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What breed of dog is most likely to get cancer?

Some dog breeds face a higher risk of developing cancer than others. Certain breeds of purebred dogs have predispositions for specific forms of cancer. Our vets in Toledo share a few breeds with an increased risk of developing cancer. 

Dog Breeds & Cancer Risks

Are you getting a new dog? You've probably been comparing the different personality traits, health risks and other characteristics of different breeds. Unfortunately, certain dog breeds and cancer are closely linked. This is especially true among purebreds. It's critical to be aware of the risks for the specific dog breed you are considering for a new pet so that you can support and monitor your dog's health. 

Choosing a Dog Breed

Keep in mind that dogs of all breeds and sizes (even mixed breeds) can be diagnosed with cancer. However, there are certain breeds of purebred dog that are more prone to this disease. 

Choosing a dog breed with a lower risk of developing cancer does not guarantee that your pet won't suffer from cancer during their lifetime. Dog breeds with longer lifespans may be at higher risk of developing cancer due to the fact that they live long enough for the disease to become an issue. It's estimated that cancer is the main cause of death in 45% of dogs, especially those older than 10 years. 

That said, you may decide to research different dog breeds to learn which dogs have the highest risk of developing cancer. 

Types of Cancer in Different Dog Breeds

You'll have many factors to consider when determining a specific dog breed's cancer risk when compared to another breed. 

Among purebreds, certain dog breeds will be predisposed to specific types of cancer. For example, mast cell tumors are more common in short-nosed breeds such as the Boxer and Boston Terrier, while long-legged dog breeds such as Great Danes are more often diagnosed with bone cancer. Skin cancer is most frequently diagnosed in short-haired breeds with fair skin, and cocker spaniels are more commonly diagnosed with a type of ear cancer that's rarely seen in other breeds. 

Dog Breeds Most Prone to Cancer

Golden Retriever

  • While they're revered as family pets, golden retrievers are at higher risk of developing cancer. Among the most aggressive forms of dog cancer in golden retrievers are hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessels) and lymphoma. They are commonly diagnosed in this breed. In recent studies, researchers have identified two genes related to the development of cancer in golden retrievers. This finding may lead to a reliable method of detecting the genes before cancer has an opportunity to develop. 

German Shepherd

  • German shepherds have been a long-time favorite breed among dog lovers and trainers. Unfortunately, this breed has a high risk of developing cancer, with the most common form being hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessels).


  • Beagles are adorable, cuddly, and smart hunting dogs. This breed is at a higher risk of developing bladder cancer and may have recurrent urinary tract infections. This risk is increased if dogs are frequently exposed to lawn chemicals such as 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 and protective of their family. However, 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. With an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years, this breed of dog tends to suffer from a variety of health conditions, including cancer, cardiomyopathy, and gastric torsion.

Choosing Your Pet Companion

Whatever breed of dog you decide on will come with a variety of characteristics and potential risks for various health conditions and diseases, including cancer. 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.  

At Shoreland Animal Hospital, Dr. Kim Riker-Brown practices veterinary oncology, diagnosing and treating cancers with options including surgery and pre and post-op chemotherapy. If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, ask your primary care veterinarian for a referral to see our veterinary oncologist.

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 vet has extensive experience in diagnosing and treating dogs with cancer. To have your dog seen by Dr. Riker-Brown, request a referral from your primary care vet today or contact us

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Shoreland Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our veterinary team is passionate about the health of Toledo pets and is looking forward to meeting you and your furry friend. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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