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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS) – Researchers at Colorado State University are looking for golden retrievers and their owners to participate in a study to track cancer in the animals.
The Flint Animal Cancer Center is working with the Denver-based Morris Animal Foundation to follow 3,000 dogs over the course of their lives. They specifically want to look at cancer in dogs. The study is expected to span 10 to 15 years.
“Our donors with dogs have told us that cancer is their greatest concern. We look forward to working with Colorado State University to get a better grasp on all the factors that could contribute to cancer and overall health problems in dogs,” said David Haworth, DVM, PhD, President and CEO at Morris Animal Foundation in a news release.
Researchers believe cancer is the number one cause of death for dogs older than two, but they don’t know just how often it develops or what might cause it to develop.
“With this project we will determine a better estimate of how frequently these cancers arise. This is a very difficult number to accurately determine in dogs,” Dr. Rodney Page, the director of the cancer center and the principal investigator said in the same release.
There is very limited information about what the true incidence of cancer is in dogs since no census exists. Also, cancer is a reportable disease in people — each diagnosis is recorded and the incidence of each cancer is reported annually to develop public health recommendations. There’s no similar resource in dogs.
Most dogs do not develop cancer until they are five or six years old. The study will try to identify genetic, nutritional and environmental risk factors not only for cancer but other diseases including obesity, thyroid issues and arthritis.
The researchers believe the study could not only help dogs but also humans.
“We believe that we can learn more about canine and human exposure risks by knowing what dogs may be experiencing during their lives,” said Page.
Our hope is that we will be able to identify some significant modifiable risk factors that will improve the health of dogs and potentially provide clues for human health improvement as well.”
Golden retrievers must be purebred with a three-generation pedigree. The dogs must be healthy and younger than two in order to be part of the study.
Owners will have to agree to regular veterinarian visits and to answer questions about lifestyle, diet, reproductive history, environment, exercise, medicines and other aspects of the dog’s life.
“It does require a commitment from the owners of these dogs,” said Page. “They must record their pets’ activities and health issues and partner with a veterinarian who would help provide the information and samples we’re requesting. The veterinarians will have to devote a little more time to physical exams and collecting samples.”
For more information or to apply for the study, visit www.CanineLifetimeHealth.org.