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golden retrievers can have this one, heartbreaking flaw

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Golden retrievers and cancer
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Dec 11 2014

Updated February 21, 2019

There is no doubt that Golden Retrievers are a popular dog in America. According to the American Kennel Club, the Golden Retriever ranked 3rd in popularity for the last two years (the Labrador Retriever took first). Their intelligence and good sense of humor combined with a gentle demeanor make them a perfect fit for anyone from singles to families with kids.

But this seemingly perfect pooch may have a downfall—cancer. Purdue University conducted the National Breed Health Survey and found that 61% of Golden Retrievers die from cancer (namely, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumors and osteosarcoma).

Why do so many Golden Retrievers develop cancer?

While it’s true that cancer is the number one killer of all dogs over the age of 2 years old, it’s hard not to wonder why Golden Retrievers are particularly prone to developing cancer. When you consider the high prevalence of cancer and the popularity of the breed, you’re left with a lot of heartbroken owners wondering “Why” and “What can be done?”.

The answer is complicated. To find effective strategies for preventing and curing cancer, it is first imperative to understand its cause. Is it nutritional? Is it environmental? Or genetic? While it’s probably a mix of all three, the truth is that we don’t really know for sure.

Let’s step back for a minute and consider human medicine and the field of heart disease. Sure, today we know that certain risk factors predispose us to heart disease—smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and a couch potato lifestyle are a few. But there was a time when these risk factors were just our best guess.

Enter the Framingham Heart Study. This landmark study aimed to identify common factors in people with heart disease. In 1948, researchers recruited over 5,000 men and women for physical exams and lifestyle interviews. These research subjects have returned every 2 years, and over time, scientists have been able to identify major risk factors for heart disease and strokes in humans. Cool, huh?

Of course, cancer research is a popular field of study, and work is ongoing in both human medicine and veterinary medicine to find a cure for cancers of all types. We have made great strides in cancer treatment, but we have yet to find a cure. With the cooperation of Morris Animal Foundation and Golden Retrievers all over the country, hopefully we’ll get a little closer to a cure each year.

But until we find a cure, we always suggest that owners get pet health insurance coverage for their Golden Retrievers as soon as they can. Pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, so getting young dogs covered is a smart move - especially with the risk of cancer in their lifetime. As a beloved family member, you want to keep your pup healthy and insurance covers the vet bills to help you do so.


Read this next: What pet parents need to know about cancer in dogs and cats