Back to Stories & News

March 23, 2021 – As dog lovers, we want our dogs to enjoy a great quality of life as they age, free from disease and pain. But the reality is that some of the same scourges of old age that plague people – osteoarthritis (OA) and cognitive decline – can be a problem for our dogs, too. Unfortunately, there’s a lot we don’t know about these diseases in dogs, which makes prevention, detection and treatment challenging.

The Foundation has a long history of funding studies to improve the long-term quality of life for aging dogs.  And what better way to tackle these diseases than through one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted – the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

The Purina Institute and Elanco Animal Health also wanted to learn more about diseases affecting older dogs. The Purina Institute was particularly interested in canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) and Elanco wanted to learn more about osteoarthritis in dogs. A partnership grew from this shared desire to fill in the knowledge gaps about these diseases as a first step toward prevention and better therapies for both.

Both the Purina Institute and Elanco have gifted $225,000 each toward funding new projects that will be offered to current Study participants. The Purina Institute is sponsoring the addition of CDS-focused questions to the current data collection process. The new questions ask owners and veterinarians about behaviors that may indicate changes in learning and memory, disorientation, social Interactions, sleep/wake cycles, house soiling, activity and anxiety.

Elanco is sponsoring a new section of the owner and veterinarian questionnaires that directly evaluates signs of osteoarthritis. Elanco’s sections include their Canine Osteoarthritis Staging Tool (COAST) and Liverpool Osteoarthritis in Dogs Index (LOAD) tools that help in the diagnosis of the disease. The questions cover topics such as a dog’s walking gait, sitting posture and interest in exercise. Veterinarians will conduct a companion assessment to look for clinical signs of osteoarthritis.

Owners can opt in to participate in the new studies when they log in to their Study portal to complete the Annual Owner Questionnaire. Videos explaining how to fill out the new sections are available for both owners and veterinarians to assist them as they work through the questions.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of chronic pain in dogs, affecting approximately 14 million adult dogs in the United States alone. Most dogs are in their senior years before they are diagnosed with osteoarthritis, but problems likely start much earlier.

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is a behavioral syndrome that affects about 14% of dogs 8 years and older. Dogs with CDS may become disoriented, show a loss of housetraining and exhibit decreased interaction with their owners, among other signs.

“These are important issue in canine health, and we are excited to be partnering with the Purina Institute and Elanco to better understand both osteoarthritis and cognitive dysfunction syndrome,” said Tiffany Grunert, President/CEO of Morris Animal Foundation. “Though the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study was designed primarily as a cancer study, its rich data set gives us the opportunity to investigate many other canine health problems. Partnerships such as these help us take advantage of those opportunities and expand the impact of the Study.”

Morris Animal Foundation is a global leader in funding studies that seek to improve the health and well-being of animals. Learn more about our study portfolio, our work and what you can do to help animals live their best lives!