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Which Dogs Have the Highest Risk of Developing Cancer?

Which Dogs Have the Highest Risk of Developing Cancer?

If you're getting a new dog, you're likely comparing the different characteristics of each breed, including potential health issues. When it comes to cancer some dog breeds do face a higher risk of developing the disease. Here, our Huntersville veterinary specialists share a few of the breeds with a higher risk of developing cancer.

Dog Breed & Cancer Risk

If you are considering welcoming a new canine companion into your household you may be weighing up the different personality traits and health risks that come with different breeds. One disease that is particularly common in dogs is cancer. So as you shop for a new pet you may be wondering what breed of dog is most likely to get cancer.

Choosing a Breed

To begin, it's important to understand that any breed of dog can develop cancer. Deciding on a dog breed with a low incidence of cancer may help to reduce the risk of your pet developing the disease but does not guarantee that your pet won't get cancer during their lifetime. It is estimated that over 50% of dog deaths due to illness are cancer related.

Types of Cancer in Different Dog Breeds

Not only that, but understanding a specific dog breed's risk of cancer when compared to another breed is a difficult task. There are many factors that can complicate the calculation. For example, many cancer cases are diagnosed in dogs over the age of 10 meaning that dog breeds with longer lifespans may be more likely to develop cancer simply because they live long enough for the disease to take hold. In fact, nearly one-third of all dogs over seven years of age will be diagnosed with cancer at some point.

It is also the case that different breeds are more susceptible to different types of cancer. For example, mast cell tumors are more common in short-nosed breeds like boxers and Boston terriers, whereas bone cancer is often seen in large and giant breed dogs with long legs. There is a form of ear cancer commonly seen in cocker spaniels but rarely seen in other breeds, and skin cancer is most often diagnosed in short haired breeds with fair skin such as boxers.

Popular Breeds with a Higher Risk of Cancer

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs are beautiful animals with long silky coats and an easygoing personality, but sadly this breed shows a particularly high risk of developing a number of different cancers including mast cell tumors and malignant histiocytosis (histiocytic sarcomas). 

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are beautiful dogs that make loving family pets, however, their risk of developing cancer is high. Hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessels). is an aggressive form of cancer commonly seen in this breed, as is lymphoma. In recent studies, two genes have been found that are related to the development of cancer in golden retrievers. Researchers hope that this finding could lead to a method of detecting the genes before cancer has an opportunity to develop.

Scottish Terriers

Scottish Terriers are an alert and independent breed that make great little watch dogs, that said they are at high risk of developing bladder cancer if they are often exposed to lawn chemicals such as pesticides and herbacides. This increased risk is believed to be down to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.


Rotties can make loving family pets. These dogs can be playful and silly with their family, then assume an aloof, standoffish demeanor with strangers. When it comes to cancer however, Rottweilers do face a higher than average risk of developing a number of different cancers including lymphoma, mast cell tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, osteosarcoma (bone cancer), transitional cell carcinomas (bladder cancer) and hemangiosarcomas (cancer of the blood vessels).

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd has long been a favorite breed amongst dog lovers. Noble and loyal, this breed makes a loving family pet that adores working hard hard. Sadly, this breed has very high rates of cancer, with the most common form being hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessels).


Affectionate, loyal and fun loving, the Boxer can be a terrific family pet and companion. With their dignified stance and strong work ethic anyone looking for a happy, hard working canine pal is bound to fall in love with the Boxer. Unfortunately this breed is often diagnosed with mast cell tumors which is a form of slow growing cancer most often found on the skin.


Poodles are athletic, eager and extremely smart! Not only that, they come in three sizes, so there's a perfect poodle for every dog lover. Poodles present an unusual case when it comes to cancer; standard poodles face an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the digit. Strangely, this very aggressive form of cancer found on the dog's toes is often diagnosed in dark color poodles but almost never found in light colored poodles.

Choosing Your New Pet

Ultimately, whatever breed of dog you decide on will come with its own host of personality characteristics and its own unique predetermined risk for a number of deadly diseases, including cancer. If the breed you choose has a higher than average risk of cancer, take the time to learn about the puppy's genetic background before purchasing in order to try and mitigate the risk of your pet being diagnosed with this potentially deadly disease.

Veterinary Oncology at Carolina Veterinary Specialists

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, our board-certified oncologists uses advanced diagnostics and treatments to provide the best possible care to pets with cancer. If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, ask your primary care veterinarian for a referral.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our veterinary team is dedicated to providing the best care and treatment to sick pets, and offering support for the families that love them. Contact Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville for more information about specialized veterinary care for your pet. 

Caring for Pets in Huntersville

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, we accept new clients to our specialty services by referral. Our 24/7 emergency service accepts all clients.

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