Monday, June 10, 2013

Moving Toward a Cancer Breakthrough

I have long believed that golden retrievers inherit a genetic tendency toward the most common cancers that strike our breed--hemangiosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, mast-cell tumors and osteosarcoma. This belief has guided my breeding decisions for over a decade. Now some ground-breaking research is providing support for my efforts!

Two sets of researchers are making tremendous progress in helping us understand why so many goldens develop these serious, often untreatable cancers

  1. Hemangiosarcoma and Lymphosarcoma. Research by Drs. Jaime Modiano and Kersten Linblad-Toh indicate that inherited genetic risk factors account for as much as 50% of the risk for hemangiosarcoma and lymphosarcoma. Their next steps are to develop DNA tests that might enable us to develop strategies for risk assessment in individual dogs, as well as the potential to manage risk across the breed as a whole. In addition, their research has clarified how these cancers work and thus may enable the development of better treatments and therapies. 
  2. Lymphosarcoma. Drs. Jeffrey Bryan, Anne Avery and Heather Wilson-Robles are tackling B cell lymphoma in Goldens. Their efforts will enable us to identify goldens at risk for developing this disease, allowing early preventative treatments with diet and/or medication. In addition, since they are clarifying lymphoma's mechanism in goldens, their research should provide more targeted and thus more effective treatments for our dogs. 

Both of these research programs are being funded by the Golden Retriever Foundation so make a donation to the GRF to contribute to them.

Until DNA tests become available for these cancers, we will continue our present strategy of breeding cancer-free older dogs that have been raised as naturally as possible on raw diets with a minimal vaccine schedule. We will rear our puppies in an environment as free from chemicals as possible, on a raw diet and with a well-designed vaccine protocol that ensures protection with as few vaccines as is possible. We will encourage owners of all goldens to play their role in cancer avoidance through the diet they feed, chemicals they use, vaccines they give and spay/neuter decisions they make. In a breed where 1 in 6 dogs will get hemangiosarcoma and 1 in 8 will get lymphosarcoma, we must do all we can to reduce our goldens risks!

Exciting Pigmentary Uveitis (PU) Update

If you love golden retrievers, you are or should be aware of pigmentary uveitis or PU. PU is an inherited eye disease that is extremely prevalent in American and Canadian goldens. Since PU often progresses to cataracts and glaucoma, it causes blindness and such pain the dog's eyes much be removed. Clearly, it is a significant quality of life issue for golden retrievers and their owners.

Obviously, breeders want to breed away from PU but the challenge is that the average age that it becomes evident is 8 1⁄2 years, by which time many of the affected dogs have already produced puppies. We can wait till 9 or 10 to breed the boys but we can't wait that long to breed the girls so breeders have been in a quandary. The Golden Retriever Club of America is working closely with researchers to better understand this disease but progress has been slow because of how widespread the problem is and the difficulty of determining whether a dog will eventually develop the disease. Some dogs have developed their first symptoms as late as 14 years of age!

Dr Wendy Townsend, Purdue University, is one of the key PU researchers in the US and has been working diligently toward a genetic test for this disease by examining and collecting DNA from goldens throughout North America. Thus far, 47 Gaylan's Goldens have participated in this research and as a result, our family of dogs may provide a future research opportunity for Dr. Townsend. My sincerest thanks to the Gaylan's owners who have participated in this research!

The Wind Litter Birth Story

The nine puppies in the Wind litter were born on June 2, 2004. Their birth story is one of my favorites because it was a breeding and birthing for the record books. I would guess it had the most phone dollars spent on a breeding and most miles logged at birth of any of our litters! :-)

The Wind litter's story begins long before their birth. For 15 years, Andy and I had been planning a 2004 trip to Australia and New Zealand. We'd saved hundreds of thousands of air miles, spent years planning the trip, and made reservations for a time that we were sure would not conflict with my club's specialty show or the dogs' breeding cycles. Hah, so much for planning!!

