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Which Dog Breeds Are Prone To Developing Cancer?

Which Dog Breeds Are Prone To Developing Cancer?

Some breeds of dogs are at greater risk of developing cancer, and among purebreds there may be predispositions for specific forms of cancer. Our Gaithersburg veterinary oncology team discusses some of the dog breeds at higher risk of developing cancer.

Cancer Risks & Dog Breeds

If your household is welcoming a new canine companion, it's likely that you're comparing factors like personality traits, energy levels, and health risks associated with different breeds. Cancer is commonly seen in dogs, especially among purebreds – that's why it's important to be aware of the risks for the breed of dog you are choosing as a new pet so that you can support and monitor your dog's health.

Choosing a Dog Breed

It's important to remember that cancer can develop in dogs of all sizes and breeds, even mixed breeds. Concerning purebreds, however, it's important to note that there are certain breeds that are more susceptible to the disease.

Choosing to go with a breed with a lower risk of cancer doesn't guarantee that your dog will never develop cancer over their lifetime. Dog breeds with longer lifespans may be more likely to develop cancer because they live long enough for the disease to take hold. It is estimated that cancer is the leading cause of death in 45% of dogs, especially those over the age of 10.

With that in mind, it's smart to do a little research into different dog breeds and learn which dogs are at the highest risk for developing cancer.

Dog Breeds & Types of Cancer

There are a number of factors to consider when determining a specific dog breed's risk of cancer when compared to another breed.

Certain dog breeds have predispositions for specific types of cancer; for example, mast cell tumors are more common in short-nosed breeds like Boston terriers and boxers, but large, long-legged dog breeds like Great Danes and Irish Setters can be more prone to bone cancer. Skin cancer is most often diagnosed in short-haired breeds with fair skin, and there is a type of ear cancer commonly seen in Cocker Spaniels but rarely seen in other breeds.

Dog Breeds Most Prone to Cancer

Golden Retriever

  • Golden retrievers are adorable, energetic and friendly dogs that are beloved as family pets; however, they are at a higher risk of developing cancer. Lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessels) are aggressive forms of cancer that are often identified in this breed. In recent studies, researchers have identified two genes that are related to the development of cancer in golden retrievers, which could potentially lead to a method of detecting the genes before cancer has an opportunity to develop.

German Shepherd

  • German shepherds have long been a great favorite among dog fans and trainers. Unfortunately, this clever and loyal breed of dog is at high risk of developing cancer, especially hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessels).


  • Beagles are adorable, cuddly, and smart hunting dogs. This breed may experience recurrent urinary tract infections and is at a higher risk of developing bladder cancer– the risk is increased if the dogs are frequently exposed to lawn chemicals like pesticides and herbicides.

Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Bernese mountain dogs are confident dogs with a calm disposition that make them wonderful family companions. Sadly, they have a short lifespan and a higher risk of developing a variety of cancers including mast cell tumors and malignant histiocytosis (histiocytic sarcomas).


  • Rottweilers are known for their strength and guardian skills. They are playful, affectionate and great at protecting their beloved family. Sadly, when it comes to cancer they have a higher than average risk of developing a number of different cancers including soft tissue sarcomas, osteosarcoma (bone cancer), lymphoma, mast cell tumors, transitional cell carcinomas (bladder cancer), and hemangiosarcomas (cancer of the blood vessels).


  • Boxers are loyal and affectionate dogs and can be terrific family companions. Unfortunately, this breed is often diagnosed with mast cell tumors, a form of slow-growing cancer most often found on the skin.

Great Dane

  • Great Danes make well-mannered family companions and are known for their graceful appearance and hunting skills. These elegant dogs are on the shorter end of lifespans, living about 7 to 10 years. This leads to Great Danes suffering from a variety of health conditions, including cancer, cardiomyopathy, and gastric torsion.

Choosing Your Pet Companion

No matter what breed of dog you select, there are a variety of characteristics and potential risks for various health conditions and diseases, including cancer, to consider. If the breed you choose has a higher than average risk of cancer, it is important that you take the time to learn about your dog's genetic background and identify ways in which you can mitigate the health risks for your pet. Monitoring your dog's health and regular veterinary visits will help to detect early stages of cancer and will allow for potential treatments.

Veterinary Oncology at Veterinary Referral Associates

At Veterinary Referral Associates, our veterinary oncologists use 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.

At Veterinary Referral Associates, our veterinary oncologists are experienced in diagnosing and treating dogs with cancer. Request a referral from your primary care vet today to have your dog seen by our team of specialist vets.

New Patients Welcome

Veterinary Referral Associates is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Gaithersburg companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact (301) 926-3300