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Golden Retriever Lifetime Study FAQS

What is the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a groundbreaking effort to understand and learn how to prevent cancer and other diseases in dogs. It is the largest and longest observational study ever undertaken in the United States to improve the health of dogs. This study is the first under Morris Animal Foundation’s Canine Lifetime Health Project. The study has enrolled 3,044 golden retrievers and will last 10 to 14 years. This study will identify genetic, nutritional and environmental risk factors for cancer and other major diseases that affect all dogs.

Why did Morris Animal Foundation choose golden retrievers for the first study under the Canine Lifetime Health Project?

Golden retrievers were chosen because the breed has a higher prevalence of cancer than other dog breeds. In addition, the large population of golden retrievers in the United States ensured the study team was able to enroll the required number of dogs (3,000). The knowledge obtained from this study will benefit all dogs, and that is our primary goal.

Why were 3,000 golden retrievers needed for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

In developing the concept of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, our biggest questions were:

  • What age should dogs be at enrollment?
  • How many golden retrievers should we enroll to ensure we gather enough information to answer questions about cancer incidence?
  • Can we recruit a large population of golden retrievers, owners, and their veterinarians for the lifetime of the dogs?
  • And, of course, can we fund the project?

With the help of experts in veterinary and human health, we estimated the incidence of the four most common and fatal cancers in golden retrievers. Using a lifetime survival model, we projected a need to enroll 3,000 golden retrievers under 2 years of age to answer our primary question about cancer incidence, and to gather information on related risk factors.

Another important factor in determining the final enrollment number was the cost. Large prospective studies are expensive. We needed data from enough dogs to draw accurate conclusions while ensuring financial sustainability. Enrolling 3,000 dogs met these criteria.

Why is the final number of dogs enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study more than 3,000?

To stay within established guidelines and to prevent significant over-enrollment as we neared study capacity, enrollment priority was given to those dogs with veterinary visits completed or reported at the time we closed registration. Significant value was placed on honoring a spot to all dogs that had already completed study requirements as we rapidly approached the enrollment goal. In honoring these commitments, we knew we would have a few participants beyond the 3,000 milestone. The official count is 3,044 dogs. This number also includes dogs that were officially withdrawn or died during the enrollment period; we will continue to count all dogs in this tally. This enrollment number is final, and there are no plans to re-open enrollment for this study. We are grateful to everyone for their commitment and continued interest in the study.

Why should owners and veterinarians participate in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

The study’s success depends on golden retriever owners and their veterinarians. Cancer is a leading disease-related cause of death in dogs, and more than 6 million new cancer diagnoses are made each year in dogs. By participating in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, participants will help researchers

  • Identify genetic, environmental, lifestyle, and nutritional risk factors for cancer and other major health problems in dogs
  • Learn how to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer and other canine diseases
  • Establish extensive data and biological sample repositories for future study

This study also will provide owners and veterinarians with a framework for building a long-term relationship focused on the health of the dog through annual veterinary visits.

What were the requirements for a dog to be enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

To be enrolled in the study, a dog was required to:

  • Be a healthy, purebred golden retriever with a three-generation pedigree (family tree)
  • Be older than 6 months of age and younger than 2 years of age at the time of application
  • Reside in the contiguous United States (excludes Alaska and Hawaii)
Why were dogs required to be healthy to enroll in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, and what does that mean?

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is an observational study that will follow dogs from youth through old age. In order to capture if and when a study dog develops a disease or health condition, it was important to begin with young, healthy dogs. For the purpose of this study, we defined healthy as a dog that is free of any detectable serious health disorders or diseases that could shorten the dog’s life span.

Why were only dogs that reside within the contiguous United States enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

Samples collected from study participants must arrive at the participating laboratories within one day of collection. Samples shipped from outside the lower 48 states would not meet this requirement because of likely shipping or customs delays. Additionally, the fees to ship samples from outside the lower 48 states are cost-prohibitive.

