Canine Cancer: High Risk Breeds

By Dr. Mark Silberman, Southwest Animal Clinic

Cancer is a common canine ailment. It is a killer in dogs, just as it is in humans.  There are predisposing factors that have been identified such as exposure to substances like metals, dust, chemicals or pesticides.  Diet plays a role in the development of cancer, as does exposure to UV light.  Most dogs with cancer are middle-aged to older animals, but the effect of an animal’s age on cancer is not well understood.  Cancer is found in all breeds of dogs even though some have a greater predilection.  This article will concentrate on some of the common breeds and their predispositions to cancer.

In a 1997 Swedish study involving 222,000 dogs, the proportional mortality rate for cancer was 18.6 percent of the recorded deaths in 1993. These high-risk breeds (more than 10 percent dying of cancer) are: Boxer (36.9 percent), Giant Schnauzer (36.9 percent), Bernese Mountain Dog (32.7 percent), Irish Wolfhound (24.8 percent), Cocker Spaniel (22.2 percent), Doberman Pinscher (22.2 percent), Pomeranian (19.0 percent), Newfoundland (16.8 percent), German Shepherd Dog (14.8 percent), Saint Bernard (13.1 percent), Great Dane (12.3 percent), Greyhound (12.3 percent) and Basset Hound (percentage unknown, but the breed does have a genetic predisposition to lymphomas).

The most prevalent tumor location in dogs is the skin with 20 – 30% of these being malignant. Mast cell tumors, Histiocytomas, Squamous Cell Carcinomas and Melanomas are the most common.

Osteosarcoma is the most common primary bone tumor of dogs.  Size rather than breed is considered more of a risk factor.   However, there is a genetic predisposition in St. Bernards, Great Danes, Irish Setters, Dobermans, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers.

Gender also plays a role.  The most common tumor type in the female is a mammary gland tumor.  In an intact male it would be the testicular tumor (neutering a male dog will eliminate the cancer risk).  But there does not appear to be a breed predisposition to mammary gland tumors.

Lymphoma, a tumor arising from the hematopoietic tissue, is becoming more prevalent in certain breeds and at a younger age.

What follows is a partial list of some popular breeds and their predilections for cancer.  It is interesting to note that there are some breeds with no predilection. 

Airedale – Melanoma, Lymphosarcoma, Pancreatic carcinoma

Alaskan malamute – Sebaceous gland tumor, Anal sac adenocarcinoma

Australian Shepherd – None

Basset Hound – Mast cell tumor, Cutaneous haemangioma, Lymphosarcoma

Beagle – Mast cell tumor, Sebaceous gland tumor, Haemangiopericytoma, Perianal gland adenoma, Lymphosarcoma

Bichon Frise – Basal cell tumor

Border collie – None

Boston terrier – Mast cell tumor, Melanoma, Fibroma, Primary brain tumor

Boxer – Mast cell tumor, Melanoma, Cutaneous haemangioma, Histiocytoma, Sq. cell carcinoma, Fibroma, Thyroid neoplasia, Insulinoma, Osteosarcoma, Primary brain tumor, Lymphosarcoma.

Briard – None

Brittany spaniel – Liposarcoma (Lipoma)

Bull dog (English) – Mast cell tumor, Lymphosarcoma

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – None

Chihuahua – Melanoma, Testicular neoplasia

Chow – Melanoma, Lymphosarcoma

Cocker Spaniel  – Basal cell tumor, Sweat gland tumor, Trichoepithelioma, Cutaneous papilloma, Sebaceous gland tumor, Plasmacytoma, Histiocytoma, Fibrosarcoma, Perianal gland adenoma, Anal sac adenocarcinoma, Melanoma, Lipoma,

Collie – Sweat gland tumor, Histiocytoma, Haemangiopericytoma, Nasal cavity tumors, Colorectal neoplasia

Dachshund – Anal sac adenocarcinoma, Lipoma, Mast cell tumor, Sq.cell carcinoma, Histiocytoma, Ocular melanoma

Dalmatian – Actinic keratosis, Cutaneous haemangioma

Doberman – Melanoma, Lipoma, Histiocytoma, Fibroma, Myxoma, Primary brain tumor

Fox Terrier – Mast cell tumor, Fibroma, Haemangiopericytoma, Schwannoma, Insulinoma

German Shepherd – Sweat gland tumor, Trichoepithelioma, Anal sac adenocarcinoma, Cutaneous haemangioma, Lymphoma, Myxoma, Nasal cavity tumors, Colorectal neoplasia, Insulinoma, Limbal melanoma, Testicular neoplasia, Thymoma

