Good dogs: Study tracks 3,000 Golden Retrievers to understand canine cancer

Who’s a good dog? The 3,044 Golden Retrievers whose lives have been dedicated to a major research project that could improve canine life quality, that’s who.

The dogs are part of a study, which stretches across the U.S., that scientists hope will reveal the mysteries behind why dogs get cancer. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, conducted by the Morris Animal Foundation and Colorado State University researchers, is the most comprehensive veterinary study to ever take place in the U.S.

The study will track details from the lives of participating dogs, from birth until death, to help researchers identify risk factors for canine cancer and other health problems. Eventually, this information could yield better awareness or treatment of illnesses in dogs or even humans.

Golden Retrievers — the third most popular breed in the country — face a high risk of cancer, which is why the breed was chosen as the focus of the study. More than half will eventually wind up with some form of it, the foundation reports.

Participating dog owners document what their pet eats, how often their pet sleeps and other details, like if they play in yards that contain pesticides. The dogs have annual checkups and their fur, toenails and body fluids are collected and sent off to the study’s researchers.

Since 2012, when the study began, no huge discoveries have been made, reports The Washington Post. The oldest participants are currently around seven years old, and haven’t yet faced many of the health problems that researchers will want to look at.

However, fun details have emerged so far. About 20% of Golden Retrievers share a bed with their owners. Around 40% swim at least once a week, and 25% eat a notable amount of grass. Good dogs.

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