Back to Stories & News

August 22, 2019 – What the world needs now may be love, love, love, but to love the world we need data, data, data! Dr. Laura Kahn, whose dog, Loki, is enrolled in the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, joined this groundbreaking project because she recognizes this need through her work with the One Health Initiative.

The One Health Initiative is a collaborative team of international scientists, like Dr. Kahn, from multiple fields of expertise. The team looks at global health from the perspective that animals, humans and the environment are all intertwined. Health is not a separate, species-distinct issue studied in a vacuum, but one cohesive issue that evolves in our shared environments. Dr. Kahn recognizes the vast amount of data collected from 3,000+ golden retrievers over their lifetimes will not only help change what we know about dog health, but also has the potential to contribute to what we need to know about global health.

Dr. Kahn’s involvement with the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study all started with a simple search for a perfect pup for her family. As a researcher herself, Dr. Kahn methodically studied all the family-friendly breeds, their positive traits and their potential pitfalls. She landed on the ever-popular golden retriever. Soon, the family had their new puppy, Loki.

“I saw an article or publication about the Study and knew I had to enroll Loki,” said Dr. Kahn. “What intrigued me about the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study was how it was modeled in part after the Framingham Heart Study. Risk factors for heart disease that we take for granted today – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking – all came out this human study.  I have great hopes that the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study will do the same for dogs and even more.”

The Framingham Heart Study was launched in 1948 and collects data on thousands of men and women living in Framingham, Massachusetts. Trying to recreate a similar model for multiple diseases in dogs, the Foundation collects extensive data from Golden Retriever Lifetime Study participants, owners and veterinarians. Data is collected via health checks, lifestyle and behavior observations and annual biological sample collection (hair, nail clippings, blood and others). Like the Framingham study, data is expected to be mined for years and years to help identify risk factors for diseases. It also has the potential to inform discovery of new diagnostics and treatments.

“I am hopeful the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study will change how we look at disease in dogs, as well as in the people who live with them,” said Dr. Kahn. “Companion animals share our homes and sometimes even our food and beds. The health issues dogs encounter often are the same health issues we encounter, suggesting important connections between genetics and environmental exposures.”

While Morris Animal Foundation is focused first and foremost on animal health, the Foundation team that put the Study together realized its potential as more than just a dog study.  And it’s this same reason that drew Dr. Kahn to enroll Loki in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. She saw its potential for translational medicine; essentially what we learn from dogs will help more than dogs. “As a physician and researcher, this is really exciting stuff,” said Dr. Kahn.

Loki is advancing the Study each year with his participation (with a little help from his veterinarian and Dr. Kahn). He also contributed to the Study’s interest in canine cancers when he had a skin cancer diagnosis at 1 year old. That cancer was successfully removed and resolved. Loki soon will be 6 and has more to contribute!

If you’d like to support the Study and contribute as well, you can help during our National Dog Day campaign. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, every gift up to $50,000, from now until August 26, will benefit the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

Your gift has the power to change how we think about cancer and other health issues in our canine companions, and in people, too. Donate now to love, love, love the world with data, data, data. Let’s see where the Lokis of the world will lead us.