There are few things that strike terror into the heart like the word “cancer.” Most people, if they live long enough, will develop some form of cancer, and that is true of dogs as well. And in the same way that some people can have a predisposition to cancer, so can certain dogs.
If you are considering getting a dog, I am not suggesting that you forego the breed that speaks to your heart, nor am I telling you that because you have a certain breed of dog, he or she is doomed to death by cancer. It helps to know what you’re getting into, though, so that you can be alert to symptoms in a dog that may be prone to cancer.
Cancer can strike any dog, at any age. Some breeds have a higher risk of cancer in general, and certain types of cancer in particular. So, with that in mind, the following are the nine dog breeds most likely to develop cancer.
A Rottweiler is known for its size and strength, and incredible devotion to its human companions. Unfortunately, it is also known for a variety of health issues like hip dysplasia and gastric torsion. The most common symptom of bone cancer is limping, so a limp in a Rottweiler should never be ignored. Liver cancer is less easy to diagnose. More than a few Rottweilers have been given a clean bill of health only to end up being diagnosed with highly invasive liver cancer mere weeks later.
Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog is possessed of a wonderful sense of calmness and confidence, along with its outstandingly beautiful silky coat. Unfortunately, they are also prone to a number of health issues, including hip and elbow dysplasia, and gastric torsion. Mast cell tumors are the most common form of cancer in the Bernese.
Bouvier des Flandres
The Bouvier is known for its fearlessness, cooperativeness, and confidence, and will usually live for ten to twelve years. They are, however, prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, glaucoma and heart disease, as well as various forms of cancer.
German Shepherds are highly intelligent, versatile dogs. The Shepherd will be your best friend, protector, and partner in just about any high-energy activity that pleases you. Originally bred as a sheep-herding dog (as you might gather from the name), German Shepherds now fill a variety of roles, including law enforcement, assistance dogs, and of course, beloved family pets. Unfortunately, they are among the breeds most prone to cancer.
Great Danes are typically very mannerly dogs, and despite their size, careful with children. The most heartbreaking thing for Dane owners is knowing that they will probably enjoy only about seven years with their friend – ten if they are lucky. Great Danes are prone to gastric torsion, heart disease, and various types of cancer, particularly bone cancer.
The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular breeds in America. The Lab is a great family pet, a superior hunting dog, and one of the most common breeds trained as service animals. Generally, a Lab will live between 10-12 years. Common problems include hip, shoulder and elbow dysplasia as well as bone cancer.
Up until now, we have talked about large dogs. And it is true, generally speaking, that the larger the breed, the shorter the life, and the more likelihood of developing cancer. The playful little Bichon, though, is also prone to health issues. Allergies are common, and cancer is too, usually liver cancer.
Back to the large breeds, boxers are affectionate, curious and outgoing, and very active. They require a lot of physical and mental stimulation, and usually live between eight and ten years. They are prone to heart disease, hip dysplasia, and cancer. The boxer is one of the few breeds with a predisposition toward brain cancer.
Golden Retrievers are loyal and affectionate, and have a lifespan of between ten and thirteen years. The most common health issues with the Golden Retriever are skin problems and hip dysplasia. They are also prone to various cancers.
Causes of Canine Cancer
Other than a genetic predisposition in a certain breed, no one really knows what causes cancer in dogs. However, it is probably safe to assume that many of the risks for your dog are the same ones that could cause you to have a higher chance of developing cancer. Poor diet, exposure to toxic chemicals, and obesity can be risk factors. Intact females can have an increased risk of mammary cancer, and intact males are at a higher risk of testicular cancer, so please neuter and spay.
Identifying Canine Cancer
When your dog visits the vet for a regular checkup, he or she will be examined for obvious signs of cancer, like lumps or lesions. You can also be alert to signals that your dog may have developed cancer – persistent diarrhea and vomiting can be red flags. So can listlessness and loss of appetite.
Now, I don’t want to scare you, but there is one thing a dog might do that is a sign of cancer that has gone too far. If your dog is very listless and wants to lie in a corner facing a wall, there is nothing you can do other than take him to the vet and give him gentle passage to the Rainbow Bridge. This is usually a sign of a very invasive, very fast-growing cancer – usually in the liver. It is not your fault. Hardly anyone catches this type of cancer, and even if caught, it is almost never treatable.
Living with the Diagnosis
If your dog has been diagnosed with cancer, you may be wondering where to turn. There are many wonderful support groups online, and your vet will be a valuable source of information and support. You can also read up on canine cancer in any number of publications. One I particularly like is The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity by Demian Dressler and Susan Ettinger. It is available in paperback on Amazon and also available for Kindle. Paperbacks run from $18.97 to $22.22, and the Kindle version is just $7.38.
It’s hard to see your dog living with cancer, and even harder easing your dog gently out of life before the suffering becomes too great. I want to believe, though, that I will see the dogs I have loved and lost at the Rainbow Bridge, and that you will too. In the meantime, keep your beloved friend as comfortable as possible, and seek support wherever you can find it.[thrive_leads id=’327′]