Lori Perkins loves golden retrievers for their loyalty and the ease in which the train. She enjoys dog sports, and has had a good run with all the retrievers she’s owned.
She lost her dog, Rags, several years ago to a spleen and liver cancer.
“We went into the vet and I didn’t have a clue what was wrong and hemangiosarcoma causes them to bleed out very quickly. My veterinarian told me what was wrong and I left with just a collar and a leash,” Perkins recalls.
Unfortunately, Perkins heartbreaking experience is not uncommon for dog owners, particularly golden retrievers.
Veterinary epidemiologist Dr. Missy Simpson estimates 60 percent of golden retrievers will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
“Cancer is over-represented in golden retrievers. The veterinarian industry doesn’t completely understand why. Certainly, we think there is a genetic component, only we haven’t identified what genes may be playing a role in their predisposition towards cancer,” Dr. Simpson said.
Simpson works for the Morris Animal Foundation out of Colorado, which is conducting the large-scale golden retriever lifetime study. Over 3,000 golden retrievers are enrolled in the study which consists of extensive documentation and biological sampling by a veterinarian each year.
Experts hope to use the data collected from the golden retrievers to eventually find ways to prevent cancer in all breeds, leading dogs to longer, healthier lives.
“We hope to not only help golden retrievers but hopefully all dogs. The breadth of data that we’re collecting in addition to all these biological samples really means we have a powerful tool to help move the needle with veterinary medicine and answer a lot of questions that need answering,” Dr. Simpson said.
Perkins has two dogs in the study. Each year, she takes Red and Streamer to the vet for an extensive examination in hopes of contributing to the overall findings of researchers studying the breed.
“The samples that are provided by my two dogs will live past my lifespan and theirs and will help in future studies that are ongoing past that time span,” Perkins said.
Participants in the study are given $75 annually to reimburse veterinarian costs, however, Dr. Simpson said many owners gift the money back to the study.