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Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

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Structure Of The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Following a purebred cohort of Golden Retrievers that includes the three-generation pedigrees and collection of DNA samples from study dogs will permit detailed genetic studies with a goal of identifying specific genes that may be correlated with certain forms of cancer. Given 500 expected tumours at 10 years, hazard ratios as small as 1.3 can be detected with 90% power, at the 0.05 alpha level , and only 375 tumours would be required to achieve 80% power. Larger HR, say 2% , obtain 90% power with approximately 100 cancer events. Similarly, less common cancers also lead to larger HR, so fewer cancer events are required.

Because both dog owners and veterinarians are required participants in the GRLS, separate recruitment efforts were directed toward each group. Dog owners were recruited through the Morris Animal Foundation website. The Golden Retriever Club of America offered a link to the study on their website and advertising space in their magazine. GRCA also provided a booth at national and regional Golden Retriever specialty competitions where Morris Animal Foundation staff could meet and speak with prospective study participants. The American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club both provided outreach to their members. Additional advertising was also done in other magazines directed to pet owners.

Value Of Prospective Longitudinal Studies

The GRLS is a prospective longitudinal cohort study. A cohort study is a defined group of individuals who are followed over a defined period of time . Cohort studies form a suitable model to simultaneously evaluate both multiple exposures and multiple outcomes of disease . Prospective cohort studies offer opportunity to collect data on time varying exposures and confounders. Golden Retrievers were selected as the canine population of interest for several reasons. They are a very popular breed in the USA which increases the likelihood of sufficient enrolment in a fiscally reasonable time. Following a purebred cohort of Golden Retrievers will help reduce the genetic variability that would be inherent in a mixed-breed dog population study. The Golden Retriever breed is also suspected of being at high risk for cancer development, as described below. Golden Retrievers are owned by a diverse population of humans which helps to create dispersed environmental exposures. The GRLS attempts to reduce selection bias, the selection of individuals for a study that are not representative of the larger population, by recruiting a large number of participants from all geographical regions throughout the contiguous United States, and by recruiting a diverse participant pool through broad outreach to dog owners, breeders and veterinarians.

Morris Animal Foundations Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Will Now Feature Elanco

Gaining insight into the incidence and prevalence of canine osteoarthritis is the driving force behind a newly announced partnership.

Morris Animal Foundations Golden Retriever Lifetime Study questionnaires for owners and veterinarians will now feature an OA-focused section, sponsored by Elanco Animal Health.

The new additions include the Canine Osteoarthritis Staging Tool and Liverpool Osteoarthritis in Dogs Index , two tools that help in the diagnosis of the disease. The questions cover topics such as a dogs walking gait, sitting posture, and interest in exercise.

Additionally, veterinarians will be asked to assess each study dogs range of motion and palpate joints, and take radiographs as needed.

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, says Morris Animal Foundations president and CEO, Tiffany Grunert. Partnerships such as these help us take advantage of those opportunities and expand the impact of the study.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of chronic pain in canines, affecting approximately 14 million adult dogs in the U.S. alone, Morris Animal Foundation reports. Most dogs are in their senior years before they are diagnosed with OA, but problems likely start much earlier.

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Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Enters Seventh Year

Later this year will mark the seventh year of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. Enrollment began in 2012, and the study reached capacity in 2015. Led by Flint Animal Cancer Center director, Dr. Rod Page in partnership with the Morris Animal Foundation, 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. It is the most extensive investigation of its kind ever undertaken in veterinary medicine.

The overarching goal of the study is to identify potential risk factors that may lead to the development of four types of cancers common in golden retrievers lymphoma and osteosarcoma, which are dramatically similar to the same cancers in humans, as well as hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumors. But we will learn so much more.

Of the 3,044 enrollees, an incredible 95 percent remain in the study and 85 percent are compliant with all study tasks. Those statistics would be unheard of in human studies and speak to the dedication of each owner. The team estimates they will be actively collecting data and samples for approximately eight more years.

The project has accumulated enough data to authorize research projects that take advantage of current data to expand knowledge about canine health. New projects include:

Excerpted with permission from Morris Animal Foundation.

What 3000 Golden Retrievers Can Tell Us About Cancer

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

As most practitioners know, cancer is a top health concern among dog owners, and for good reason. Cancer is the most common cause of disease-related death in dogs over ten years old, and statistics suggest one in four dogs will develop cancer in their lifetimes.

Despite significant advances made in the diagnosis and treatment of canine cancer, long-term survival has plateaued for many of the most important and deadly forms of the disease, including lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma. Identifying the risk factors for cancer development would help in the struggle against the disease, but finding these factors is challenging due to the complexity of the disease process and its typically prolonged clinical course. It can take weeks or months for cancers to be detected in our veterinary patients. Retrospective studies can help guide us toward risk factors, but they are often skewed due to recall and selection bias.