Why were only dogs that were younger than 2 years of age enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

Enrollment was restricted to dogs younger than 2 years of age to better ensure the dogs were healthy at the time of enrollment. There is also scientific value to following a similar group of animals (age and breed).

Why were only golden retrievers with a three-generation pedigree enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

One of the goals of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is to identify genetic risk factors for cancer. Enrolling dogs with known pedigrees is important for genetic analysis.

What is a three-generation pedigree?

A three-generation pedigree is a registration document, such as American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club registration papers, that identifies a dog’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

How will the pedigree information be used?

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is an observational study that will analyze genetic, nutritional, environmental, behavior, and lifestyle influences on canine health. The genetic research portion of the study will look for correlations between genetic markers and disease. Pedigrees can help researchers learn more about potential associations of genetic markers with certain diseases in golden retrievers. Efforts to understand possible genetic correlations with disease will be studied over the entire course of the study. Once analyses are completed, the genetics results will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Ideally, these findings will lead to the development of genetic tests that both veterinarians and breeders can use to improve the health of this and other dog breeds. All names and registration information will remain confidential.

Were study dogs required to be registered with the American Kennel Club to enroll in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

No. Owners had to provide a three-generation pedigree (family tree) for the dog, but that did not have to come from the American Kennel Club. An alternative registration organization, such as the United Kennel Club or a national service-dog breeding program, also was accepted.

Were any littermates enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

Yes. We encouraged the participation of littermates in this study. However, no more than two littermates were enrolled from the same household. We define littermates as dogs who are born on the same date and from the same dam (mother). We also encouraged enrollment of siblings that may not be littermates, e.g., same dam and sire but different dates of birth.

How will the nutritional and environmental information be used?

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is an observational study that will analyze genetic, nutritional, environmental, behavior, and lifestyle influences on canine health. The nutritional research portion of the study will look for correlations between diet and disease. What and how much a dog eats can have an important effect on its overall health. The environmental research portion of the study will look for correlations between environmental exposures and disease. Examples of environmental exposures include, but are not limited to: home environment, pesticides, and air and water quality.

How will the behavioral information be used?

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is an observational study that will analyze genetic, nutritional, environmental, behavior, and lifestyle influences on canine health. The behavioral research portion of the study will look for correlations between temperament and risk for disease.

Why do enrolled dogs have a microchip or tattoo?

Every dog in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a valuable contributor to the study. A microchip or tattoo was required for enrollment because we want to provide every opportunity to help recover a dog should it become lost. The microchip or tattoo also is used to verify the dog’s identity during its annual examinations. This is to ensure that the health information obtained is coded to the correct dog.

Do study dogs go to specific veterinarians?

No. Owners were encouraged to ask their veterinarian to join the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study with them, but they were permitted to choose any licensed veterinarian willing to participate as the study dog’s primary veterinarian.

How long is a dog enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

We ask that dogs remain enrolled for the entire length of the study (10-14 years). This study will be monitoring dogs from youth through old age. In order to identify if and when a study dog develops a disease, it is important to collect data over the entire life of the dog. Valuable information may be obtained that will significantly improve the health of future generations of golden retrievers and will provide the basis for creating a brighter future for all dogs.

When will the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study end?

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is estimated to run for 10 to 14 years, however, a specific end date is difficult to determine because many factors will influence when the study will close, including the life span of participating dogs, the number and timing of cancer outcomes, and the availability of funding.

Does this study require any experimentation or testing on the study dogs?

No. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is an observational study. We require that the dogs receive annual health examinations with sample collection (which is the current recommended standard of preventive care) and that additional veterinary visits made for major health concerns also are reported by the veterinarian. We do not ask the owner or veterinarian to try any products, medications or diets, nor do we suggest any lifestyle changes. The information collected will help provide insight into the risk factors leading to cancer and other canine diseases.

What is an observational study?

An observational study is a type of research study in which a group is observed over time and information is collected on that group; no interventions are performed or recommended. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study does not make recommendations as to how owners care for their dogs or veterinarians provide medical care. It does gather information on the dog’s genetics, nutrition, health, lifestyle and environment, and major illnesses.

