What dog breeds are most likely to get cancer? Here’s What to Expect

Cocker Spaniel

English Cocker spaniels are genetically predisposed to mammary tumors. About 30% of these tumours are malignant and, unless promptly diagnosed and successfully treated, they have a progressively serious effect on their health.

“Cancer unfortunately is caused by many factors and many things we do not understand,” she shared. “Genetics are definitely thought to play a role in susceptibility and the incidence of cancers.”

It is thought that spaying or neutering your dog may also play a role in preventing cancer. “There is new statistical evidence that early spay or neuter before one year of age might influence the incidence of certain cancers,” Petryk said.

Coates recommends looking for slight changes in your dogs and, if they notice anything unusual, taking your dog to see a veterinarian right away.

A small breed with a playful nature and happy-go-lucky attitude, the Bichon Frise also has a high rate of cancer, according to Petryk. Friendly towards other dogs, pets and strangers, the Bichon Frise is also known for being good with children. With a lifespan between 12 and 15 years, this breed is prone to health problems, including allergies, patellar luxation and liver disease.

While we don’t know why certain cancers are common among breeds, Coates said some environmental factors may be important. “For example, exposure to chemicals applied to lawns is associated with an increase risk of bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers,” she explained. “An element of bad luck is also involved.”

Different Dog breeds and different types of cancers

Comparing the cancer risks in different dog breeds is not easy, with the numerous factors needed to consider complicating the calculation. For instance, dogs over the age of ten years have more cancer risks than younger dogs. Research shows that dogs with longer lifespans are also likely to get cancer since they are likely to live long enough for the condition to develop. Statistics also show that one in three dogs older than seven years will get cancer at some point in their life.

Different dog breeds are more susceptible to various cancer types. For example, Mast cell tumors are more prevalent in short-nosed breeds like Boston terriers and Boxers. On the other hand, bone cancer risk is high for large dogs with long legs. Skin cancer is more prevalent in dog breeds with fair skin and short hair, while ear cancer is more common in cocker spaniels than in other dogs.

Dog Breeds Most Likely to get Canine Cancer

What are the rates of cancer by breed? In fact, there arent many facts about relative rates of cancer by breed so I went to the source for the data. Dr. Steven Steinberg of VCA Veterinary Referral Associates, LLC has been collecting data on rates of cancer by breed over at the Vet Cancer Registry and built the following table based on a database of confirmed cancer cases compared to the numbers of AKC registered dogs in that breed.Â

You can see that breeds such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Poodles and Rottweilers seem to have greater incidences of cancer than many other breeds.  Â

As Dr Steinberg would say, this table is only the first step in understanding cancer in different dog breeds but its a good start.

For the past thirty years the veterinary literature has been hampered by small numbers of cases even in the best-designed scientific studies. Every month we read of questions raised about human medical research where thousands of individuals have been included and yet we have been at the mercy of the results of veterinary studies in which rarely more than 30 individuals have been the basis of the study.

Individual institutions usually dont generate enough consistent cases in large enough quantities to solve this problem and only by applying collated data collected cooperatively is veterinary medicine going to address this issue. Â

The Vet Cancer Registry is a web based (www.vetcancerregistry.com) data collection point for confirmed veterinary cancer cases. Cases have been registered from all over the world and only those cases with confirmed diagnoses are accepted into the database. This service is totally free and has been developed to be user friendly. There are currently more than 7600 cases on the website and cases are being added at a rate of about 12-18 per week. The website is recording about 2000 to 4000 hits per day. There are 5,718 dogs and 1,959 cats registered at this time in the registry. Â

Although the data are of a general nature, by looking at thousands of cases at one time one can notice trends that would not be evident in evaluating only a handful of cases. The search format is extremely interactive and allows for creative pursuits that are left to the imagination of the investigator. There is also a mechanism to query case submitters and to encourage collaboration among researchers.

We can associate the popularity of various dog breeds with the collected data from the Vet Cancer Registry by breed. In the following figure the top 50 dog breeds are listed with the number of individuals registered by breed according to published data from 2002 for the AKC. This table denotes trends where various dog breeds are over or under represented based on number of cancer cases reported in the registry in relation to popularity based on AKC registration. These kinds of trends are rarely used when a popular breed is noted to be susceptible for a specific disease in an institutions population. For example, Labrador Retrievers are by far the most popular breed, yet they are only number 13, among the top 50 breeds, in dogs most affected by cancer in cases registered in the Vet Cancer Registry. Similarly Chinese Shar-Peis are 39th in popularity according to the AKC but 16th , among the top 50 breeds, in dogs reported to have cancer in the Vet Cancer Registry.

Even this most simple study starts to reveal trends that as with all scientific endeavors raise more questions than they answer. Only by attaining significant numbers, will we obtain the knowledge to truly recognize incidence and treatment response trends.

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