Veterinarians Think They Know Why Golden Retrievers Are Dying at an Earlier Age

Golden Retrievers are a popular dog breed. Their attractive, charming features, loving demeanor, and easy-to-train characteristics make them one of America's most popular dog breeds.

Due to demand, they are one of the most overbred dog breeds in America. In an October 9 article, veterinarian Michael Lappin argues that this cherished canine breed is dying younger than in the 1970s and 80s. He says many of these canines survived up to 17 years old or more in his early career but are dying before 13.

Slate reports, "Veterinarians agree that golden retrievers have some of the highest cancer rates of any dog breed. According to 1980s–2000s data, maybe the highest."

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What happened since this dog breed became popular at Sunday dog parks? Breeding methods.

The late 1800s British social elite maintained Golden Retrievers as hunting and retrieving dogs, according to the article. After the first World War, retrievers grew more popular and life improved for all dogs; they were kept indoors as pets instead of in stables, and preventative veterinarian care and immunizations became the standard. 

Now that we have all this care for our pets, the piece discusses how they might be dying earlier and why it's crucial to understand why dogs get cancer.

Which brings us to line breeding. Line breeding preserves or enhances desirable features or attributes by marrying closely related animals, usually within the same family line or genetic lineage, to reduce the introduction of new genetic material.

All living things pass on detrimental mutations to their children, according to the article. Usually, the descendent inherits a functional copy of the same gene from the other parent, which prevents the detrimental mutation.

When two closely related people are mated, their kids are likely to acquire two copies of the same mutation, such as a cancer-causing mutation, leaving them without a functioning gene.

Since 2012, the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study has tracked Golden Retrievers' diets, activity, and location. 

Vets and owners report puppies' behavioral and physical health. The research of almost 3,000 canines also tracks lifespan and death. Some dogs died from vehicle accidents or home fires, but most—600—died from cancer.

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