What is expected of owners who have enrolled their dogs in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

The success of this study depends on highly committed golden retriever owners. Participating owners must:

  • Maintain an owner account online at caninelifetimehealth.org
  • Agree to participate for the life of their dog
  • Be at least 18 years of age and live in the contiguous United States
  • Partner with a veterinarian who agrees to participate and discuss what the costs* will be to participate in the study
  • Complete online questionnaires each year regarding the dog’s nutrition, environment, behavior and health
  • Take the dog to its veterinarian for its annual study visit, including examination and sample collection (blood, urine, feces, hair and toenail clippings)
  • Agree to have a microchip implanted in the dog (or use an alternative form of permanent identification, such as a tattoo)
  • Allow the veterinarian to collect and send tumor samples to the study-participating laboratory for evaluation when necessary
  • Be willing to consider a necropsy (postmortem examination) when the dog dies

*Note: The owner is responsible for costs associated with each study visit. However, Morris Animal Foundation will reimburse owners $75 toward these costs per year. Reimbursement occurs after the study team verifies the questionnaire, examination and sample collection have been completed. If you choose, you may donate this reimbursement back to Morris Animal Foundation to help support the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

What is expected of veterinarians who participate in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

Participating veterinarians must be willing to do the following:

  • Maintain a veterinarian account online at caninelifetimehealth.org
  • Agree to participate as the dog’s primary veterinarian by linking to the dog’s record online and accepting the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Veterinary Agreement
  • Talk with the client about what the costs will be to participate in the study
  • Communicate online and by email with the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Team
  • Ensure the applicant dog has a microchip or tattoo
  • Conduct annual physical examinations and report the findings online
  • Collect annual samples of blood, urine, feces, hair and toenail clippings from the study dog and send them to the participating laboratories (the Antech laboratory results, as well as supplies for collection and shipping, are provided)
  • Provide care during other health events, such as illness or injury, and collect samples as needed for evaluation and submission to a study-participating laboratory
  • Submit health information online from any additional veterinary visits for major medical concerns that take place between annual visits (Routine health visits and vaccinations may be reported during an annual study visit and do not need an additional veterinary visit report.)
  • Collect tumor tissue samples, when applicable, and ship them, per the tumor handling instructions, for evaluation (supplies provided) to the study-participating laboratory
  • Provide owners with information and guidance to help them make a choice about necropsy after their dog dies
  • If a necropsy is approved by the owner, perform the necropsy or help the owner choose a veterinary pathologist to perform the necropsy
What is the process for a dog’s annual study visit?

To fulfill the requirements for each year’s annual study visit, the owner must:

  • Log on to caninelifetimehealth.org and complete, save and lock the annual owner questionnaire. The questionnaire does not need to be completed in one sitting. Progress is saved automatically as an owner moves through the questionnaire. However, the questionnaire must be locked once complete for shipment of the veterinary sample kit to occur.
  • Once the questionnaire is completed, saved and locked, the veterinary sample kit will be mailed to the owner within 10 business days. If an owner has changed veterinarians, it is recommended the owner delivers the kit to the new veterinarian ahead of time so the veterinarian may become familiar with the kit contents and review study requirements.
  • Schedule an appointment with the veterinarian in accordance with the Annual Appointment Guidelines.
  • Return to caninelifetimehealth.org and log on to update the scheduled visit date on the dog’s record. After the annual visit, the study veterinarian is responsible for ensuring the annual veterinarian questionnaire is completed online. The dog’s Antech laboratory results also will be automatically uploaded 2-3 business days after the visit to the veterinarian’s study account.

For any questions regarding the annual study visit process, please contact the study customer service team at grdogs@caninelifetimehealth.org or 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647).

How does the owner know when a dog’s annual study visit is due?

