September 24, 2023

It’s a common concern for dog owners – is my furry friend at risk of developing cancer? In this article, we’ll delve into the world of canine cancer risk, discussing if certain breeds are indeed more prone to this devastating disease. 

We’ll also explore other risk factors that affect our canine companions, such as diet and environmental influences while offering advice on preventative measures that you can take as a responsible dog owner. So, let’s get started.

Dog Breeds Prone to Cancer

Let’s jump right into the main question: are certain breeds more prone to cancer than others? The answer may surprise you.

Overview of Genetics and Breed Predisposition

Genetics do, in fact, play a role in determining a dog’s susceptibility to certain cancers. For example, breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers are more likely to develop specific types of cancer than other breeds. 

This is thought to be due to a combination of genes or a single gene that increases the likelihood of the disease.

Types of Cancer in Dogs

Just like humans, canines can develop several types of cancer. Let’s take a closer look at five common types plaguing our furry friends.


Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, is more prevalent in larger breeds such as Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes, and Scottish Deerhounds. It is believed to be related to the genetic heritage that gives these dogs their long limbs. Given the aggressive nature of this cancer, early detection and treatment are crucial to improve a dog’s prognosis.

Mast Cell Tumors

Several breeds are predisposed to developing mast cell tumors (MCTs). While some breeds have high MCT incidence rates, they tend to have lower-grade tumors when compared to older mixed-breed dogs that potentially develop higher-grade tumors. Understanding which breeds are more susceptible to MCTs may help develop a preventive strategy for your dog.


Malignant melanoma typically occurs in dogs aged ten years and older. Small breeds are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than larger breeds. Additionally, malignant melanomas are more likely to appear in the toes or toenail beds of black dogs. Early detection and intervention can significantly improve a dog’s prognosis.


This form of cancer is most common in middle-aged and older dogs, with some breeds being predisposed to developing lymphoma. Lymphoma can affect various bodily systems, so its symptoms may vary widely. Prompt treatment can often lead to remission, but regular check-ups are critical in keeping the disease at bay.


While dogs of any breed and age can develop hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels, it appears more commonly in dogs older than six. Therefore, regular vet check-ups become even more vital as your dog ages to ensure early detection and treatment.

Purebred Dogs and Cancer Risk

It is estimated that about 25% of all purebred dogs will die from cancer, and 45% of those older than ten will likely succumb to the disease. That said, researchers from the Veterinary Clinic of UC Davis found that cancer risk was not significantly higher in purebred dogs than in mixed-breed dogs, which challenges often-held beliefs.

Mixed Breed Dogs and Cancer Risk

Mixed-breed dogs are often believed to have a lower risk of developing cancer than purebred dogs. However, the study mentioned above from the Veterinary Clinic of UC Davis found no such considerable difference regarding cancer susceptibility between these groups.

Cancer Risk Factors for Dogs

Beyond breed predisposition, several other factors contribute to a dog’s cancer risk. In this section, we’ll discuss age, gender, and the impact of neutering on cancer risk.


As with humans, cancer risk increases with age in dogs. Older dogs are more likely to develop cancer due to a weakened immune system and increased exposure to carcinogens over their lifetime.


Female dogs typically have a higher cancer incidence rate than male dogs, mainly due to the prevalence of mammary cancer. This risk can be significantly reduced by spaying female dogs before their first heat cycle, which also eliminates the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.

Neutered vs. Not Neutered Dogs

There is an ongoing debate regarding the optimal age for neutering a dog to minimize its cancer risk. However, studies show that spaying female dogs before their first heat cycle reduce the risk of developing mammary cancer significantly. In male dogs, neutering can reduce the risk of testicular cancer.

Diet and Cancer Risk in Dogs

A high-quality diet is crucial in maintaining your dog’s overall health, including reducing cancer risks. Some commercial dog foods contain chemical preservatives, fillers, and toxic byproducts like aflatoxin, which may increase the risk of developing liver cancer. Therefore, choosing a high-quality, balanced diet for your dog is essential.

Obesity and Canine Cancer

Obesity is associated with an increased risk of several canine cancers, including mast cell tumors, mammary tumors, and bladder cancer. Maintaining your dog’s healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of these cancers.

Environmental Factors Affecting Canine Cancer

Environmental carcinogens can contribute to developing cancer in dogs, particularly exposure to excessive sunlight, tobacco smoke, herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and air pollution in urban areas. Dogs with lighter-colored short coats and less hair on their undersides are more vulnerable to skin cancer. 

As a responsible dog owner, reducing your pet’s exposure to these environmental risks is essential.

Pet Laser Therapy

One innovative treatment option for dogs suffering from cancer is pet laser therapy. Cold laser therapy in Lisle and similar services offer a non-invasive, painless, and drug-free treatment method that can alleviate inflammation and pain and help stagnant healing processes. It may be an excellent supplementary treatment option to consider alongside traditional cancer therapies for your pet.

Vet Wellness Plans

Developing a long-term health strategy for your pet is a proactive measure you can take to reduce cancer risk and keep them in optimal health. Pet wellness plans often include routine examinations, vaccinations, dental care, and early detection screenings. By enrolling your dog in a wellness plan, you can help ensure that they receive the best preventative care possible.

Veterinary Internal Medicine

If your dog is diagnosed with cancer, engaging the support of a specialist in veterinary internal medicine may be a wise decision. These experts are uniquely skilled in diagnosing and treating complex health problems in animals, often using advanced diagnostic tools and technology to ensure your dog receives the best possible care.

The Takeaway

While certain breeds may be more prone to cancer, it’s crucial to remember that many factors contribute to a dog’s risk. As responsible dog owners, it’s our job to minimize these risks by providing a high-quality diet, regular exercise, and the best possible veterinary care. Moreover, understanding your dog’s specific risk factors can help you take the necessary steps to prevent or detect cancer early. Ultimately, choosing a dog breed that matches your family’s lifestyle and preferences is best rather than focusing solely on cancer risk.