The term ‘Cancer’ is used to describe a group of diseases that almost everyone has been affected by in one way or another. It refers to a process called neoplasia, where cells begin to replicate incorrectly, resulting in tumors, lymphatic problems and bone marrow dysfunction. Many forms of neoplasia are benign, but when we use the word cancer, we are most often talking about malignant neoplasia. It is present in humans and animals, and some types of cancer have poor prognosis, no matter what treatments are available.
A cancer diagnosis can be scary, even if it’s in a furry family member. There are some dog breeds that are more prone to certain types of cancer, though. Cancer isn’t a certainty in these breeds, but it does occur more frequently in them compared with other dog breeds. Here are some of the dog breeds that are predisposed to cancer.
The 17 Dog Breeds Prone to Cancer
1. Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever is a beloved family dog, but unfortunately, this breed is highly at risk for cancer. Hemangiosarcoma, often occurring on the spleen, and osteosarcoma (bone cancer) are both present in this breed, and some dogs also develop mast cell cancer.
Poor breeding practices and inbreeding have increased the risk of these diseases, so it’s important for Golden Retriever breeders to only breed fully health-tested dogs that have no familial history of cancer.
2. Labrador Retriever
Like the Golden Retriever, the Labrador Retriever is also highly prone to hemangiosarcoma. They are also at risk for mast cell cancer, which is a highly aggressive cancer that usually starts with a skin lesion. It can spread quickly and, once in advanced stages, can be exceptionally difficult to treat. Also like the Golden, the Labrador breed has been plagued with backyard and irresponsible breeding practices that have allowed genetic cancer risks to continue in the breed.
Boxers are another breed that is highly at risk for cancer. Specifically, Boxers are prone to hemangiosarcoma, mast cell cancer, and lymphoma. All of these cancers can be very dangerous and difficult to treat.
Boxers have been a family favorite breed for many years now, and their goofy and loving temperament constantly wins people over. Responsible breeding practices are needed to reduce the risk of cancer in the Boxer breed.
4. Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs have grown significantly in popularity within the last decade, quickly becoming a family favorite. This breed is known to be gentle, loving, and good with children.
They are prone to developing hemangiosarcoma, although at a lower rate than some other at-risk breeds, like Goldens and Labs. They are also at risk for mast cell cancer and histiocytic sarcoma, which is an extremely aggressive cancer that often attacks the bones, joints, skin, and respiratory system.
As this breed continues to increase in popularity, it’s important that people support responsible breeders to help reduce the prevalence of cancer in the breed.
5. German Shepherd
Well known for protection work, the German Shepherd is a tough dog that is highly trainable and intelligent, albeit not a great dog for first-time dog owners. This breed is predisposed to developing hemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma. As a breed with a sturdy build and lacking the deep chest of some other breeds, German Shepherds often do well with amputations if they develop osteosarcoma in a limb.
The Rottweiler is a loyal dog that is often considered a great option for families with children due to its protective nature. This breed is prone to osteosarcoma, though. Due to their deep chest and heavy body weight, some Rottweilers may struggle with limb amputations, but they often will adjust over time. Rehab programs can help improve the strength of the remaining limbs to better support the dog.
There is a lot of current research into the relationship between neutering and osteosarcoma incidence in this breed, so if you’re looking to add a Rotti to your family, do your homework and talk to your vet about what the best options are.
7. Great Dane
Easily recognizable as one of the tallest dog breeds, the Great Dane is a great dog for people that don’t mind a 150-pound couch potato that loves to counter surf for snacks. Like many lanky, large breeds, the Great Dane is at risk of developing osteosarcoma.
Due to the size of these dogs, a thorough evaluation of the strength and health of the limbs should be considered prior to an amputation, and a rehab plan should be in place at the time of the surgery to support mobility after surgery.
8. Irish Wolfhound
Although not a common breed, the Irish Wolfhound is a giant dog breed that tends to be gentle and loving. They are wonderful dogs, but this breed is prone to developing osteosarcoma. In fact, osteosarcoma is considered to be one of the leading causes of death in this breed. The initial signs, including limping and limb and joint pain, are often misinterpreted as arthritis and other types of musculoskeletal problems prevalent in the breed.
