These 3000 Golden Retrievers Have 1 Thing in Common


The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, part of the Canine Lifetime Health Project funded by Morris Animal Health Foundation, is largest and most comprehensive observational study attempted in veterinary medicine.

Launched in 2012, the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study (GRLS) is the first prospective longitudinal study attempted in veterinary medicine. By 2015, 3044 privately owned, purebred golden retrievers had been enrolled in the observational study, the goal of which is to identify the major dietary, genetic, and environmental risk factors for cancer and other important diseases in dogs. Now, for the first time, specific information has been publicized about the characteristics of the participating dogs.

The data, published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, focuses on the demographics of the study’s cohort and their initial visits after enrollment. As part of the study, pet owners and veterinarians who’ve signed up to participate must complete yearly online questionnaires about the dogs’ health status and lifestyles. Additionally, dogs undergo an annual physical examination and collection of biological samples by their primary care veterinarian.


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The following information about the enrolled pets has been identified:

  • 1540 are males and 1504 are females
  • Median age of dogs at enrollment was 14 months
  • By the initial visit, 50% had been spayed or neutered
  • Most of the dogs have a record of receiving preventive care, such as vaccines, parasiticides, and flea and heartworm prevention
  • Medical conditions reported at enrollment, all of which were minor, consisted primarily of integumentary, gastrointestinal, and urinary dysfunction
  • Median weight for all dogs was 27.8 kg
  • California has the largest number of enrolled dogs

Why Golden Retrievers?

Golden retrievers were selected as the canine population of interest because the breeds’ popularity in the United States increased the likelihood of sufficient enrollment within the set period of time. Similarly, golden retrievers are owned by a diverse population, which helps to ensure that participants are exposed to a variety of environmental factors. The breed is also thought to be at high risk for cancer development.

Other Canine Lifetime Health Project Studies

The GRLS is the first of many studies the Canine Lifetime Health Project plans to oversee. Run by the Morris Animal Foundation, the project’s website is currently seeking dog owners and veterinarians who are interested in participating in future studies.

Additional canine longitudinal studies are also underway:

  • The 9/11 Medical Surveillance Study monitors the health of dogs deployed to the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Staten Island landfills. As of November 2017, the study continued to follow 2 surviving deployed dogs and 1 surviving control dog, each aged 16 years.
  • Generation Pup is a UK study that is currently seeking the participation of dog owners whose puppies are 16 weeks of age or younger, of any breed or crossbreed. The project hopes to investigate whether events or environments early in life influence the development of health conditions as dogs get older.
  • Dogslife is a web-based longitudinal study of Kennel Club—registered labrador retrievers in the United Kingdom conducted to identify factors that may affect the health and disease of dogs throughout their life.
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