We determined that at least 500 cancer diagnoses are required to make valid associations between an environmental risk factor and cancer. Based on current estimates, it will take approximately five more years to reach this goal.

In 2017, we opened our data and samples to the research community. We have three active studies in progress, ranging from characterizing the gut microbiome in obese and lean dogs to evaluating the genetics behind litter size. These projects are nearing completion and we expect publications out within the next year.

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The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Is The Largest And Longest Observational Study Ever Undertaken To Improve The Health Of Dogs


Hailey came to GRRMF at six months of age from a family that wasnt prepared for an active puppy. Mom Emily learned about the Morris Animal Foundations cancer research study and was very excited when newly adopted Hailey qualified to participate. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, which began in 2012, is charting the lives of 3,000+ purebred Golden Retrievers and Hailey is Hero #159.

Every year Hailey gives blood, hair, nails and urine samples to the research team. Her local vet monitors her general health and well-being, documenting visits or concerns, and each year Emily completes a questionnaire about Haileys food, environment, and general lifestyle habits. Participants for the research program must be purebred goldens and under the age of two.

Learn more about the exciting work of the Morris Foundation at: and

Real World Evidence In Veterinary Medicine: The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Dr. Rod Page and Dr. Kelly Diehl discuss the origins of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, the data trends, and its impact on veterinary medicine.

In veterinary cancer care, its common to come across tough clinical questions where there is no known right answer.

There has been a growing focus on analyzing data gathered from routine care, leading to a new field called real world evidence . The RWE approaches being used in human oncology can also be applied in the veterinary space.

Morris Animal Foundations Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is the most extensive investigation ever undertaken in veterinary medicine. With data on more than 3,000 Golden Retrievers throughout their lives, the study is identifying nutritional, genetic, and environmental risk factors for cancer and other important diseases in dogs. The results will provide comprehensive data on diseases and other health challenges in veterinary medicine.

Dr. Page is a Professor & Director at Flint Animal Cancer Center and Principal Investigator for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. Dr. Kiehl is the Senior Director of Science and Communications for Morris Animal Foundation.

How and why did the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study come into being?

Twelve years ago, we realized a significant paradigm shift needed to happen if the veterinary community was going to address early detection of canine cancer.

Golden Retriever owners are extremely passionate about their dogs.

What are the mechanics of this study?

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Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is one of the largest, most comprehensive prospective canine health studies in the United States. The Studys purpose is to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs. Each year, with the help of veterinarians and dog owners, the Foundation collects health, environmental and behavioral data on 3,000+ enrolled golden retrievers.

Who Can Use Data Commons

Morris Animal Foundation Presents update on Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Anyone affiliated with a research institution can make use of the Data Commons for academic research. When you create your login, youll be asked for your email address, credentials and home institution. All accounts are subject to approval by the Data Commons management team.

Data Set Example

This is an example of a data set that can be generated in Data Commons using the historical data from the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study cohort.

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The Canine Lifetime Health Project

Morris Animal Foundation, founded in 1948, is a public nonprofit organization that funds humane scientific studies to advance animal health. The Canine Lifetime Health Project was initiated by Morris Animal Foundation in 2012 as the first-of-its-kind database to register dog owners interested in participating in clinical research studies. The CLHP website registers dog owners and their dogs of all ages and breeds including mixed-breed dogs. The concept of the CLHP website as the gateway to a community of dog owners accessible for separate health studies is similar to that used for human clinical research by the Army of Women , where both women and men can register online to be eligible to participate in studies related to breast cancer. The Love/Avon Army of Women was started by the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation in 2008 and has since registered over 375 000 people of which various subsets have participated in at least 19 studies.

Golden Retrievers Subject Of National Cancer Study

NATIONAL Golden retrievers have an especially high incidence of cancer which is why the Morris Animal Foundation is conducting the most extensive study ever taken in veterinary medicine.

Its called the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. It involved 3,000 goldens around the country. One participant lives in Champaign.

The test is a life-long commitment and takes a lot from owners, pets and veterinarians. Owners fill out a 70-page survey each year, so do their veterinarians. It takes a lot of time, but owners say its worth it.

Theyll do anything which might give them a better idea why these dogs are so susceptible to cancer.

Luna is a 7-year old golden retriever.

She is an awesome family dog, just a wonderful little companion says Sue Johnson, her owner

She likes to play with her toys and cuddle up to her family. But, it hasnt always been easy.

In the past year, shes had three tumors, mass cell tumors and a toe amputated from one of those tumors.

Anyone whos dealt with cancer knows its a scary word.