Each owner will receive an email reminder 30 days prior to the yearly due date for the study visit. We ask owners to schedule each year’s veterinary visit appointment ±30 days of the dog’s study anniversary date. If the owner questionnaire has not been completed, a second reminder will be sent 14 days before the due date. For any questions, please contact the study customer service team at grdogs@caninelifetimehealth.org or 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647).

How much time will a study visit take?

The veterinary visit will take an estimated 30–60 minutes to complete the annual examination, review the medical history and perform the sample collection. After the visit, the completed veterinarian questionnaire can be entered online via the study website by the veterinarian or a member of the veterinary clinic staff.

When and where is the veterinary sample kit shipped?

The veterinary sample kit is shipped to the owner after the owner completes, saves and locks the online owner questionnaire. To allow adequate time for shipment, please allow at least 10 days between the date the owner questionnaire is completed and the date of the veterinary visit. If the owner is using a new veterinarian, we recommend the owner deliver the kit to the clinic a few days before the veterinary visit date so clinic staff can review contents and instructions.

What if an owner has not received a veterinary sample kit prior to the scheduled annual study visit?

The annual veterinary sample kits will not ship if the owner has not completed, saved and locked the owner questionnaire. Owners should first make sure that the questionnaire was filled out in full, saved and locked by logging on to caninelifetimehealth.org.  If the owner questionnaire is locked and a kit still has not arrived, please contact grdogs@caninelifetimehealth.org or 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647) for assistance.

What if the veterinary sample kit is lost or it arrives damaged?

The dog’s annual study visit cannot be completed without the veterinary sample kit. Please call the study team at 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647) to have a new kit shipped. The veterinary visit may have to be rescheduled to allow time for the replacement kit arrive.

What must an owner do before the veterinary appointment?

To help a dog’s veterinary visit run smoothly, we recommend the owner take the veterinary sample kit to the clinic a few days before the appointment date (especially if using a new study veterinarian).

The veterinary sample kit will be shipped to the owner after the owner questionnaire is completed, saved and locked. If the box has been significantly damaged in transit, please request a replacement kit by calling the study team at 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647).

Please prevent access to all food at least 12 hours before the scheduled appointment. The dog may have access to water up until the time of the appointment. Also, avoid trimming the dog’s toenails for up to four weeks before the appointment.

On the day of the appointment, please gather the following:

  • A stool sample – Collect a fresh sample (less than 12 hours old) of the dog’s stool in a clean, zip-closure bag.
  • A urine sample – The veterinarian may ask the owner to collect the urine sample. If so, he or she may supply an appropriate urine collection container, along with instructions on how to collect the sample. Collect approximately 1–2 tablespoons of the dog’s urine. Alternatively, the veterinarian may opt to collect the sample during the appointment. If this is the case, the owner should try to keep the dog from urinating for a few hours before the appointment.
  • Hair clippings – Cut a lock of hair ≈1/4” in diameter (about the diameter of a wooden pencil) and a minimum of 2” long as close to the root as possible. This may be done by the owner or the veterinary clinic staff. The preferred collection site should be determined by the owner. 
  • Toenail clippings – Collect 5-10 toenail clippings. This may be done by the owner or the veterinary clinic staff.
  • The dog’s medical history – The owner should bring any health information about the dog, such as medical and vaccination records, current medications and any past medical conditions. If the owner knows of any medical conditions in the dog’s parents, please bring that information, too (baseline, Year 1 and Year 2 visits only).
  • Microchip/tattoo information – The microchip/tattoo information is verified during each annual study visit. The owner should bring the microchip information (manufacturer, etc.) to the appointment. The veterinarian will verify the information and ensure the chip is still functioning.
Why do participating veterinarians have to register for the Canine Lifetime Health Project?

A dog’s information for this study is provided online by the owner and the veterinarian. The veterinarian must maintain an account at caninelifetimehealth.org to access the reports and tools that he or she will need for the study. If the veterinarian is unable to meet this or other requirements, another veterinarian will need to be selected who can participate in the study.

