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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.

Categories: Animal health, Animal studies, Canine cancer


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Submitted by Gina Craig at: March 16, 2012
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Gina Craig Golden Beginnings Golden Retriever Rescue volunteer
Submitted by Carol at: March 4, 2012
Quite simply, thank you. I love all dogs, but the burden that Goldens bear is onerous. Hopefully what you learn will help all dogs and even those who love them so.
Submitted by Anonymous at: March 3, 2012
Submitted by Carol at: March 1, 2012
So glad to see this being done. We just lost our dear girl to hermangiosarcoma two weeks ago. Goldens give so much love, it would be so wonderful to give them longer, healthier lives.
Submitted by Yvonne at: February 29, 2012
So glad goldens were chosen for the study. We just lost our 10yo golden to bladder cancer. He seemed (by looks, energy, labwork and exam) to be in excellent health and died 5 mo later. We have an 8 yo female I have high hopes of having for longer than that. Such heartbreakers.
Submitted by Mary Ann Banta at: February 29, 2012
I have lost three wonderful Scotties to cancer in the last too few years. Good luck.
Submitted by phyllis miyauchi at: February 28, 2012
So glad you chose goldens to start with. I've had 3 pedigree goldens die of hemangiosarcoma. I now have an 8 year old and am hoping that this one won't go the same way.
Submitted by Linda at: February 28, 2012
I am so happy the golden was chosen for the study. They are such a wonderful breed that give so much to us. We need to do what we can to give them a longer and better life.
Submitted by Diane Wolfe at: February 28, 2012
I'd love to have my younger golden (< 1 Yr) participate. My family has lost too many dogs to cancer.. we must do better!
Submitted by ginger at: February 28, 2012
I am so happy bout this . I will donated tomorrow. Thank you
Submitted by Linda Kelly at: February 27, 2012
Thank you MAF! We lost all 3 of our goldens to cancer - 2 to hemangiosarcoma. I wish you all success with this important study.
Submitted by Anonymous at: February 27, 2012
Great project