigree.
Golden Retrievers were chosen because more than half of them die of cancer. Although this study involves only Golden Retrievers, the information collected will improve the health of all dog breeds.
“If this study is even close to as good as we think it could be, it will be the most important study conducted for veterinary medicine to this point,” says Dr. Haworth.
Posted by MAFon February 17, 2012. Permalink