This week is pet appreciation week. What better way to show our furry friends that we appreciate them than by making sure they’re healthy and happy. Here’s a look at three of the medical studies conducted in the last few years, to advance our understanding of a few of the most common diseases. Being able to treat them more effectively can lead to longer and fuller lives.
1. Cancer in Golden Retrievers
Any type of dog can get cancer, but it tends to be more common in some breeds than others. Golden Retrievers, in particular, have the highest rate of cancer of any dog breed. In fact, cancer is the cause of death for around 57% of female Goldens and 66% of males.
What’s even more curious is that it wasn’t always this way. In the 1980s, Golden Retrievers weren’t any more prone to cancer than any other type of dog. Then in the 90s, the numbers began to spike, and by 1999, well over half of the breed was dying of the disease. What happened to cause this, and can it be prevented?
The Morris Animal Foundation in Colorado sought to find out. In 2012, they spent $25 million on a medical study of 3,000 Golden Retrievers over the course of their lifetimes, to see if they could find the root cause of this cancer surge. And they discovered quite a bit.
For one thing, they found that this increase in cancer cases is specific to American Golden Retrievers. Less than 40% of Goldens in Europe develop it. The difference suggests that it’s a genetic mutation among dogs in the U.S. that makes them more susceptible to cancer. Specifically, it’s a change in their immune system, which affects how their bodies look for and guard against tumor cells.
We’re only a few years into the study, which spans the lifetime of its canine subjects. Hopefully as it progresses, researchers will be able to find new ways of spotting this genetic defect and counteracting it, so that Goldens (and other breeds) can beat cancer, or even avoid it in some cases.
2. Dogs and Diabetes
This study has potential benefits not only for dogs, but for humans as well. Just like humans, dogs sometimes get diabetes, wherein their bodies don’t produce enough insulin. A recent medical study in Barcelona used gene therapy to try to counteract the effects of Type 1 Diabetes.
The head of the study, Dr. Fatima Bosch, had her team inject dogs with two different genes: insulin and glucokinase. Through their methods, they were able to get these genes to remain in the dogs’ bodies long term and replicate, in order to take over the functions that their diabetes prevents.
The result was a success. After just one injection, the genes helped the dogs produce normal insulin levels for several years, without getting hypoglycemia—i.e. blood sugar levels that are too low.
There’s still plenty of testing needed before this gene therapy becomes widely available, but hopefully within a few years, their findings will be able to wipe out Type 1 Diabetes in dogs once and for all, and even apply the treatment to humans as well.
3. Laser Therapy
Lasers have been used to treat various medical conditions for over 40 years. But its potential for use in dogs has been growing by leaps and bounds recently. A variety of different studies have been conducted for different canine ailments, and they’ve found that laser treatments can help do everything from alleviating pain to helping wounded dogs to heal faster.
Many of the treatments use cold lasers, which are safe and non-invasive. Laser therapy can be done relatively quickly and cheaply and have been used to help dogs with arthritis, cysts, spinal issues, and a variety of other ailments.
These are just a few of the advancements that are being made every day in canine medicine. For all the joy, love, compassion, and companionship our fur babies bring to us, scientists and researchers in veterinary medicine are giving back by relentlessly working to increase the life quality and expectancy of our dogs. When our furry companions live healthier and happier lives, we get to appreciate them for more years to come.