Scientists want to find out why cancer is prevalent in Golden Retrievers. It seems that the dog breed’s life span has become shorter over the years too.
Now, veterinarians want to know as many details as possible about Golden Retrievers – when they give birth, get stung by a bee, or sprayed by a skunk.
Recently, Morris Animal Foundation started the first lifetime study of 3,000 purebred Golden Retrievers. The first dogs were signed up in 2012.
The nonprofit organization says the review of health conditions and environmental factors facing Goldens across the United States can help other dog breeds and even people, since humans carry 95 percent of the same DNA.
“Canine cancer has become a dog owner’s greatest fear,” said Dr. David Haworth, president and CEO of the foundation. “You don’t see dogs running loose that much anymore, we don’t see a lot of infectious diseases, and the vaccines we have today are very good, so our concerns are warranted.”
The vets still haven’t learned enough to improve or prolong the retrievers’ lives, but key factors could lie anywhere, said Dr. Michael Lappin. He has 19 patients from Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, for the study.
When Lappin graduated from vet school in 1972, Goldens lived for 16 or 17 years. Today, it’s only nine or 10 years.More than other dog breeds in the US, Golden Retrievers die of bone cancer, lymphoma and cancer of the blood vessels.
Lappin plans to get the families of his dog patients together in a few months, to see if they have found ways to make life easier for their dogs. The most helpful data about cancer, obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions won’t emerge for six or seven years, researchers say.
In the early part of the study, tests showed 33 percent of the dogs, which are 1 to 5 years old, had skin disease or ear infections; 17 percent had gastrointestinal illnesses; and 11 percent had urinary disease.
The dogs, of course, receive medication to treat the conditions, but vets cannot treat them in different ways because it would skew the results.
Marla Yetka and her 2 year-old Golden Retriever, Snickers who suffers from skin problems, joined the study. She says she uses oatmeal shampoo on Snickers, but she’s been looking forward to talk with other participants about their remedies.
“I have too many friends who have lost Goldens,” she said. “Is it what we are feeding them, their environments, their breeding?”
Dog owners also keep records of everything: change in climate or time zone, move across country or across town, new children at home, different food or behavioral changes –everything.
Most dog owners keep journals so they don’t constantly call the vets when their dog gets a thorn in his foot, eats insects, or gobbles up a whole box of pizza.
On the other hand, vets collect blood, waste, and hair and nail samples yearly, hoping to uncover a common thread or early warning sign among dogs that develop cancer or other diseases. Changes in temperature, blood pressure, energy, diet, sleeping patterns or other factors that could explain illnesses are also checked.
“Everyone involved will feel the burden it will take to be able to say, ‘I am playing a role in stopping cancer in these animals I love,’” Haworth said.
So far, seven Golden Retrievers involved in the study have died of conditions such as cancer and gastrointestinal problems, while one was hit by a car, Haworth said. Another doggie participant dropped out when his owner passed away.
The doggie participants come from every state; about half are male and half are female; and half are fixed and half are not.
Everybody involved in the study – including both the vets and owners –hope Goldens get a shot at the longer life they used to enjoy.
“I’m glad I found the study and feel in some small way, I might make a difference,” Yetka said.
Source: NBC Bay Area