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June 25, 2020 – Nicole Seawell refers to herself as a crazy golden retriever lover. But, as anyone who knows this breed, goldens are crazy people lovers right back. They spread energy and joy wherever their wagging tails (and sometimes their whole wagging bodies) take them.

Nicole has had four golden retrievers grace her life. Her current golden retriever, Sailor, is known as the Chief Joy Officer in the house. Nicole, like any good pet parent, makes sure Sailor is living the good life and, after experiencing cancer in two of her goldens, Sailor’s health is a top concern. She keeps a close watch on Sailor’s heart murmur and with regular veterinary checkups hopes to catch any other medical issues early. She does not want to repeat a cancer journey.

Spinal Cancer

“Cody was our first golden,” said Nicole. “He was my and my husband’s first canine child and was with us through many firsts as a couple, including attending our wedding. While he did live to 11, one day he began stumbling and, in a few weeks, lost the ability to use his front legs.”

Cody was diagnosed with a tumor on his spinal cord, which is an uncommon cancer in golden retrievers. Treatment included steroids and chemotherapy treatments. While this strategy helped for a few weeks, eventually Cody took a dramatic downturn.

“We lost Cody quicker than anticipated,” said Nicole. “We did everything to buy more time, but it just wasn’t enough. His body was full of tumors. It’s a hard decision to put your dog down, but it’s the most humane gift we can give our dogs when a disease takes an irreversible turn.”


Parker was Nicole’s third golden retriever, and second to be impacted by cancer. This time the cancer was caught earlier and treatment more effective.

“Parker had a lump in his lower lip that didn’t look like much,” said Nicole. “It had been there for a while, but we decided to get it checked out. The veterinarian took a sample and sent it to the veterinary teaching hospital at Colorado State University for analysis just as a precaution.”

A few days later, Nicole got the results. It was lymphoma. Her veterinarian guided her through several potential treatment options. One proactive measure recommended was to change Parker’s diet to include a lot of protein and little to no carbs. Parker ate a lot of salmon, grain-free kibble and an omega 3 capsule each day.

“This was a very different cancer experience than Cody’s,” said Nicole. “With a treatment plan in place, the lymphoma slowed. We were able to have 18 more golden months with Parker. He didn’t even know he was sick. He had a good quality of life right up until his last week of life, when we knew we had to say our goodbyes.”

How You Can Help

More than 100 different cancers can affect our pets, each a different experience, as Nicole can attest. Some take our pets quickly. Others, if caught early, can be managed and extend a life well-lived. Some can even be cured. Morris Animal Foundation is working to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer and animal lovers like Nicole are an important part of that work.

Nicole learned about Morris Animal Foundation through our Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, a comprehensive study to help understand the risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs. She was looking for a way to support meaningful research to find solutions for cancers in dogs and the Foundation was the right fit. The more research funded, the more tools developed so veterinarians and owners like Nicole can provide better care for their animals, despite a cancer diagnosis.

“Every dog or cat you have is a gift,” said Nicole. “It’s important that we give a gift back by loving them and giving them the best, healthy life possible.”