August 15, 2019 – It’s hard to believe, but this month we celebrate seven years of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. The most extensive investigation of its kind ever undertaken in veterinary medicine, the Study is gathering information on more than 3,000 golden retrievers, throughout their lives, to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other major diseases in dogs.
Many staff members here at Morris Animal Foundation can remember the early days of the study. There were many anxious months as enrollment began – slowly at first, then gradually increasing until we enrolled Hero #3044 in March 2015. Now that we’ve reached our seventh anniversary, it’s a good time to reflect back on what we’ve learned, where we’re at, and what lies in the future.
What we’ve learned is that we have an incredibly dedicated group of owners, supporters and veterinary medical teams who tirelessly fill out forms, sit through long veterinary visits and carefully pack and ship samples. The Study’s retention and compliance rates remain at a robust 85% and we have an active and engaged group of owners and supporters who care for each other. Our success to date is due to you!
This year has been a busy one for the Study team. Team members traveled around the country meeting Study participants and owners and spreading the word about the Study. Our team worked hard on creating the open source Data Commons, a place where researchers from around the world can access Study data to uncover new findings and stimulate new research questions to advance dog health. This bold, first-of-its-kind program, will give researchers unprecedented access to a large and comprehensive database. With an anticipated launch date in early Fall, our staff members are busy putting the finishing touches on this valuable new research tool.
We also were excited to see the publication of two projects this year that used early Study data. One, published by researchers from Embark Veterinary Inc. and Cornell University, showed that a dam that is 10% more inbred than another will produce one less puppy, on average, per litter. Their study confirmed, using genetic analysis, what many people have recognized for a few several years.
The second paper, written by Study epidemiologist Dr. Missy Simpson, looked at the relationship between age at spay or neuter and the development of overweight/obesity and nontraumatic orthopedic injury. Dr. Simpson found that dogs that were spayed or neutered at any age had a higher incidence of obesity and overweight than their intact counterparts. In addition, she found that dogs spayed or neutered under 6 months of age had a higher risk for nontraumatic orthopedic injuries than dogs spayed or neutered at a later age. The risk was independent of body condition.
The paper has generated a lot of attention. Dr. Simpson and our marketing team have been busy granting interviews to a variety of news outlets including The Atlantic, The Now (Scripps TV), National Public Radio and Colorado Public Radio. The team is already starting on more publications for the upcoming year, including a study of behavior changes associated with spay or neuter procedures. Stay tuned as we continue to search for answers to important health questions that impact not only golden retrievers but could translate to all dogs.
As we approach National Dog Day on August 26, we’re reminded of the many beloved dogs that share our lives, and we’re honored and humbled that the Study is generating results that can positively impact the lives of all dogs. We know that we still have a lot of work ahead of us as we begin to focus on the main reason for the Study’s inception – to identify risk factors for cancer development.
Thank you for all that you do. If you would like another way to support the Study, consider making a gift during our third annual National Dog Day campaign. Gifts made by August 26 will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $50,000, thanks to a generous, anonymous donor who loves golden retrievers.