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June 11, 2018 – The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study team uses the words retention and compliance a lot! But what do these words mean to the study, its participants and its legacy?

Retention is defined as the continued possession of something, or continuing to keep something in place. For a prospective, observational study such as the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, retention refers to keeping participating dogs in the study.

Maintaining the commitment to study participation is a big task since the study is anticipated to last for 10+ years. The dogs may not have much of a say, but owners and veterinarians collecting data and samples for the study have lots of competing priorities in life.

Thankfully, golden retriever owners are very committed to the health and well-being of their own dogs and the breed. This is one of the reasons golden retrievers were chosen for this ground-breaking study. And statistics demonstrate their dedication – 2,920 dogs were still enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study as of January 1, 2018. That’s 96 percent of the original 3,044 dogs!

Retention is critical to the study’s success because we need enough dogs to participate long enough to document the required 500 cumulative diagnoses of the four primary cancers – hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, high grade mast cell tumor and osteosarcoma.

While we know some participants will be lost to other diseases, and some will leave the study for reasons such as moving outside of the contiguous United States, the study team is dedicated to maintaining a high retention rate. We are doing this by providing consistent communication and active engagement, sharing study results, promoting the study’s impact, and providing a quick response to study participant concerns as they arise.

What about compliance? Even though 96 percent of the original cohort is still enrolled, not all of those dogs are fully compliant with study protocol. Compliance is defined as fulfilling the requirements of the study. The steps for Golden Retriever Lifetime Study annual study examination compliance are as follows:

  1.        The annual owner questionnaire is completed
  2.        Physical examination and sample collection is completed by the veterinarian
  3.        The annual veterinarian questionnaire is completed

The study also has protocols for biopsy of malignant tumors and necropsy (autopsy) sample collection upon a dog’s death. Details and instructions regarding these protocols are always available for participating owners and veterinarians on the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Veterinarians page.

Annual study examination compliance is the simplest to measure. Almost 84 percent of enrolled dogs were fully compliant at the start of 2018, meaning all three steps noted above were complete. This is a monumental accomplishment by these dedicated owners and veterinarians!

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study team has made adjustments in study protocol and communications over the past five years, all designed to make compliance as easy and understandable as possible.

  • Owners are invited and encouraged to resume full study participation even if they missed annual study examination requirements in the past.
  • Veterinarians enter all health information on the annual veterinarian questionnaire, including diagnosis history for the prior 12 months. Additional reporting is only required if/when malignancy is diagnosed.

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a unique contribution to research for companion animals, where very few prospective cohort studies have been performed. In addition to achieving the primary scientific objectives, retention and compliance strategies and metrics will provide valuable information to guide similar studies in the future.

Thank you to all of our dedicated and compliant participants!