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Posted on Thu, May 13, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Researchers working to understand high rates of cancer in certain dogs

By Jen Eyer


Photo by Flickr user anmuell

As someone who recently lost a 7-year-old golden retriever to cancer, I found this article about cancer research in goldens fascinating.

Since Bear died, I've been wondering whether we should get another dog from the same genetic line. I'm reassured to know that, according to the experts quoted in the article, "there's no evidence that cancer is more prevalent in any particular line of golden or puppies by popular sires."

"It's the breed that's predisposed to cancer, not any particular line," agrees K. Ann Jeglum, a veterinary oncologist in West Chester, Pa., who has collected pedigrees of more than 4,000 goldens and traced how lymphoma traveled through the generations.

The article also describes some of the current research on cancer in dogs. This example sounds particularly promising:

Part of the problem is that cancers usually develop after a dog is beyond her breeding years and may have already produced many puppies, notes Wayne Jensen, chief scientific officer for the Morris Animal Foundation. The non-profit research organization is helping to fund several major projects aiming to find genetic markers that could identify puppies prone to cancer well before they are considered for breeding.

Another interesting tidbit: the belief that mutts are less prone to cancer isn't necessarily true.

Read the whole story here.

Jen Eyer is on the Community Team at She leads the Parenting and Pets sections, and writes feature stories, blog posts and opinion pieces. She can be reached at 734-623-2577 or



Fri, May 14, 2010 : 11:24 a.m.

I'm so sorry about Bear. I have a Lab. He has sooo many benign lumps all over his body, when I have a cuddle session with him I call him "My Bubble Wrap Boy". In January I was giving him a tummy rub in the living room when I felt a new lump. Under his 'elbow' near the web of skin connecting to his chest. It felt different.... Next day the vet did a needle biopsy and said it looked like cancer, but was probably removeable. Within 3 days he was in surgery. It was cancer and they couldn't get it all. We were given a choice of MSU or a Cancer Center in Canton. Choosing the latter, we met the staff, had more tests, discussed treatments, outcomes, percentages, etc. It was a fast growning aggressive sarcoma. Without further treatment he may not make it to summer. We did catch it early. We chose the recommended radiation treatment and hoped he wouldn't need chemotherapy. All through the dreary winter days, my husband drove him to Canton to be knocked out and radiated 4 days a week. The side effects didn't really kick in until he was almost done with the treatments. Radiation accumulates, and the burning and destroying of cells happens gradually inside before you see any effects on the dog. He finished treatment on his 10th birthday. A good sign!! There was a little over a month of normal, but distressing side effects. Raw peeling burned skin. Applying salves and compresses, pain meds, steroids, antibiotics, and more pain meds. Calls for guidance to the 'help line' on a weekend when my pup would just shake, not with fear, but in pain. His teeth chattered so hard I thought someone was knocking on the door. I laid with him at night on the floor covering him with a fleece blanket trying to tell him this was all to make him live longer, the pain would go away and then he'd be able to run and swim at the dog park. But of course I was crying while I said it. Soon he began to heal. One by one the meds came to an end. Spring was here and little by little I let him out beyond his yard. One day sniffing noses with other dogs, a week later trying to trot along after them. 2 more weeks and he was wrestling with his best standard Poodle buddy and swimming at his beloved dog park. Next month he goes back for his first scan/X-ray since his treatment ended. I haven't seen/felt any "different" lumps. I hope we've given him a few more years. His hair has not grown back yet. Gives him a distinctive 'battle scarred' look. There were an awful lot of Labs and Goldens at the Cancer Center. I have been having serious doubts about getting another Lab. Even though he has been the most wonderful dog, I'm scared of going thru this again. I've worried about the breeding. Is there something specific I should look for in the next dog? This can't be the normal course for Lab/Golden lives. Have humans bred them too closely? What have we missed? Does this happen to Leader Dogs? What about all the service dogs? Labs and Goldens are hardworking dogs, perfect for servicing people, the military, recovery/search jobs, etc. Do they all have a higher rate of cancer too?? Sigh. I just don't know.

Lorrie Shaw

Thu, May 13, 2010 : 3:47 p.m.

Re-reading your account of your experience with Bear is so terribly sad. Cancer is awful. Last October, we had to take our Gretchen up to MSU to be diagnosed with what turned out to be a benign abdominal tumor, and thankfully it was removed there without issue. One thing resonates with me: There were 4 goldens in the waiting room of the small animal hospital on the day that we arrived to meet with the oncologist. I spoke to a couple of the owners as we were waiting and they indicated that they were there because their dogs had cancer and they were exploring their options. So sad. :( So sorry that you had to go through that sort of thing, but I am so glad that you touched on this information.