What is the Most Common Type of Canine Cancer Diagnosed?

Find out the 6 most common dog cancers veterinarians and veterinary oncologists diagnose and meet patients who have fought and surrvived them.

By | Posted: August 5, 2014, 2 p.m. PST

Gerald PostGerald Post, D.V.M. with his French Bulldog, Lola and Rottweiler, Lucius.
As a veterinary oncologist with more than  25 years of clinical practice experience, I am often asked if dogs get cancer and, if so, which types of cancers are most commonly diagnosed.

Yes, dogs do get cancer at a rate of about 1 in 4, according to the Animal Cancer Foundation.

With approximately 70 million dogs in the United States, as reported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, that’s a large group developing cancers that are often very similar biologically to human cancers.

Here are some of my own patients who illustrate the 6 most common cancers veterinarians and veterinary oncologists diagnose:

1. Melanoma: These common cancers are typically found in the mouth or near the paws and have a very high metastatic rate, meaning they often spread to another part of the body.

Smokey, my Miniature Schnauzer of 15 years who first taught me the value of hope, was diagnosed with melanoma in 2003. Like every pet parent, when I saw the mass in his lungs on the radiographs, my heart sank, but with three different types of therapy, Smokey lived more than 2 1/2 years; his life was filled with quality, excitement, and joy — joy for the both of us.

2. Lymphoma:  A cancer of the lymphatic system and is analogous to non-Hodgkin lymphoma in people.

Maddy, a blue-and-brown-eyed Border Collie, developed lymphoma when she was 7 years old. Maddy’s owner, also a cancer survivor, noticed one of the most common signs of this cancer, enlargement of the lymph nodes on the outside of the body due to malignant lymphocytes — a type of white blood cell — growing within the nodes. Maddy is still in remission after four years.

3. Mast Cell Tumor: The tiny packets of chemicals — histamine, heparin, and others — inside these mast cells are responsible for the redness, swelling, and stomach ulceration that is sometimes associated with this cancer.

Boomer, a bounding, 6-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever, was brought to see me because he developed a small, raised, reddish skin mass in his groin area. The mass was removed, and biopsy confirmed a mast cell tumor, the most common malignant skin tumor I diagnose. Boomer is still free of his cancer after six years.

4. Soft-Tissue Sarcoma: These sarcomas are cancerous growths of connective tissue — muscle, fat, cartilage, and various other cells — that typically grow as solitary masses, metastasizing infrequently.

Cody was our own beautiful, sweet Rottweiler who at 13 years old developed a mass on her left elbow that I diagnosed as a soft-tissue sarcoma. Despite treatment, Cody’s tumor did metastasize, and we lost her in 2008.

5. Osteosarcoma: Bone cancer which is most common in larger breeds, it often presents itself as lameness in the dog’s legs.

Bear, an amazing, courageous, and incredibly lucky Siberian Husky, was diagnosed at 11 years old with the most common bone tumor in large and giant breed dogs: osteosarcoma. Bear is still going strong after five years, but his journey reminds me of one of Shakespeare’s tragicomedies. Bear sailed through an amputation and chemotherapy with no problems, only to develop metastatic disease. Despite the odds, Bear’s family proceeded with more chemotherapy, and miraculously, Bear’s tumors shrank away to nothing. All of us celebrated for well over a year, when complications from the medications required the drug therapy be halted. Bear is a survivor; still enjoying life, he continues to trot alongside his family.

6. Mammary Cancer: This type of cancer is very common in female dogs, especially those who are not spayed. About 50 percent of these tumors are malignant, while the other 50 percent are benign.

Last but not least, Sassy, an adorable American Staffordshire Terrier with a distinctive bowlegged walk, was diagnosed with a small, firm mass in her right second mammary gland.. Sassy continues to chug along and be the matriarch of her "pack.”

Smokey, Maddy, Boomer, Cody, Bear, and Sassy symbolize the most common cancers diagnosed — melanoma, lymphoma, mast cell, soft-tissue sarcoma, osteosarcoma, and mammary cancer — and give us hope for pet and human cancer survivors.

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

Do you have a question about cancer for Gerald Post? Send your questions via email to barkback@dogfancy.com

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

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