What happens if a study dog is spayed or neutered after it was enrolled in the study?

A study dog may be spayed or neutered at any time during the study. The owner will report the change of sex status on the next annual owner questionnaire. The veterinarian will report the method and date of the change on the next annual veterinary questionnaire.

What if the owner doesn’t have the sire’s or dam’s medical histories available?

The sire and dam medical histories are not required. If available, however, this information may be added to the dog’s record each year. For first and second annual study visits, this information is added to the veterinarian’s questionnaire. From the third annual study visit forward, this information is added to the owner’s questionnaire.

Which laboratory tests are performed for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study and are the results provided?

Some of the samples the veterinarian collects (blood, urine and feces) will be shipped overnight to an Antech Diagnostics laboratory for:

  • blood chemistry analysis (SuperChem)
  • complete blood cell count (CBC)
  • urinalysis
  • fecal analysis (ova and parasite)
  • total thyroid test (T4)
  • heartworm antigen test

The test results are sent directly to the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study and then uploaded to the dog’s record under the veterinarian’s study account at caninelifetimehealth.org. These test results will provide valuable information about the dog’s health. The veterinarian will interpret these results and report them back to the owner. Additional samples of blood, urine, feces, hair and toenail clippings will be sent to a long-term storage facility to be preserved for future analysis. The dog’s Antech laboratory results also will be uploaded automatically to the veterinarian’s study account two to three business days after the visit.

Can additional laboratory testing be run on the samples collected during a study visit?

The primary focus of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is canine cancer.  While we are tracking the incidence of other diseases common in golden retrievers, it is beyond the scope of this study to fund additional testing for such diseases.  After reviewing a dog’s annual examination laboratory results, the veterinarian may recommend additional testing to explore abnormalities found on the blood chemistry, thyroid level, urinalysis, etc.  The decision to pursue such testing and any additional samples or fees required are the responsibility of the owner and should be discussed directly with the attending veterinarian.  If you have further questions, please contact the study team at 855-4GR-DOGS or grdogs@caninelifetimehealth.org.

How much blood volume is required for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

The veterinary team will collect approximately 56 mL of blood from a study dog each year. Although this amount of blood is more than a routine blood draw, it is less than 25 percent of the safe amount to draw from an average-sized golden retriever. This amount of blood is necessary for the laboratory tests and storage for future studies (e.g., to identify methods for early diagnosis of disease). The veterinary team may wish to shave a small area on the dog’s neck or leg for better visibility of the vein. It is recommended that this be discussed with the owner prior to shaving.

Is fasting bloodwork required?

Yes. The owners are given instructions to not feed their dog for 12 hours before their veterinary visit. If the dog has eaten within the previous four hours, the appointment should be rescheduled to avoid invalid samples because of postprandial lipemia (increased fat in the blood following a meal).

Is sedation/anesthesia permissible for the blood collection?

Yes, if needed. Sedation or anesthesia will not significantly affect the blood samples for the purposes of this study.

Are there any recommendations or resources that can help with a dog that is anxious during its study visit?

We are committed to making the study visit a positive experience for everyone involved.  To improve the experience for the owner, the veterinary team, and most importantly – the dog, we want to point out some available resources.  Books, videos, and online classes or consultations are available to help owners desensitize their dogs to sample collection procedures.  The goal is make it tolerable and even enjoyable. It is possible!

Please review the following resources and give it a try.  We appreciate any feedback on these offerings – let us know what works and what wasn’t so helpful.

  • Books and DVD’s on Low Stress Handling are available at http://drsophiayin.com/lowstress.
  • An online class for handling and restraint is available at http://www.thecognitivecanine.com/.
  • Consider anti-anxiety wraps such as the Thunder Shirt (thundershirt.com) or the Tellington Touch body wrap (http://ttouch.co.za/files/what/bodywraps.php).
  • Pheromone therapy with the Adaptil diffuser, collar, or spray (http://www.adaptil.com/us/) may help
  • Oral supplements such as Composure Chews or Rescue Remedy. (All available from your veterinarian, local pet boutique, or online.)

