ANKENY, Iowa -- Most dogs and other pets are an important part of the family. It can be devastating when your companion is diagnosed with a deadly disease. A study aims at preventing and treating cancer in dogs one day.
Dierks is like many dogs his age. Dr. Ashley Williams says, "He loves people, loves any type of attention."
He is a year and a half old and the Williams family’s second golden retriever. Dr. Williams says, "Paisley was our very first golden retriever. We got her right as I was finishing vet school in 2011."
Two years later, Paisley was about to become a therapy dog when Williams noticed something was wrong. She says, "Then we found out in May she had cancer. She was diagnosed with leukemia and we lost her two days later."
Now, Dierks is enrolled in a study in memory of Paisley. It's the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study put on by the Morris Animal Foundation. Dr. Williams says, "It's the largest study of its kind. It's an observational study, meaning they are not telling us what to feed the dogs, what to vaccinate the dogs."
Each year, Dierks will have blood, urine, stool, hair and nail samples taken. Williams will keep track of what he eats, medicines he takes and fertilizers he is around. She says, "They're looking for trends, basically, and so they will be using that information to probably have more studies as well."
The study is three years old. The group is looking for a total of 3,000 dogs from around the country and about 700 more are still needed. Dr. Williams says, "The things that they need to have are a three generation pedigree. They need to be younger than two years, but older than six months and just a willing participant."
Six dogs are enrolled through Creature Comforts Veterinary Hospital in Ankeny. Dr. Williams is hopeful the study will eventually help prevent cancer in dogs like her Paisley. She says, "It was very, very sad to lose her at two years of age, and it is, as a veterinarian, heartbreaking to have to deliver the news to people that their young dog has cancer, or even their old dog. It doesn't matter any age it is still very, very sad."
The study is only for Golden Retrievers, but Dr. Williams says the findings could help other breeds and even human medicine as well. Click here for more information from the Morris Animal Foundation. You can also get more information from Creature Comforts Veterinary Hospital in Ankeny. Click here for its website.