Truth or Dare: Cancer and Golden Retrievers

Yesterday I was taken to task by the owner of a bitch in my pedigree for entering the cause and date of the dog’s death in an open database for Golden Retrievers.

I looked at her entry today and was sad to see that she has deleted these things.

Never mind that when I heard of the fate of what was surely a beautiful dog, I felt very badly and thought I might spare her owner in making these entries, and never mind that an open database permits others to enter what they know about given dogs.

The bitch in question is my stud dog Angelo’s grand-dam, bred by Lislone Garbank, one of the top five kennels in Great Britain.  While this kennel has heavily influenced the breed abroad, it is one of the programs that must be looked at by the light of the fact that close line breeding is implicated in the incidence of cancer in the Golden Retriever. In fact, according to Rhonda Hovan’s ground-breaking article on cancer and genetics in the Golden, sixty percent of all Goldens worldwide will die of cancer and there are as many cases of cancer in the UK and elsewhere abroad that there are in the U.S.  Moreover, the most prevalent cancer in the UK is lymphoma, while it is hemangiosarcoma in the U.S. Please see link to this thought provoking article, which many high-echelon people in our breed have held in highest regard.

Cancer is our nemesis.  Our hearts leap into our mouths when we feel a lump when caressing a beloved dog’s shoulder.  But we need to be honest, have the courage to be honest in making it publically known that our dog has died of cancer, and what kind of cancer it is.

As noted, on both sides of the Atlantic we are combating this terrible disease and its prevalence in our breed.  Thanks to the research being conducted by the Morris Foundation, and again, to Rhonda Hovan of Faera Goldens for her efforts to educate the fancy with her article on cancer, we may say we are making very slow progress in bringing this discussion to the table.

The breeder in question has actually lost several dogs to cancer, from the same breeding program, and yet she and that program continue to closely line breed, when linebreeding is more than implicated in concentrating both good and bad genes carrying good and bad cells.

There is no shame in making known the cause of a given dog or bitch’s death from cancer.  In fact, it is cowardly not to, to go back to the dog’s page in k9data or Standfast Data and remove the truth–that a certain bitch lived only three years during which time she had two litters.

Thankfully, in terms of the pedigree of the puppies bred by Beauly Highland in Romania last year, one of whom is our Angelo, the litter dam was sired by 2015 World Champion Tramin Arni Joy, who is the result of the pairing of two Glen Sheallag dogs and a rewarding outcross.  We hope and pray that our puppies will mature and have good health and longevity in part as a result of this outcross.  One of the puppies is already a champion and another one–our Angelo–has sired a first litter that is stunning.  My breeding is also a total outcross.  The GB strand behind the dam is all Garbank.  Those of you familiaar with this line will know what I mean.  This is one of the most elite and sought after bloodlines in the world and yet, cancer has reared her grotesque brow in the midst of it all.

Cancer in dogs develops from a preponderance of dysplastic cells in various areas of the body.  We don’t know why these cells suddenly begin multiplying and overtaking the host organism.  We only know that this is a horrible disease and that secrecy is not going to make it less so; we owe it to our dogs and ourselves to research our pedigrees and to keep ourselves informed by credible, legitimate research and opinion on this vital issue.





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