For us, we know that our pets are part of our family.

Its why theyre participating in the study.

Past research shows 60% of the dogs get cancer in their lifetime. When we study cancer, you want a breed that suffers from cancer said Tiffany Grunert, the CEO of the Morris Animal Foundation.

Theyve sent samples to the Foundation, and so have 3,000 other dogs in the U.S.

It doesnt just look at what dogs eat or genetics.

For more information, .

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What Is The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

by Dr. Noelle Weeks, Veterinarian, Veterinary Resource Center

Gilbert is Hero 668 in the study.

What is the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study and why is it important? The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is one of the largest, most comprehensive prospective canine health studies in the United States.

Nine years ago the Morris Animal Foundation funded a study that would involve 3,000 Golden Retrievers to look at various factors that affect their life and health over their lifespan. The Studys purpose is to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs. Golden Retrievers were selected for the study because of the high rate of cancer within the breed sixty percent of Golden Retrievers will be affected by cancer.

In order for Golden Retrievers to be enrolled in the Lifetime Study, dogs had to meet certain conditions and owners had to agree to yearly physical exam and laboratory tests. Each year enrolled owners complete an extensive questionnaire about their dogs living conditions, food, behavior and health. Each year enrolled Heros get a complete physical exam. Hair, toenails, urine, feces and blood are all collected and analyzed. Portions of each sample are kept in cold storage for future studies.

The Study will benefit dogs of all breeds over time as researches learn more about nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors and how they affect dogs.

A Look At The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Participants

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Michael Lappin, DVM, veterinarian and owner of The Animal House in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, has been active with Golden Retriever clubs for nearly four decades. He jumped at the opportunity to participate in this study. His clinic has 17 Golden Retrievers enrolled in the study including his own dog, Isaac a total that is believed to be the highest by any single clinic in the study.

We have a lot of Golden Retrievers in our practice, Dr. Lappin says. Isaac is known as Hero #64 in the study. He is a very happy dog and healthy so far. Goldens are generally easygoing with a stable demeanor, but the biggest problem is the high rate of cancer in this breed. This study could be a real game changer.

How You Can Help: If you would like to learn more or donate to this study, contact the Morris Animal Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Denver, Colorado, at

Each August, Dr. Lappin invites all his clients and the Golden Retrievers to a fun picnic. People bring covered dishes and share all things Golden. The event is hosted on a spacious property with a pond belonging to Heather Donnelly. Her home includes five Goldens, including Shannon, a 5-year-old in the MAF study.

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News From The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Cali, along with her brothers Sailor and Pirate, is part of an elite group of golden retrievers: They are members of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, a project of the Morris Animal Foundation.

The study is in its ninth year and has shared some of what researchers have learned.

Of 3,044 goldens, aged six months to two years, who enrolled in the study between August 2012 and March 2015, 78% are still in the study and fully compliant. Goldens are much better behaved than humans in long-term studies!

In addition, 99 dogs have dropped out of the study and, sadly, 240 have died. Of those, 60% have died of cancer, mostly hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma.

Studying cancer was the first and is the primary objective of the study, which looks at the dogs genetics, exposure and lifestyle, everything from their diet to the amount and types of exercise they engage in.

Researchers, with 21,100 dog years of data are also looking at:

  • Possible links between spay/neuter age and obesity
  • Developing an early blood test for lymphoma in dogs
  • Diet and microbiome health
  • Impact of inbreeding on litter size and adult dog size

and so much more.

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Request For Proposals

Qualified individuals may gain access to Golden Retriever Lifetime Study data and/or samples including but not limited to whole blood, urine, hair and toenails. These projects will contribute to the understanding of nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs.

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Article Provides Detailed Look At Participants In Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

What do 3,044 golden retrievers across the nation have in common? They are the principal players in the second published scientific paper from Morris Animal Foundation’s groundbreaking Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, highlighting characteristics of the dogs in this landmark study, including age, medical condition, preventive care and more.

Published in the November issue of Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, “Population Characteristics of Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Enrollees” focuses on the demographics of the study’s participants and their initial visits after enrollment. The study itself is the most extensive prospective study ever undertaken in veterinary medicine, gathering information on the enrolled golden retrievers throughout their lives to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs. It’s the first Morris Animal Foundation-funded study conceived, designed and run by the Foundation and its scientific team.

“This is a really strong start and an important compilation of data for this great study and lays excellent groundwork for future publications,” said Dr. Missy Simpson, Morris Animal Foundation epidemiologist and lead author on the paper. “We can tell by these initial findings that we have a healthy group of golden retrievers that are cared for by owners committed to their dogs’ health.”

Explore further

More information:Canine Genetics and Epidemiology

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