Please discuss these options with your veterinarian.  If you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to contact the study team at 855-4GR-DOGS or grdogs@caninelifetimehealth.org.

Does the veterinarian have to submit the health examination reports online?

Yes. All examination findings must be reported online via the study website. The study website is not linked to any practice management software. The veterinarian can delegate this task to any member of the veterinary clinic staff. A hard copy of the annual veterinary questionnaire is provided in each study kit. If you have questions, please contact the study team at 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647).

Why is there not a place to add more free-text on the owner and veterinarian questionnaires?

For a study of this kind, it’s important to have as much directly comparable data as possible. Free-text responses are limited because it is difficult for our researchers to evaluate this type of data. Free-text data collection requires coding and mapping to compare answers, which increases study costs. Therefore, only select and limited free-text responses are allowed.

The veterinary practice keeps paperless records. Can the practice obtain an electronic version of the completed online veterinary report forms?

Yes. The clinic can print forms from the veterinarian’s user account at caninelifetimehealth.org, scan each form, and attach the scanned file to the practice management system. A form also can be saved directly to Adobe PDF format, if the computer being used has that capability. If records cannot be located, please contact the study team for assistance at grdogs@caninelifetimehealth.org or 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647).

Can the veterinary clinic print a copy of the patient’s completed veterinary report form?

Yes. Log on to the veterinarian’s user account at caninelifetimehealth.org to view and print patient records. If the records cannot be located, please contact the study team for assistance at grdogs@caninelifetimehealth.org or 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647).

If a study dog’s regular veterinary visits are not at the same time of year as the annual study visits, can the study visits be moved to coincide with the regular visits?

Once a dog is in the study, the annual study visits should occur at approximately the same time each year. It is possible to request a change to the dog’s study visit annual target date by contacting the study team at 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647) and requesting an, “anniversary date change.” It is recommended owners not change the dog’s anniversary date frequently and settle on a time of year that sets them up for success in completing the study visit requirement. We also ask that owners discuss any schedule changes with their veterinarians to determine the best scheduling option.

What happens if a study dog gets sick?

Because the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is an observational study, the owner should care for the enrolled dog as usual and schedule additional veterinary visits at the owner’s discretion, with the guidance of the veterinarian. The veterinarian can log on to caninelifetimehealth.org to complete a health report for any major health events as needed.

What if cancer is suspected in a study dog?

Obtaining samples and accurate diagnoses of malignant cancers are necessary components of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. If an FNA or examination suggests malignancy, communication with the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study team is required before a biopsy is performed, 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647). A biopsy should ideally be performed by the study veterinarian or a veterinary oncology specialist as instructed below. As always, the decision to pursue a biopsy or any other veterinary care is the owner’s decision.

When clinically feasible, sample(s) of the tumor as well as surrounding normal tissue are requested. A tissue sample should be submitted to Antech Diagnostics at no cost to the veterinarian for histopathology. Also, when feasible, additional diseased and healthy tissue will be shipped to a long-term storage facility to be preserved for future analysis. The biopsy supplies, including postage, shipping and packaging materials are provided at no charge to the clinic. To request a biopsy kit or for questions, please call the study team at 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647).

If a dog has a presumptive diagnosis of malignant cancer and the owner is unable to afford the procedure to collect a biopsy, the study offers a reimbursement of up to $500 per dog over the life of the study to collect a biopsy. This money is specifically intended to help an owner pay for a biopsy procedure that he or she could not afford otherwise.

Additionally, the reimbursement may be used to offset the cost of a necropsy. A necropsy, usually performed by the dog’s study veterinarian, will allow the study team to gain valuable information from this important, final step in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

Who is responsible for reporting additional veterinary visits?

When an additional veterinary visit occurs, the veterinarian should log on to his or her study account, report the date the visit occurred, and report the visit findings. Only one visit can be reported at a time, so a veterinarian’s additional veterinary visit report must be completed, saved and locked before another new visit can be reported.

