Las Vegas family participates in nationwide cancer study for gol - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Las Vegas family participates in nationwide cancer study for golden retrievers

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A dog is shown in an undated image. (File/FOX5) A dog is shown in an undated image. (File/FOX5)

A nationwide study is looking at the health of a popular dog breed.

About 60 percent of golden retrievers will get cancer in their lifetime. Now researchers are trying to find out why.

A Las Vegas woman enrolled her dog in the study. Morgan is just one of more than 3,000 golden retrievers, across the country, helping researchers learn more about the beloved breed.

“We’re hoping that this study will go ahead and take away the one negative: they're prone to cancer,” Sun City veterinarian Dr. Mike Knehr said.

The four-year-old dog and her owner, Debbie Pietro, visit the vet each year, giving samples and answering questions that are crucial to the study.

“We go ahead and collect hair samples, blood samples, urine,” Dr. Knehr said.  

“What she eats, how much she walks, her likes and dislikes, what she sleeps on,” Pietro lists some of the things on the questionnaire.

That data is then sent to the Morris Animal Foundation in Denver, Colorado, where researchers want to know as much as possible about each dog.

“It is not easy to get great data in real time, over time on cancer,” Senior Scientific Communications and Programs Adviser Dr. Kelly Diehl said. “Our oldest dogs are about seven years of age. Our youngest dogs are three.”

Started back in 2012, the study relies on participants to do their part.

“People love their golden retrievers and they're really motivated clients,” Dr. Diehl said. “We have a wonderful group of people, who are just dedicated to doing this study.”

That includes Pietro, who ran the valley’s golden retriever rescue for more than a decade. Pietro has also owned 11 golden retrievers.

“If you had one, you would feel the same way,” she said. “They are like a child.”

But five of her golden retrievers died from cancer.

“One, I was walking down the street. He fell over and died. It was hemangiosarcoma,” Pietro said.

Pietro is hopeful they will get answers. “I really pray that something will be found that will help them,” she said.

Doctors said there are some already known factors.

“I think it always comes down to their gene pool,” Dr. Knehr said.

While Dr. Diehl said it’s still too early to make any strong links to cancer, they are also looking at possible links that may be disproven. Researchers have discovered other trends that may help golden retrievers lead healthier lives.

“We're looking into links into obesity in young dogs’ we're looking at injuries in young dogs,” Dr. Diehl said.

Dr. Diehl added this study is promising not just for dogs, but for their human caretakers too.

“Dogs have a compressed lifespan compared to us, but they are exposed to the same things,” she said. “This gives us an opportunity to learn about cancer and risk factors that not only affect dogs, but might affect other species including people.

For more information about the study, you can visit the Morris Animal Foundation's website.

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