Golden Retriever Lifetime Study: Join research history in the making

The largest prospective research study ever conducted in veterinary medicine.

In September 2012, Morris Animal Foundation launched the largest prospective research study ever conducted in veterinary medicine. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is recruiting 3,000 purebred Golden Retrievers, their owners and their veterinarians into a lifelong observational study to evaluate the influence of genetics, diet and environment on the incidence of cancer and other diseases.

We are pleased that so many veterinarians have already joined the study in both roles—as veterinarians and as dog owners. Michael Lappin, DVM, owner of The Animal House in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, has four patients in the study and also enrolled his own dog Isaac.

“It has been heartbreaking in my 40 years as a practicing veterinarian to see young, seemingly healthy Golden Retrievers struck down in what should be the prime of their lives,” he says. “I have been driven by the need to do as much as I can to help this wonderful breed enjoy a longer, healthier life.”

Build long-term relationships with your clients

In addition to helping to improve canine health, the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study provides an opportunity for veterinarians to build long-term relationships with dedicated clients. The Morris Animal Foundation study team has observed that owners who enroll their dogs in this study are extremely committed to canine health. Many have, unfortunately, already lost a dog to cancer and are, therefore, even more dedicated to advancing veterinary medicine to benefit their current and future pets.

“I enrolled my Golden Retriever Journey in the study because I have always wanted better health for my dogs,” says Nancy Bishop, a veterinary technician who is also participating in the study. “I can’t thank Morris Animal Foundation enough for taking on this pioneering study to help my beloved breed and other dogs.”

Every year, for the lifetime of their enrolled dog, owners will complete a detailed online questionnaire about their dog’s diet, travel, reproductive history, living environment, exercise and behavior. Owners must also take their dogs to their veterinarian annually for a physical examination and collection of blood, urine, feces, hair and nail clippings.

The veterinarian enters the exam results into an online database and ships samples to a biorepository for long-term storage, where they will be made available to future researchers for additional studies. Samples are also submitted to Antech Diagnostics for a serum chemistry panel, a total T4 test and complete blood cell count as well as urinalysis, fecal analysis and a heartworm antigen test. Antech Diagnostics sends test results to the veterinarian at no cost.

Clients are also expected to bring their dog to their veterinarian for all other health events that take place while the dog is in the study, and the veterinarian must provide Morris Animal Foundation with a brief online summary of the findings from these additional visits. If a dog develops cancer during the study, the veterinarian will collect samples for evaluation and submission to the biorepository.

Southern states lead enrollment

The aim is for participating dogs to be evenly distributed among the four gender groups—intact females, spayed females, intact males and neutered males—and across five geographic regions of the continental United States: Northeast, South, Midwest, Mountain and Pacific.

As of May 1, 378 dogs were enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, and more than 1,200 additional dogs were completing the application process. The Southern states are leading enrollment with 24 percent of dogs.

Dogs eligible for enrollment

  • Must be a healthy, purebred Golden Retriever
  • Have a verifiable three-generation pedigree
  • Be younger than 2 years of age
  • Reside in the contiguous United States

Ruth M. Roberts, DVM, owner of the Sun Dog Cat Moon Veterinary Clinic in Johns Island, South Carolina, says she is participating with her client because she admires what Morris Animal Foundation is doing.

“We can finally compare apples to apples and have an opportunity to stack up what we believe may influence each dog’s chances of developing a disease, or not developing a disease, and see if those theories hold up,” she says.

You can help in many ways

Morris Animal Foundation still needs the help of dedicated veterinarians to reach the recruitment goal of 3,000 dogs. You can register yourself as a veterinarian willing to participate, and you can also increase awareness with the following steps:

  1. Review your client database for owners of Golden Retrievers younger than 2 years of age
  2. Contact those owners and encourage them to apply to the study
  3. Help us spread the word – tell your clients and colleagues about the study and provide brochures in your waiting room

Be part of research history. Join us at or email us if you have questions.

By Michael Guy, DVM, MS, PhD









Washington State 

Veterinary Medical Association 
8024 Bracken Pl SE
Snoqualmie, WA 98065

Phone: (425) 396-3191
Fax: (425) 396-3192

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