As only Corey (LornaDoone Encore Encore UD SH MX MXJ WCX OD VCX CCA TT) can do, she came in season early, in fact, months early. As soon as she came in, I realized that she would need to be bred while we were in New Zealand. We couldn't call the trip off without a huge monetary loss so I canceled the breeding. Then my friends, Marcy and Lise volunteered to take Corey and manage her breeding while we were traveling. Since we were doing a natural breeding to another Gaylan's dog, I figured there wouldn't be a lot of challenges. You know, they could just put the dogs together and the dogs would do their "job."

Alas, nothing ever goes as planned, at least in dog breeding. My original choice of stud ended up being unable to consummate the mating but only after Marcy and Lise had dragged him and Corey to vets all over NY State. I was communicating with them through Internet cafes throughout western New Zealand but when we got to the eastern coast, we could not find on-line access so I sent the phone number of our hotel, beautiful Larnach Castle in Dunedin, NZ.

I'll never forget the manager quietly passing me a beautifully handwritten note telling me to call home in the midst of a formal dinner. I excused myself from dinner but had to stand two feet from the hotel clerk, discussing what to do about the breeding challenges Marcy and Lise were facing. I won't go into detail but will say that the poor young man's face was quite red when I gave him the phone back. I can't imagine the tale he told his friends after I left.

In the midst of the crisis, one of us thought of using Goose (MACH Gaylan's Born to Fly CD SH WCX OS VCX CCA) as an alternate sire. I had intended to breed Goose and Corey eventually but not until Goose had gotten his final health clearances. Lise had just had his hip and elbow x-rays done but we did not have the results back from the OFA. Dr Jim thought they looked good and Corey (and her entire litter) had OFA Excellent hips and normal elbows, we decided to go for it. In the end, Goose was quite happy to help us out and he and Corey got along famously. :-) Two weeks later we got word from the OFA that he too was OFA Excellent with clear elbows!

Nine weeks later, the Wind litter arrived right on time. Today these pups are nine years of age and are still amazing. At an age when many goldens are retiring, the Wind litter is still going strong. As with all litters, the second most wonderful thing that came from it, in addition to nine beautiful pups, are the friendships that have developed through these pups. They make me realize that these dogs make our live very rich in many, many ways.

Congratulations Are in Order!

Lots of Gaylan's owners have been out and about recently so we have some fun accomplishments to celebrate! Some dogs debuted in new events, others continued to succeed in other venues. Here are a few of the highlights!!

Old Gold! My own Corey, star of the Wind litter story, earned her AKC Utility Dog (UD) title one month shy of her 13th birthday. Corey loves any work, but especially obedience so she has had a great time pursuing her title. However, the month before this obedience trial, Corey was diagnosed with chronic renal failure so our time in the ring was limited.

100 UDX legs! John Runnels and Khay set the standard by earning their 100th UDX leg. Holy cow! Khay is OTCH Gaylan's Lady Omar Khayyam VCD2 UDX10 OGM RAE TD MXB MJB MFBT2B CAA ADHF CCA.

New Obedience Trial Champion! Terrie Leafstedt and Gibbs finished his OTCH making him OTCH GAYLAN'S S.P.ARKLER OF GOLD UDX2 OM4 ODHF

New Master Agility Champions! We had two dogs earn MACHs recently so congratulations to:

Mary Hilderbrandt and MACH Gaylan's Water Dancer of Emeline UD MH RN WCX VCX CCA ***

...and to Zoe Beatty and MACH Gaylan's Duck Creek Wild Turkey RN MXB MJS XF T2B2 ADHF CGC

Master National Qualifier! Jan Masica qualified for the 2013 Master National Retriever Championships with Gaylan's Lucky Four Leaf Clover VCD2 CDX RE TDX MH MX MXB MXJ MXF WCX CCA VCX CGC

AKC National Agility Championship Qualifiers! We've had a number of teams qualify for the next AKC NAC. Congratulations to them all! I'll put the list out next month!