3,000 golden retrievers are helping scientists uncover a way to beat canine cancer and get our four-legged best friends to live longer.
A longitudinal study on golden retrievers seeks to get to the roots of canine cancer.
Most dogs go to the vet at least once in their lives. They get shots, checkups, surgeries, and other not very fun things, enduring harsh white lights, strange smells, strange people with latex gloves, and cold metal tables. Most don’t enjoy these visits very much, but 3,000 golden retrievers have been going through extensive monthly checkups for the good of dogkind.
These visits can go on for up to three hours. Researchers would trim a bit of the dogs’ golden fur, clip their toenails, and collect their bodily fluids. The samples would then be sent to a biorepository as part of an ambitious 32 million-dollar project that seeks to learn more about the causes of cancer in golden retrievers, other dog breeds, and perhaps even humans.
Cancer is the leading cause of death among goldens over two years of age.
Fur trimmings and toenail clippings aren’t the only things that researchers are looking at. The researchers are also looking at things like what the dogs eat, where they eat, if they get their teeth brushed, if the lawn of their home are treated with pesticides, and other seemingly small things. These bits of information, though they seem insignificant, may at some point be discovered to be risk factors. Thus, it’s possible that a s,all lifestyle change may be able to decrease cancer risk in our dogs.
The research project, at its core, is about cancer—“the number one cause for concern among dog owners,” according to veterinary oncologist Rodney Page. Cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs over two years of age. About half of dogs over the age of 10, meanwhile, are diagnosed of cancer. It seems that golden retrievers are slightly more susceptible to developing cancer than other breeds, with mast cell tumors, lymphoma, and bone cancer being common causes of death.
Golden retrievers are also the third most popular dog breed in the US, which made it possible for researchers to find the 3,000 canine subjects necessary for the first and largest longitudinal study conducted on pets. All 3,000 goldens entered the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study project before they turned two years old, and each one is set to be analyzed for the rest of their lives.
The study also analyzes small things about the lives of these golden retrievers, including how often they go for a swim.
The small discoveries about goldens include things like the fact that 20 percent of the dogs slept in their humans’ bed, 25 percent ate grass, 22 percent eat and drink from plastic bowls, and 40 percent go swimming at least once a week. The study, which began in 2012, hasn’t yet produced any significant results. Then again, the dogs are only seven years old, and none of them have developed cancer or other serious illnesses.
Dogs are prone to certain conditions such as hip dysplasia due to the way they were bred. However, researchers want to know if the cause of canine cancer is something that’s genetic, or something that can be done away with following a few lifestyle changes.
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