If you are considering getting a dog, you're likely comparing the different breed characteristics as well as potential health issues associated with each breed. Our Memphis vets share a few of America's favorite dog breeds that face an increased risk of developing cancer.
Dog Breed & Cancer Risk
If you are a potential pet parent, considering welcoming a new pooch into your household, you may be weighing up the different personality traits and health risks that come with different breeds. Cancer is a disease that is particularly common in some dogs so it's good to understand the risks as you consider which dog breed is right for you.
Choosing a Breed With a Reduced Risk of Cancer
It is estimated that more than 50% of dog deaths due to illness, are cancer related. With that statistic in mind, it's important to note that any breed of dog can develop cancer, but some breeds do have a lower incidence of the disease than others. Choosing a breed that is statistically at lower risk of cancer will not necessarily guarantee that your pet won't get cancer during their lifetime, but may reduce the likelihood that your pet will suffer from the disease.
Different Breeds & Different Cancers
Comparing the cancer risk of different dog breeds is a difficult task, with numerous factors that complicate the calculation. For example, a large number of 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 develop. It is estimated that almost one-third of all dogs over the age of seven years will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life.
Different breeds are also more susceptible to different types of cancer. Mast cell tumors for example, are more common in short-nosed breeds like boxers and Boston terriers, whereas bone cancer is often seen in larger dogs with long legs. One form of ear cancer is commonly seen in cocker spaniels but rarely seen in other dog breeds, and skin cancer is most often diagnosed in breeds with short hair and fair skin.
Popular Breeds with a Higher Risk of Cancer
- Golden Retriever - These beautiful dogs make loving family pets, however, their risk of developing cancer is high. Cancer of the blood vessels (hemangiosarcoma) is an aggressive form of cancer seen in this breed, as is lymphoma. Two genes have been found that appear to be related to the development of cancer in golden retrievers and researchers are hopeful that this finding could lead to a method of detecting the genes before cancer has an opportunity to develop.
- German Shepherd - Noble and loyal, German Shepherds make loving family pets that adore working hard. Yet, like the golden retriever, this breed has very high rates of cancer, including hemangiosarcoma mentioned above.
- Bernese Mountain Dog - With their long silky coats and an easygoing personality the Bernese Mountain Dog makes a terrific pet, but sadly these dogs show a particularly high risk of developing a number of different cancers including mast cell tumors and malignant histiocytosis.
- Poodle - Poodles aren't just show dogs with fancy hairstyles, this breed is athletic, eager and extremely intelligent! The standard poodle is a relatively large dog, that presents a strange case when it comes to cancer risk. Standard poodles can face increased risk of a very aggressive cancer called squamous cell carcinoma of the digit. That said, this form of cancer, which is found on the dog's toes, is seen in dark color poodles but almost never found in poodles with lighter coats.
- Scottish Terriers - Scottish Terriers make alert and independent little watch dogs. Unfortunately, due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, this breed is at high risk of developing bladder cancer if they are regularly exposed to lawn chemicals.
- Rottweiler - Rotties can be a playful and silly breed, devoted to their family. Sadly, Rottweilers do face a higher than average risk of developing a number of cancers including lymphoma, mast cell tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, bone cancer, bladder cancer and hemangiosarcomas.
- Boxer - Affectionate, loyal and fun loving, Boxers make terrific family pets. Unfortunately mast cell tumors, which is a form of slow growing cancer typically found on the skin, is often seen in this breed.
Choosing Your New Pet
Regardless of the breed you choose, every dog will come with its own unique blend of personality traits, and predetermined risk for serious diseases such as cancer. If the right breed for you comes with an increased risk of cancer, take the time to learn about the puppy's genetic background before purchasing, as a way to try and mitigate the risk of your pet being diagnosed with this heartbreaking disease.
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.