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Why do so many golden retrievers get cancer? Omaha dog owners help with study

Posted at 7:51 AM, Apr 17, 2018

Why do so many golden retrievers get cancer? Omaha dog owners are participating in largest canine study ever to hope to find out why.

The Morris Animal Foundation, a non profit specializing in veterinary scientific research started a pilot study June 2012 enrolled 50 dogs with public enrollment August 2012. They'll hit their six year anniversary this year.

"They chose the golden retriever because of the high instance of cancer in the breed," Dr. Kelly Diehl, Senior Scientific Communications and Program Advisor with the Morris Animal Foundation said. 

For the past several years, dog owners participated, with a total of 3,044 dogs involved. 23 of those dogs are in Nebraska, 11 in Omaha. 

"We had always planned to get 3,000 dogs. The number was chosen so we could have 500 diagnoses of four kinds of cancers we're focusing on. If you have four dogs and you found something it's more powerful if you have five hundred dogs and you found something," Diehl said. 

Dog owners get compensated for some of the routine tests, but most veterinarians and dog owners just donate their time, Diehl stated. The study is paid through private donations and sponsors. 

In Nebraska, 23 dogs are involved. 11 of them are from Omaha.

Kelly Stevens 6-year-old golden Kegan is one of them. 

"Some answers would be great. I can't help to think to if we get some answers for our pets, then maybe some of that information could filter into us as humans," Stevens said. 

"As far as necropsy, this is crucial so we can understand cancer. For example, being able to study healthy and unhealthy tissue in the same animals," Diehl said. 

The study is in a data collection phase, but have already been able to look at information for correlations for additional studies, for example the relationship of weight gain and dog neutering.