9. Scottish Deerhound
Like the Irish Wolfhound, the Scottish Deerhound is a high-risk breed for developing osteosarcoma. Estimates indicate that around 15% of all Scottish Deerhounds will be diagnosed with osteosarcoma at some point in their lives, with the average age of diagnosis being 7.7 years.
There is a strong genetic component to the osteosarcoma in this breed, so it’s very important that safe and responsible breeding practices are used to eliminate the high risk in the Scottish Deerhound.
Greyhounds are elegant dogs that many people adopt after they retire from dog racing. Like many lanky, tall breeds, the Greyhound is at an increased risk of osteosarcoma. It may be mistaken as arthritis initially, especially in retired racing dogs. Any limping or musculoskeletal pain in a Greyhound needs to be investigated by a veterinarian as soon as possible to rule out cancer.
Beagles are wonderful family dogs that love to have fun and make some noise. However, Beagles are at risk for developing mast cell cancer, as well as bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer can be aggressive and painful, so it’s important to have a vet look into any urinary symptoms when they occur. They are also at risk of developing lymphoma, which can be aggressive and deadly, but is often treatable when caught early enough.
12. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a tough-looking dog, but this breed is often considered to be family-friendly and loyal, as well as friendly and outgoing. They are prone to developing mast cell cancer, though.
It’s important that any new skin lumps or bumps are checked over by your vet as soon as you notice them. If caught early enough, mast cell cancer can be highly curable, but it quickly becomes very aggressive and dangerous.
The Doberman breed is considered to be overrepresented among many dog breeds when it comes to cancer prevalence, and there are multiple cancers that routinely show up in this breed. Dobermans are at risk for osteosarcoma and lymphoma, as well as reproductive cancers, including prostate cancer and mammary cancer. While spaying and neutering can reduce the risk of these cancers, they aren’t a surefire way to prevent these reproductive cancers in your Doberman.
14. Boston Terrier
Boston Terriers have quite a high rate of cancer. In fact, it’s estimated that around 30% of Boston Terrier deaths are caused by cancer. They are prone to mast cell cancer, as well as brain cancer.
Brain cancer can be difficult to manage and is often not treatable. It can lead to behavior changes and seizures, so medical management in conjunction with available treatments is necessary to best support your Boston Terrier’s health.
15. Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniels are predisposed to a few cancer types. Mast cell cancer isn’t uncommon in this breed, and mammary cancer is prevalent. In around 30% of cases, mammary cancer in Cocker Spaniels is malignant, making it very dangerous.
Sometimes, mammary cancer can be treated with a mastectomy surgery, but this surgery is very invasive and can be painful for the dog. Early spaying greatly reduces the risk of mammary cancer but isn’t a guarantee against it.
16. Irish Setter
Irish Setters are at risk for developing osteosarcoma, as well as an unusual type of cancer known as insulinoma. This cancer occurs in the pancreas, causing the pancreas to produce too much insulin to properly control the dog’s blood sugar level.
Insulinomas are associated with severe hypoglycemia, sometimes leading to seizures, coma, and death. This is a severe type of cancer that can be difficult to treat and manage. Life expectancy after diagnosis can be as little as 6 months.
Bulldogs tend to have big, silly personalities, and they are quite a popular breed. This breed is prone to developing mast cell cancer, which isn’t unusual considering their predisposition for skin problems, but they are also at risk for lymphoma. Both of these cancers can be treatable when caught early, but it is important to have any new lumps or bumps checked out to rule out a cancer diagnosis.
Cancer is a scary word, but medical advancements have improved outcomes for dogs with cancer. There are multiple types of treatable cancers that dogs are prone to, but it is the responsibility of dog owners to check their dogs over for lumps and bumps, as well as note any behavioral or physical changes that may occur. Early diagnosis of cancer can be the difference between life and death for dogs.
Featured Image Credit: Aneta Jungerova, Shutterstock