Golden Retriever – Mast cell tumor, Sweat gland tumor, Trichoepithelioma, Melanoma, Haemangioma, Histiocytoma, Fibroma, Lymphosarcoma, Nasal cavity tumors, Thyroid neoplasia, Insulinoma, Primary brain tumor, Fibrosarcoma

Great Dane – Histiocytoma, Osteosarcoma

Greyhound – None..although beginning to see haemangiosarcoma

Havanese – None

Irish setter – Trichoepithelioma, Sebaceous gland tumor, Haemangiopericytoma, Lymphoma, Melanoma, Insulinoma

Jack Russell – Pituitary tumor

Labrador retriever – Mast cell tumor, Cutaneous histiocytoma, Sq. cell carcinoma, Nasal cavity tumors, Insulinoma, Lymphosarcoma, Limbal melanoma, Oral Fibrosarcoma, Thymoma

Lhasa Apso – Sebaceous gland tumor, Keratocanthoma, Perianal gland adenoma

Maltese – None

Miniature Pinscher – None

Pekingese – Sq. cell carcinoma

Pointers – Mast cell tumor, Haemangioma, Nasal cavity tumors

Poodle – Basal cell tumor, Trichoepithelioma, Sebaceous gland tumor, Sq. cell carcinoma, Insulinoma, Pituitary tumor, Adrenalcortical tumor, Lymphosarcoma, Limbal melanoma, Oral melanoma, Testicular neoplasia,

Pug – Oral melanoma, Mast cell tumor

Rottweiler – Sq. cell carcinoma, Histiocytoma, Osteosarcoma

Schnauzer – Trichoepithelioma, Sebaceous gland tumor, Melanoma, Lipoma, Histiocytoma, Sq. cell carcinoma, Testicular neoplasia, Limbal melanoma,

Scottish terrier – Mast cell tumor, Melanoma, Histiocytoma, Sq. cell carcinoma, Lymphoma, Primary brain tumor

Shar Pei – Histiocytoma, Mast cell tumor

Sheltie – Histiocytoma, Basal cell tumor, Lipoma, Nasal cavity tumors, Testicular neoplasia

Shih Tsu – Sebaceous gland tumor, Perianal gland adenomas

Siberian Husky – Basal cell tumor, Sebaceous gland tumor, Haemangiopericytoma, Perianal gland adenoma, Testicular neoplasia

Springer Spaniel – Trichoepithelioma, Histiocytoma, Melanoma, Anal sac adenocarcinoma,

Weimaraner – Mast cell tumor, Lipoma

Welsh Corgi – None

Westie – Histiocytoma

Yorkshire terrier – Keratocanthoma, Pituitary tumor, Testicular neoplasia

Cancer prevention is not well understood.  In its simplest sense, cancer is a failure of the immune system to check uncontrolled growth of certain cells.  As these cells multiply unchecked, they form tumors.  If the tumors are unchecked, they metastasize.  They send cancer cells all over the body to form more tumors.

There is ongoing research at several universities looking for better treatment options.  Newer strategies include gene therapy, drugs that inhibit the metastasis process and chemotherapy-impregnated implants that release drugs in a slow, steady manner.


34 Responses to Canine Cancer: High Risk Breeds

  1. Lynn Rose

    February 11, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I’m thrilled to know that there is research being done for cancer of dogs. My dog died of cancer though he wasn’t mentioned here. He was a Wheaten Terrier. He hated the sun which I considered a good thing since my husband died of melanoma. Thanks for this.

  2. Chris

    April 4, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Our baby (8 year old Shar Pei) was recently diagnosed with Mast Cell cancer – it’s too late for him now as the cancer has metastasized. We removed five tumours but he has another eight that can’t be removed without amputation. As he has very bad arthritis this isn’t an option as his remaining legs wouldn’t be able to handle the stress. We’ve decided to work to make the remaining time he has as comfortable as possible.

    Had I been more informed I might have pushed a little harder to have the swelling in his hock area tested rather than going with the opinion that it was the arthritis causing the swelling.

    Cancer is a life stealing demon designed to break our hearts and steal away those close to us. I urge everyone to push a little harder – don’t allow a dismissal of your concerns…..before it’s too late like it is for our family.

  3. kathy

    April 25, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    My 7 year old white GSD was just diagnosed with a malignant shwannoma,
    on his front foot..hopefully the remaining time we have with him will be good for him, i am heart broken. and the thought of having to put him down makes me physically sick.

