Most dogs get poked and prodded at the veterinarian’s office. Piper, a 4-year-old golden retriever in Chicago, gets far more scrutiny than that.
Her annual checkup this month took three hours. Her flaxen hair was trimmed and bagged, her toenails clipped and kept, her bodily fluids collected. Everything was destined for a biorepository in the Washington suburbs that holds similar samples from more than 3,000 other purebred golden retrievers from across the country. The dogs, though they do not know it, are participating in an ambitious, $32 million research project that researchers hope will yield insights into the causes of cancers and other diseases common to goldens, other breeds and maybe even humans.
All the dogs were enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study before they turned 2, and all will be closely tracked for their entire lives. The researchers, from Colorado State University and the Morris Animal Foundation, are not just analyzing biological matter. They’re also compiling exhaustive data, recorded and reported each year by the dogs’ owners, on every aspect of the pooches’ lives: what they eat, where they sleep, whether their lawns are treated with pesticides, whether their teeth get brushed and more.