In veterinary oncology, we see the same types of cancer in the same dog breeds over and over again. Certain dogs are predisposed to developing certain types of cancer, based on the genetics that the dog inherits as a puppy. Similarly, certain dog breeds are predisposed to developing heart conditions, orthopedic diseases, liver diseases, etc.
This article outlines some (not all) of the associations between cancer and various dog breeds. Some of the breed-associated predispositions are stronger than others. For example, in some cases there might be a slight increased risk for a certain breed developing a specific type of cancer, while in others the risk is dramatic (25% of Bernese mountain dogs developing histiocytic sarcoma, for example). For many types of tumors we don't know which breeds may be predisposed.
The information below is specific to the United States. Dogs in Europe will have different genetics (to some extent), so I did not include information from studies specifically looking at European dogs.
The goal of this article is certainly not to instill fear or paranoia or despair. Certainly, just because a certain dog might have some predisposition to develop a type of cancer does not mean that he will develop it, it just means that the risk is higher.
My hope is just to increase awareness with this article. Since early cancer detection typically gives our dogs the best chance of a good outcome, you'll have a better chance of a good outcome if you have a better idea of what to look for.
If your dog's breed is on any of the lists below (or if he is a mix of any of the breeds below), it would be a decent idea to consider a good pet insurance policy (if you think you would treat cancer in the future).
20-40% of skin tumors in dogs are malignant. If your dog has a skin tumor, it's best not to assume it's a benign lipoma, just have a needle aspirate performed (this is a very simple test!) so you'll have an accurate diagnosis.
Mast cell tumors - dogs of bulldog descent (Boxer, Boston terrier, English bulldog, pug, Frenchie), Labrador and golden retriever, cocker spaniel, schnauzer, Staffordshire terrier, beagle, Rhodesian ridgeback, Weimaraner, Shar-Pei
Fibrosarcoma - golden retriever, Doberman pinscher
Digital Tumors (toe)
Squamous cell carcinoma (most common) - standard poodle, black Labrador, giant schnauzers, Gordon setter, Rottweiler (often affects large breed dogs with black skin and haircoat); additional breeds that may be predisposed include the dachshund, flat coat retriever
Malignant melanoma (second most common) - Scottish terrier
Malignant melanoma (most common) - Cocker spaniel, miniature poodle, Anatolian sheepdog, Gordon setter, Chow Chow, golden retriever
Fibrosarcoma - golden retriever, Labrador retriever, other large breed dogs
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (most common) - poodle, Labrador retriever, Samoyed
Malignant melanoma - Chow Chow, Chinese Shar-Pei
Hemangiosarcoma, Fibrosarcoma - border collie, golden retriever
Plasma cell tumor - cocker spaniel
Gastric Cancer (stomach) - Belgian shepherd, Norwegian lundehund, Dutch Tervueren shepherd
Bile duct carcinoma (liver) - Labrador retriever
Intestinal Cancer - Collie, German shepherd
Histiocytic Sarcoma - Bernese mountain dog (25% of all Bernese mountain dogs will get this disease), Rottweiler, golden retriever, flat coat retriever, mini schnauzer
Osteosarcoma (most common bone cancer) - Saint Bernard, Great Dane, Irish setter, Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, golden retriever, Rottweiler, Irish wolfhound, greyhound, Scottish deerhound.
Thyroid carcinoma - golden retriever, Boxer, Siberian husky
Parathyroid adenoma - Keeshonden
Insulinoma - Labrador retriever, golden retriever, German shepherd, German pointer, Irish setter, Boxer, mixed breeds, West Highland white terrier
Female Reproductive Tumors
Ovarian tumors - German shepherd, Boxer, Yorkshire terrier, poodle, Boston terrier
Mammary Tumors - mini poodle, Chihuahua, dachshund, Yorkshire terrier, Maltese, cocker spaniel, English Springer spaniel, English setter, Brittany spaniel, German shepherd, Pointer, Doberman, Boxer
Testicular tumors - Boxer, German shepherd, Afghan hound, Weimaraner, Shetland sheepdog, Collie, Maltese
Transitional cell carcinoma (most common bladder cancer) - Scottish terrier, Shetland sheepdog, Beagle, Wire-haired fox terrier, West Highland white terrier
Brain tumors - golden retriever, boxer
Lymphoma - Boxer, bull mastiff, basset hound, Saint Bernard, Scottish terrier, Airedale, bulldog
Hemangiosarcoma (spleen) - German shepherd, Labrador retriever, golden retriever
Hemangiosarcoma - German shepherd, golden retriever
Aortic body tumors - Boxer, Boston terrier, English bulldog, German shepherd
Have questions about this article? Reach out!
Dr. Lori Cesario
Board Certified Veterinary Oncologist
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