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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Cancer-Prone Dog Breeds

Updated: November 18th, 2019

If you have a purebred dog, be on the look out for problems that are more common in your dog’s breed.

Different breeds are more prone to certain health issues.  Many are familiar with genetic diseases like hip dysplasia, more common in large breed dogs.  However, there are more examples of breed-associated diseases, and cancer is no exception.

At this time, the Golden Retriever is the breed most prone to cancer.  It is estimated that up to 75% of Goldens will contract cancer during their lifetimes.

Some common cancer types in Goldens are osteosarcoma (bone cancer), lymphosarcoma (cancer of the lymph nodes and system), and hemangiosarcoma (cancer of blood vessels, common in the spleen).

Cancer is also common in the Boxer.  Some examples of cancers found in this breed are lymphosarcoma, brain cancers, and mast cell tumors ((a cancer involving specialized cells called mast cell, common in the skin and other body sites).

Scottish and West Highland White Terriers, along with Shetland Sheepdogs, are more prone to getting transitional cell carcinoma (a tumor usually found in the bladder).

Pugs and Shar Peis have a higher incidence of mast cell tumor.

Rottweilers, Great Danes, and other large and giant breed dogs are prone to osteosarcoma.

These are just some examples of breed-related cancers (for more information, see the Guide).

The reason certain breeds are more prone to cancers is that there are genes that increase the risk of cancers.  But, how does a dog end up with cancer genes?

When a dog breed is created, dogs with certain physical traits are bred in an effort to serve a purpose for people.  In days gone by, dog breeds were used for work purposes such as pulling or guarding.  As time went on, breeds were used for human entertainment (bull or bear baiting), or for help on the hunt.

Later, dog breeds were created for certain looks and personalities that people found enjoyable.

Many dog breeds are now popular, since we have grown to love their particular personalities and physical traits.

When we use smaller groups of dogs and breed them together repeatedly, we the puppies have genetic traits that are more common than other dogs.  This is how Golden Retriever puppies look like their parents.  The Golden Retriever genes are similar.

However, when the risk of a disease increases due to genes, the more carriers of the bad genes that are bred together, the more likely the disease will eventually emerge.

This is the reason certain breeds are more cancer-prone.

There are many other risk factors that contribute to cancer in dogs.  The Dog Cancer Survival Guide has more information on cancer and its causes in man’s best friend.


Dr D

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  1. 7 Dog Breeds That Are More Prone To Cancer | Pets & animals on January 5, 2018 at 9:38 am

    […] (Sources: Pet Plan, All Boxer Info, Universities Federation of Animal Welfare, PetMD, iHeartDogs, Dog Cancer Blog) […]

  2. 7 Dog Breeds That Are More Prone To Cancer – We Love Dogs on September 30, 2017 at 2:03 am

    […] (Sources: Pet Plan, All Boxer Info, Universities Federation of Animal Welfare, PetMD, iHeartDogs, Dog Cancer Blog) […]

  3. […] is not an exhaustive list and you can find more information on this blog by a vet specialising in canine cancer  and lists of susceptible breeds compiled by Tufts university […]

  4. Andy on March 21, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Cancer is very common in Golden retrievers but I don’ know whats the reason behind it.

  5. Betsy C on March 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I grew up with a Golden who died in the ’70’s of a good old age of 15 years old. My parents have since had two Goldens. The first one was highly pedigreed, and died at 8 from I forget which cancer, but it might have been hemangio. They adopted a purebred Golden who died of lymphoma, though she lived for two years on chemo before dying at almost 14. The took a chance and adopted a senior Golden, and low and behold, she has a mammary adenocarcinoma! Of course, this one was more related to the fact that the dog wasn’t spayed until she was 10, but still! What can be done at this point? It is hard to tell who to breed because you don’t know until they’ve already reproduced!

  6. LisaT on March 17, 2012 at 9:10 am

    And of course, don’t forget the German Shepherd and hemangiosarcoma, we’ve lost so many in the last many months on the forums 🙁

  7. Peggie Venemon on September 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    This is very interesting, and information that I can verify: I’ve had four golden retrievers, and all died of cancer. Now as I am considering another dog, I’d like to know which breeds are low in cancer incidence. Do you have any statistics about this? Thanks!

    Peggie Venemon

  8. Susan Breidel on September 8, 2011 at 5:51 am

    You did not include the Bernese Mountain Dog as one of the most cancer prone dogs. I have lost two of them at 6 & 7 years old to malignant histiocytosis…..very common in this breed. Since it was Mom Berner and her son, I am sure that line carried the gene….but it is a world-wide problem. I have friends in Hungary who has lost Berners to the same disease. What I can’t understand is how the other Swiss dogs…Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Entelbucher and Appenzeller don’t have the same cancer problem???? All these other breeds are short-haired while the Berner has this beautiful long full coat….any link there????

    • DemianDressler on September 13, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      Dear Susan,
      yes, this breed, as well as many others, were not included. These were examples only…the heritability of cancer is not entirely understood, so you are not alone!!

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