Are Some Dog Breeds More Prone to Cancer?

While all dogs are susceptible to cancer, some breeds are at a higher risk for certain types of cancer.

By | Posted: August 26, 2014, 12 p.m. PST

By some estimates, one out of every four dogs will get some form of cancer in their lifetime. So to adapt a line from an Armour hot dogs commercial many years ago: large dogs, small dogs, female dogs and male dogs, overweight and skinny dogs, dogs with fur, and dogs with hair are all prone to cancer.

Dog breeds cancer

Even though all dogs are at risk, some are more at risk than others. During the last 25 years, veterinary oncologists have been collecting data about cancer in dogs, and have found that different cancers affect different breeds at different rates. Next to each of the cancers listed below are the breeds that are overrepresented, or affected more frequently.

  • Transitional cell carcinoma: Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Beagle, and Shetland Sheepdog
  • Lymphoma (all types): Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Boxer, Rottweiler, Bullmastiff, Bulldog, Bernese Mountain Dog, and Flat-Coated Retriever. 
  • B-cell lymphomas: Cocker Spaniel and Basset Hound
  • T-cell lymphomas: Irish Wolfhound, Siberian Husky, and Shih Tzu

More on Lymphoma>>

  • Melanomas: Scottish Terrier, Poodle, Golden Retriever, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel, Chow Chow, Gordon Setter, and Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Osteosarcoma: Large and giant breeds, including the Rottweiler, Golden Retriever, Scottish Deerhound, Greyhound, and Saint Bernard
  • Hemangiosarcoma: Golden Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, and Boxer

Although we have known that some breeds and mixes develop cancer more commonly than others, it was not until recently that some of the reasons for this phenomenon were exposed. The decoding of the dog genome added immensely to our understanding of why certain breeds and mixes have a higher cancer risk. Scientists are now inching closer to allowing us to answer the question that all of us want answered: Why did my dog get cancer?

Scientists studying the factors that contribute to increased cancer risk in people point to four main factors: genetics, environment, diet, and infectious causes. It is probable that all people and animals have some inherent risk for developing cancer and that these four factors work to either increase or decrease that baseline risk. I hope that by manipulating one or more of these factors, we can dramatically decrease the rate of cancer in our pets and ourselves.

Can Canine Cancer be Prevented?>>

GERALD POST, D.V.M., is a board-certified veterinary oncologist who oversees , an organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer in both pets and people.multiple practices in Connecticut and New York and serves on the board of the Animal Cancer Foundation

Do you have a question about cancer for Gerald Post? Send your questions via email to

Has your dog ever battled with cancer? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Read More on Canine Cancer:



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Gloria   San Diego, California

3/5/2015 8:34:38 AM

Our beautiful girl, German shepherd/chow chow mix, Laguna, was put to rest last night. We miss her terribly. She had two tumors on her spleen; a big one and a smaller one which is the one that ruptured and she lost almost bled to death. We're so grateful to the vet who saved her in January. After the splenectomy, Laguna seemed to feel better. She got to doing her fun doggie things and ate really well but, after just over a month, we could see her belly becoming bloated and that was probably an indication of a slow bleeding out but we just couldn't tell. While she was on a short walk last night, she became wobbly when she was going pee and about collapsed but was caught before she hit the ground. We rushed her to the animal hospital and was told the terrible news. She was breathing hard so we stayed with her for a few minutes then had doctor come in to give her the shots and she's now in doggie paradise. Our beloved, Laguna. She gave us so much love & happiness! We'll be heartbroken forever but, it's been 8 tremendously great years of having her with us since she was adopted from the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter when she was 3 months old. She's given our family so many good memories!

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maria   buffalo, New York

3/4/2015 11:03:25 AM

My Andy developed an aggressive cancerous growth at his upper gumline when he was 15. Had it removed and it immediately started to grow back. Was recommended to another vet who removed it again, along with a small section of his jaw, until the vet could get a 'clear margin'-was told most likely in the clear and that if Andy was still alive a year later, he would probably die of something else-and that's exactly what happened. Always grateful to that vet for giving me that extra time with my sweet boy!

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Marilyn   Tacoma, Washington

1/22/2015 5:59:24 AM

My Shiz Stzu Had skin cancer at the age of five but it was treatable, thank goodness the places were removed and she was fine,but until it was over I was terrible upset.

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Mary   Snowflake, Arizona

1/20/2015 3:23:42 PM

We had a gorgeous red Golden Retriever who had Osteosarcoma in her left front leg. We tried to keep her comfortable as long as we could but finally had to put her to sleep. Never will get over it and support any study of Cancer in Golden Retrievers. She was only four years old.

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