    I am shocked to see what some of the cancer rates are among other breeds..guess when you get a puppy you have to weight your chances.

  4. PJ

    June 10, 2009 at 10:32 am

    I have a happy story. My chihuahua puppy was diagnosed with a skin tumor when he was only 6 months old. We operated and removed the mass which thankfully proved to be non-malignant. He recovered an lives a happy and healthy life. Maximus is now 3 years old without any recurrance. I keep him out of the sun (though left to his own devices he would bake like a meatloaf on the sidewalk!) My point is that there are good outcomes sometimes. Get the pet checked ASAP it may not be a terrible diagnosis after all.

  5. Kelsey

    August 2, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    My 5 yo Doberman, Montana, was diagnosed with Osteocarcoma on Friday. I am researching the NET to see what our options are. Please pray for Montana. Miracles do happen. God Bless.

  6. dyan

    August 25, 2009 at 10:44 am

    my 6 yr old lab has cancer he has tumors in his throat. he has been givin pills to help. wish their were some affordable treatment for him. if anyone knows of any solution please respond. thankyou

  7. christine

    November 12, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Our 7 yr. old Akita, Ginger, had a biopsy performed today on a bump on
    her front leg. It came back positive to cancer. She is scheduled for
    surgery in the very near future. She’s a sweetheart. I hope it all turns out to be a walk in the park for her. (no pun intended)

  8. Marina

    December 21, 2009 at 12:25 am

    My king Charles spaniel , Winston passed away dec 3 this year from lymphosarcoma. Just 2 weeks after we took him to see the doctor becuase we noticed he was sleeping more than normal. He never had swolllen glands. Had we not taken him to see the doctor for anemia we would of never found out he had cancer. His cancer was already at stage v and the doctors said there was nothing they could do. The greatest lesson I have learned is the importance of taking your dogs to get check ups and blood work done at least once every six months. The sooner we find out something is wrong the more we can help our furry family members.

  9. Melanie

    January 16, 2010 at 12:58 am

    At work, I’ve heard a few amazing stories about the benefits of adding the holistic approach to whatever therapies you choose, particularly in feeding. My heart goes out to all of you.

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  11. Alice Kelly

    June 17, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Bob Marley died of Melanoma right ?~;:

  12. Rebecca Murphy

    June 20, 2010 at 3:34 am

    everyone in our family have some very active oily skin. our secaceous glands are so damn active.;:*

  13. Diania

    July 16, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Princess is a maltese, she is currently on her 4th week of chemo treatment and seems to be responding well. The scariest challenge is not knowing when the end will come. I look at difference websites every day to find some kind of answers to my questions: how will I know she has had enough? How do I know if the chemo is working or not. If you have any knowledge, please help!

  14. Nancy

    August 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    My 7 yr old Shar Pei is now only weeks away from death. The first MCT was removed 7/2/10, Grade II w/ clean margins. Within 3 weeks 4 more developed. Now, 6 weeks post op, both front legs are consumed with tumors and her lymph nodes are all involved; the most agressvine type of cancer has invaded her body. I’m told by my vet it is systemic. There are no words to express my sadness and guilt and I stay up nights thinking about “if only’s”. 3 months ago my baby was tearing through my house doing her “crazy dog” thing and now she can barely get up on my bed. I know I only have weeks (at best) but I want to share with anyone who reads this: If you can affort chemo/radiation, do it. I didn’t have an option because the tumors recurred too quickly. But I would give anything for 6 more months, as long as they were quality months for her. The decisions I will be faced with soon are killing me but I made a promise to her when this all started; I told her I loved her too much to let her suffer so I watch every day for signs of unrelenting pain. Luckily, her meds do a great job and I still see a tail wag occassionally. Love your baby while you can. It could be over with so quickly.

  15. Maxine Slater

    November 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    My 12 year old Springer Spaniel died a few years ago from what was probably a recurrence of the mammary gland cancer from which she had successfully been operated about 4 years previously. She had no symptoms except not eating well for a couple of days, then suddenly bleeding to death. Recently, a neighbor’s Lhasa died from leukemia just a few days after he was diagnosed with it.

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  17. Algernon

    September 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Howdy. I desired to drop you a quick note to show my thanks. I’ve been following website for a month or so and get found a bunch of good information together with loved how you’ve structured your web blog. I’m wanting to run my own personal blog site however think its way too general and I have to focus on scaled-down themes.