When should a veterinarian use the Additional Veterinary Visit form?

The veterinarian should use the Additional Veterinary Visit form any time a study dog is examined for a major medical concern. What constitutes a major medical concern is up to the discretion of each veterinarian, but can include incidents such as: tumors with concern for malignancy, major organ dysfunction (e.g. kidney or heart failure), endocrine disorders (e.g. diabetes or hypothyroidism), etc. Minor illnesses such as ear infections or GI upset that respond to standard treatment(s) need not be reported, as they can be noted in appropriate detail on the next annual veterinarian questionnaire.

If you have additional questions, please contact the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study team at grdogs@caninelifetimehealth.org or 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647). We appreciate your dedication and feedback as we strive to collect meaningful data, while keeping the process as convenient as possible for our study participants.

How much does a study visit cost?

The veterinary team’s efforts to collect samples and accurate data for this complex and important study should not be undervalued. The veterinarian determines the cost of the study visit. The owner and veterinarian should discuss the costs before the veterinary visit takes place. The dog owner may opt to receive a $75 reimbursement annually from Morris Animal Foundation to help offset the cost of the study visit; however, all charges for the visit are due in accordance with the veterinary clinic’s normal billing protocols.

Factors for veterinarians to consider when preparing a quote for a Golden Retriever Lifetime Study visit include:

  • Study visits typically take longer than an annual veterinary wellness examination (30–60 minutes).
  • Several samples will be collected by the veterinary team, including blood, urine, feces, hair and toenail trimmings.
  • Some of the blood collected will require centrifugation and serum separation.
  • The veterinary clinic staff will be required to prepare, package and ship all the samples collected on the same day as the visit.
  • Morris Animal Foundation provides all of the collection, packing and shipping materials (including postage).
  • Antech Diagnostics provides the laboratory test results to Morris Animal Foundation and results are shared with the participating veterinarians. The veterinary clinic is not charged.
  • The veterinary team will be required to collect, process, submit and evaluate the laboratory test results; these are valuable services that may be charged to the client.
  • The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a nonprofit study; many veterinarians take this into account when determining the cost of a study visit.
Do owners with dogs enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study receive compensation for veterinary costs?

Owners are responsible for all costs associated with each annual study visit, and charges for the visit are due in accordance with the veterinary clinic’s normal billing procedures. The dog owner may opt to receive a $75 reimbursement annually to help offset the cost of the study visit. Owners may choose to donate this reimbursement back to Morris Animal Foundation to provide additional support for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

Is the cost of my dog’s study-required veterinary visit tax deductible?

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a nonprofit study managed by Morris Animal Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Consult with your tax professional on the laws and limitations pertaining to the possibility of deducting the costs of your dog’s study-related veterinary visits.

What are the costs associated with a necropsy (post-mortem exam)? Do owners receive reimbursement for these costs?

The veterinarian determines the cost of any procedure, including a necropsy. Owners are responsible for all costs associated with a veterinary visit, and charges for the visit are due in accordance with the veterinary clinic’s normal billing procedures. The owner and veterinarian should discuss the costs and options for necropsy throughout the dog’s life as pre-planning may help ease the stress involved with end-of-life decisions.  The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study offers a reimbursement of up to $500 per dog over the life of the study to collect biopsies and/or perform a necropsy. Please contact the study team at 855.4GR.DOGS or grdogs@caninelifetimehealth.org for reimbursement instructions or if you have additional questions.

How do owners receive reimbursement for participation in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

If an owner chooses not to donate the $75 reimbursement back to the study, he or she will be sent a reimbursement card. This card is similar to a prepaid credit card. This card should be retained so annual reimbursements can be added to it each year. Annual reimbursements* will be loaded onto the card after the study team verifies each year’s requirements have been completed (annual owner questionnaire, veterinary examination and sample collection). Once verified, an email is sent to the owner that the card is ready for activation. Owners must call the study team at 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647) to activate new funds on the card each year.

