Dogs and Cancer: Get the Facts
A vet answers 10 commonly asked questions about cancer in dogs.
Q: So some breeds are more prone to cancers? Are mixed-breed dogs less
likely to get cancer?
A: Any time you have an inbred population, you don’t know what else is being
inherited along with the traits you want. People like golden retrievers because
they look like golden retrievers. But what else is being passed through that
line? Golden retrievers have a strong incidence of cancer. So do boxers,
flat-coated retrievers, Bernese Mountain dogs. All of those breeds, and others,
have specific cancers that we see. That’s showing that there are probably
specific genetic components to some cancers. But it’s still a question of how
much is genetics versus environmental factors.
Because mixed-breed dogs come from a much larger gene pool, they would be
less likely to get genetic-based cancers. But that doesn’t do anything for
spontaneous cancers or environmentally caused cancers.
Q: What can I do to help prevent my dog from getting cancer?
A: The biggest thing is spaying your dog. If you spay a dog before its first
heat you’ll reduce the chance of mammary cancer eight-fold, just because of the
Good oral care can help decrease
oral cancers. And if you’re buying a purebred dog, check its line to see if
there’s a specific kind of cancer in that breed’s line.
But overall, prevention is difficult because we don’t know the causes of
most cancers. I think, rather than trying to prevent cancer, identifying it
early and treating it quickly is the better strategy.
Q: If my dog has cancer, does that mean he’s going to die?
A: Absolutely not. Probably the majority of the cancers we see can be dealt
with surgically. A lot of the breast cancers, a lot of the mast cell tumors, a
lot of skin tumors, soft tissue
sarcomas, many of those tumors can be removed surgically and are cured. Even in
situations where they have advanced to a lymph node, there are options that can
prolong your dog’s life and even cure him.