  18. Johnnie Hall

    October 2, 2011 at 11:58 am

    On September 15, 2011 my Sharpei, Bo, passed away from lymphoma cancer. He was giving the best
    medical care. I still cannot understand how he could come up with lymphoma cancer being only 5 years of age. However, I noticed a change in his health after he got a rabies shot in February, 2011. The next month I took him to the vet because he was vomiting in the morning. The vet gave medicine for acid indigestion. The following month I took him back again, vet gave antibiotic medicine. Two months later, back to the vet because he,Bo, was still vomiting…more medicine. Then, in July Bo starts to vomit blood. I took him to the vet and this time ultra-sound was done. It showed a mast tumor, enlarged liver, and enlarged splend. I immediately took him to a vet hospital to see an oncologist. Chemo was giving but after 5 weeks the oncologist told me that the chemo was not working. I took Bo home for him to spend his last remaining days. He died three weeks after I was told chemo was not working. I feel very strongly that the rabies shot in February 2011 caused my pet sickness. He was fine before the rabies shot. I just hope he’s happy in his new home, heaven. I really loved my Bo!!!!!

  19. Caren Boyd

    November 18, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Our Springer Spaniel was just diagnosed with malignant cancer of the mammary gland. She was operated on four days ago, and the vet hopes she got it all out, but can’t know for sure. She is eleven years old and is the sweetest girl. She is doing well, and we hope to have her around for a long time, but every day is a gift. We will continue to monitor her closely and take her for regular check ups. Cancer is such an awful demon, whether it be in human or animal.

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    December 27, 2011 at 1:13 am

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    January 22, 2012 at 9:28 am

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  23. Dan P.

    December 26, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I just lost my 19momth old male bullmastiff to lymphoblastic lymphoma! Is this common in this breed or at this young of age? He showed signs of being sick for only 15 days! From the time we noticed something was wrong until he passed!

  24. ryleyd

    February 10, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    my beautiful 7 year old standard poodle died of canine lymphoma she was only 7 if your looking for a dog a standard poodle is the one for you she was a sweetheart we barely had to spend a week training her she was a loyal dog i consider her a sister not a dog you can see her at emmas foundation for canine cancer her name is abby she will be under dogs weve helped donate money to them to help people treat canine cancer

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  28. kenneth Seaton D.Sc

    December 5, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    My 65yr research on cancer in JNMA 2001,93,490-493 proves that the concentration of serum albumin controls cancer in most animals. The reason why dogs have very high cancer rate is because compared to a human who average serum albumin ~43g/L (4.3%) and lived 80 yrs, dogs average only 30g/l and thus live ~15 yrs with cancer very high past 10 yrs old. Serum albumin high concentration >47g/l stabilizes the entire genome, includinfg P53 anti-cancer gene from constant mutations that result in cancer. Albumin levels are controled by inflammation and infections more than diet, thus small dogs who can be bathed several times a week can have serum albumin >34g/L and live over 20yrs compared to very large dogs who a difficult to even get in the Tub. Sea Dogs (Seals genetically similar to dogs)) have serum albumin close to 40g/L and can live well over 40 yrs without cancer. Bow head Whales live on the Artic and have serum albumi over 52g/L can live >200 yrs with cancer very rare. “Cleanliness in indeed next to Godliness” Kennyscientist


    November 22, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Wonderful post but I was wanting to know if
    you could write a litte more on this topic?
    I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more.

  30. Rebecca Burwell

    November 24, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Hi Heather, check out our archives page for more information on cancer in animals.

  31. Lynn Rivell

    August 27, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    My JRT Petey had lung cancer surgery in Dec. The oncologist said they got it all but it returned and I had to put him down July 1. I am devasted. He quit eating and drinking and went into a deep sleep. Took him to the vet (I really didn’t trust) and he put him on ivs. Left him overnight he threw up. When I went 8n he was delerious,and could walk i had them immediately put him down. He was 15. I am a wreck I am wondering if I did the right thing. I hate myself as I did not stay. I took his collar and left with instructions to have him cremated. I absolutely hate myself as I left him in the end because I couldn’t handle it. I only wish it had been me.

  32. Cindy edwards

    November 28, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Our 5 yr. Boxer, Jackson passed away 11/25/15 from pancreatic cancer. His loss has devastated us.

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  34. Nanette

    October 26, 2016 at 4:39 am

    Just lost my 9 year old Yorkshire Terrier to a very aggressive throat cancer. There was nothing they could do. His tumor was very large and in the entire back of his throat. Doctor said it was a melanoma. Could have tried radiation but they said Brady would only live at the most 3-6 months. The dog was in so much pain. I’m heartbroken.