Are Some Dog Breeds More Prone to Cancer?

While all dogs are susceptible to cancer, some breeds are at a higher risk for certain types of cancer.

By some estimates, one out of every four dogs will get some form of cancer in their lifetime. So to adapt a line from an Armour hot dogs commercial many years ago: large dogs, small dogs, female dogs and male dogs, overweight and skinny dogs, dogs with fur, and dogs with hair are all prone to cancer.

Dog breeds cancer


Even though all dogs are at risk, some are more at risk than others. During the last 25 years, veterinary oncologists have been collecting data about cancer in dogs, and have found that different cancers affect different breeds at different rates. Next to each of the cancers listed below are the breeds that are overrepresented, or affected more frequently.

  • Transitional cell carcinoma: Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Beagle, and Shetland Sheepdog
  • Lymphoma (all types): Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Boxer, Rottweiler, Bullmastiff, Bulldog, Bernese Mountain Dog, and Flat-Coated Retriever. 
  • B-cell lymphomas: Cocker Spaniel and Basset Hound
  • T-cell lymphomas: Irish Wolfhound, Siberian Husky, and Shih Tzu

More on Lymphoma>>

  • Melanomas: Scottish Terrier, Poodle, Golden Retriever, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel, Chow Chow, Gordon Setter, and Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Osteosarcoma: Large and giant breeds, including the Rottweiler, Golden Retriever, Scottish Deerhound, Greyhound, and Saint Bernard
  • Hemangiosarcoma: Golden Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, and Boxer

Although we have known that some breeds and mixes develop cancer more commonly than others, it was not until recently that some of the reasons for this phenomenon were exposed. The decoding of the dog genome added immensely to our understanding of why certain breeds and mixes have a higher cancer risk. Scientists are now inching closer to allowing us to answer the question that all of us want answered: Why did my dog get cancer?

Scientists studying the factors that contribute to increased cancer risk in people point to four main factors: genetics, environment, diet, and infectious causes. It is probable that all people and animals have some inherent risk for developing cancer and that these four factors work to either increase or decrease that baseline risk. I hope that by manipulating one or more of these factors, we can dramatically decrease the rate of cancer in our pets and ourselves.

Can Canine Cancer be Prevented?>>

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

Do you have a question about cancer for Gerald Post? Send your questions via email to

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

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