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Cancer in Dogs: What You Should Know

Your dog isn’t just “man’s best friend,” your dog is a member of your family. When a dog is diagnosed with cancer, it is devastating. Did you know that more than 6 million dogs are diagnosed with cancer every year? Cancer is even more prevalent in dogs over the age of 10, at a rate of 50 percent.1

Would you know if your dog was suffering from cancer? Many pet owners don’t and we want to help. 

Canine Tumor Risk Factors

Certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to cancer, and size can even factor whether or not a pet will get cancer. The smaller the dog, the lower the risk of cancer. The rate of cancer in small dogs like Chihuahua or Maltese is less than 10 percent.2golden retriever in car

  • Golden retrievers – The two most common types of cancer in this breed are hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma.2 Other types of cancer include mast cell tumors, osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and melanoma.3
  • Rottweiler – This breed is prone to osteosarcoma (bone cancer), lymphoma, mast cell tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, osteosarcoma, transitional cell carcinomas (or bladder cancer) and hemangiosarcomas (or cancer of the blood vessels).3
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs – This breed has a short lifespan that can be impacted by cancer, especially mast cell tumors.4
  • Doberman Pinscher – The most common types of cancer in this breed are hemangiosarcoma, melanoma, and osteosarcoma.3
  • German Shepherd – This breed has a high incidence of cancer.4
  • Great Dane – This breed has a short lifespan and a high incidence of cancer, especially osteosarcoma.4
  • Labrador Retriever – The most common forms of cancer in this breed are hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and melanoma.3
  • Boxer – The most common forms of cancer in this breed are hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumors, melanoma, and osteosarcoma.3
  • Basset Hounds – This breed has a high incidence of cancer, especially lymphoma and squamous cell carcinoma.3
  • Bulldogs – This breed is susceptible to lymphoma and mast cell tumors.3
  • Saint Bernards – The most common forms of cancer in this breed are lymphoma and osteosarcoma.3
  • Scottish Terriers – This breed is prone to lymphoma and melanoma.3
  • Boston Terriers – The most common forms of cancer in this breed are mast cell tumors and melanoma.3

Canine Tumor Symptoms

Be observant to any changes in your pet’s physical appearance and behavior. Not all cancer warning signs are apparent right away, with some changes developing over time.

If you notice any of these symptoms of cancer in your dog, contact your veterinarian to check things out as soon as possible. Depending on the cancer type and stage, your pet’s health can deteriorate very quickly, so it’s always best to get an exam. When in doubt, get it checked out.

  • Enlarged or changing lumps and bumps
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Chronic weight loss or weight gain
  • Change in appetite
  • A persistent cough
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Unpleasant odor from the mouth
  • Difficulty breathing, eating or swallowing
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Bleeding or discharge from any opening

Regular wellness exams will provide your veterinarian the opportunity to check for signs of cancer, but you can take a more proactive approach to your pet’s health by looking for these warning signs regularly.

What to Do If Your Dog Has Cancer

Oncology for dogs is available! If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, contact our Pet Advocates at (833) PET-HERO or your local PetCure Oncology center. Our team members are ready to help answer your questions.


  1. National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research. Accessed July 23, 2018, from https://ccr.cancer.gov/Comparative-Oncology-Program/pet-owners/disease-info 
  2. National Canine Cancer Foundation. Accessed July 23, 2018, from http://wearethecure.org/learn-more-about-canince-cancer/canine-cancer-library/
  3. Morris Animal Foundation. Accessed July 23, 2018, from http://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org/assets/pdfs/publications/cancer-and-dogs.pdf
  4. PetMD. Accessed July 23, 2018, from https://petmd.com/dog/slideshows/general-health/dog-breeds-highest-cancer-rate 
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