Instead of receiving my reimbursement, can an owner donate the money back to the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

Yes. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is managed by Morris Animal Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Owners may choose to donate the annual $75 reimbursement back to the study by selecting that option under the dog’s record on the owner’s My Dogs page. Owners can change this option at any time, but any change made will only apply to future reimbursements.

When will participants see data and results from the study?

Morris Animal foundation recognizes the commitment study dogs, participants, and veterinarians have made to this important study and sharing findings from the study is an important part of recognizing that commitment. This process may not happen as quickly as some people want but the process of ensuring data integrity and accuracy of results can be slow. It is important to remember science is incremental and this study will improve the lives of many generations to come.

Can you tell us why a participant died?

We cannot release personal information on deceased study dogs since this would be in direct conflict with the confidentiality agreement we’ve made with our participants. However, the owner of the deceased pet may choose to release this information publicly.

What does the study team do when they find out a participant has died?

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Team reaches out personally to each owner who has lost a study dog to offer condolences. Additionally, a memorial photo frame is sent to the owner to honor their dog.

What happens to the data collected on a participant once a study dog dies?

No matter what caused the death, the data collected on an individual is categorized and stored. This includes all the physical samples (such as blood samples and tissue samples) and all questionnaire results. Analysis of samples is ongoing, including samples from deceased study participants. We anticipate some samples may provide useful information to researchers years after the study is completed.

How is the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study funded?

Morris Animal Foundation worked diligently before the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study launched in 2012 to ensure a project of this scope would have the funding necessary to carry it through the expected 10- to 14-year duration. Seed money and ongoing support from the Mark and Bette Morris Family Foundation, long-term corporate sponsorships, and continued support from individual donors will help ensure that funding requirements are met.

If you are interested in a corporate partnership or you are an individual animal lover who is interested in investing in this project, please contact Morris Animal Foundation at 800.243.2345.

You can also make a donation to the Golden Retriever Lifetime study.

Will the corporate sponsors have any influence over the study design or how the results are presented?

To ensure the scientific integrity of the study, Morris Animal Foundation does not allow corporate sponsors to influence the design or operation of the study. A study publications committee comprised of academic and Morris Animal Foundation scientists is responsible for authorizing all publications that result from the study data, and for any additional studies. This will ensure publications originating from corporate sponsors accurately report study findings.

How do I make a gift to the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

You may make an honor/memorial donation designated for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study by visiting caninelifetimehealth.org – Donate to the Study. You also may call 800.243.2345 (press 2) or mail your donation with clear designation to the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study to Morris Animal Foundation, 720 S. Colorado Blvd, #174A, Denver, CO  80246.

What if an owner or veterinarian no longer wants to participate in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?

It is critical to the success of the study that dogs remain in the study for their entire lives. If an owner is considering withdrawing the dog from the study, we would like the opportunity to discuss this decision and to answer any questions or address any concerns that owner may have.

A veterinarian may withdraw from the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study at any time and for any reason. However, for a dog to remain in the study, the owner must find another veterinarian to perform the study tasks required and, ideally, to also become that dog’s new regular veterinarian. We ask that the owner and veterinarian discuss this decision and contact the study team with any concerns or questions at 855.4GR.DOGS (855.447.3647), Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Eastern Time.

Is an owner’s contribution to the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study tax deductible?

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a nonprofit study managed by Morris Animal Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Consult with your tax professional on the laws and limitations pertaining to the possibility of deducting the costs of your dog’s study-related veterinary visits.

Is the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study looking at Taurine-deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

Taurine-deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy has recently received a lot of attention within the Golden Retriever community. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is NOT currently measuring taurine levels in enrolled dogs. However, this is certainly a topic about which researchers can collaborate with Morris Animal Foundation. As always, you will be informed immediately if any clinically relevant information is learned about this disease in our cohort. If you think your dog is at risk or clinically affected, please schedule an appointment with a board certified veterinary cardiologist near you.

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