Dog Cancer: 10 Dog Breeds at Risk & Their Symptoms

While it’s not talked about that often, just like in human beings, dogs also can get forms of dog cancer. The last thing many dog owners want to hear is their beloved pet has cancer; it’s usually devastating news. Knowing the signs and what to look for can make a difference!

Fortunately, there is hope especially if dog cancer is discovered in good time. There are some factors that are known to increase the prevalence of cancer in dogs. For instance, some dog breeds have a higher chance of getting specific types of dog cancer as compared to other breeds. Research is still ongoing to determine whether factors such as diet and lifestyle have any link with causing dog cancer.

Dog Cancer Shares Symptoms with Other Conditions

Similarly to human beings, dog cancer can affect any part of the body and therefore, symptoms differ depending on where the cancer is. In addition, dog cancer symptoms are shared with many other dog illnesses and so, it is challenging to pinpoint a diagnosis based on the visible symptoms alone.

For instance, a dog may have a lump on the skin and it’s good idea to take your furry friend to your vet when you notice things like that. However, just because your dog has a skin lump, it doesn’t mean it has cancer since skin lumps are usually associated with different types of health issues. Tumors are also commonly associated with dog cancer but not all of them are cancerous. What and how the symptoms of cancer in dogs, especially your dog, will show up can be different from another pet.

How Will Your Vet Confirm Your Dog Has Cancer?

A vet cannot confirm if your dog has cancer just by looking at it. As earlier mentioned, some symptoms are shared with other conditions and only tests can give an accurate diagnosis. When the cancer is still in its early stages, screening can be done through blood tests. However, as the cancer progresses, x-rays and MRI scanning/ultrasound may be needed. These advanced tests are advantageous because they help in determining if the cancer has spread to other body parts. Vets call this procedure “staging”. In addition, these tests can also determine the general health of your pet which is critical information vets require before beginning treatment.

In some cases, a biopsy can be done especially when trying to determine whether a tumor is cancerous or not. In this case, a tiny sample is removed and taken to the lab for microscopic examination. In some cases, a biopsy can be challenging to facilitate an accurate diagnosis especially when the specimen being examined can’t be examined using a microscope.

10 Top Dog Breeds Susceptible to Dog Cancer

Golden Retriever:

This dog breed ranks amongst the top when it comes to cancer. Most of the breeds die because of hemangiosarcoma and lymphosarcoma.

Cocker Spaniel:

Everyone adores these little dogs but unfortunately, 23% of them end up getting cancer. These fluffy pets are especially prone to lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) as well as melanoma which is skin cancer. Just a tip – keep your Cocker lean as obeisty factors into some forms of cancer.

Doberman Pinscher:

Dobes as they’re commonly called are also at risk of getting dog cancer. Even though the types of cancer varies, the most common cancer associated with them is mammary cancer which kills many female Dobermans.


This breed has been found to have the highest prevalence of mass cell tumors than any other dog breed. Fortunately, they develop at a slow rate but it’s good to immediately see your vet if you notice lesions or skin lumps. Older dogs are often at a higher risk but young ones aren’t spared either.

German Shepherd Dog:

The German shepherd is a common dog breed and very popular around the globe. However, these dogs are at high risk of getting different types of cancers. Hemangiosarcoma is commonly associated with German shepherd. Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) occurs more frequently in large breeds, including the German Shepherd unfortunately.

Bernese Mountain Dog:

This is a large breed that is unfortunately, affected by different types of cancer. Studies have shown that over 50% of Bernese Mountain dogs die from cancer related illnesses. Histiocytosis is the most prevalent cancer in this breed and is a common cause of early death.

Giant Schnauzer:

The dark colored dogs are especially at a higher risk of contracting squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. In addition, toe cancer is a common form of cancer within this breed. The tumors are almost always malignant but they do not metastasize. Other forms of cancer found in this breed include: Sebaceous gland tumor, Melanoma, Lipoma, Histiocytoma, Testicular neoplasia and Limbal melanoma.


Even though this breed is susceptible to different types of cancer, osteosarcoma is the form of cancer commonly associated with Rottweiler.

Great Dane:

The fact that their enormous size that makes them more prone to heart disease and GDV (bloat), the major killer of this breed is cancer. Larger dogs like this breed are also more likely to develop bone cancer.

Standard Poodle:

Standard Poodles are attacked by different types of cancer. It is estimated that about 40% die as a result of cancer related complications. A common cancer in the breed is digital squamous cell carcinoma, and the dog cancer symptoms originate in the toenails. Standard Poodles as young as 4 years old have been reported with this cancer.

Warning Signs of Cancer in Dogs

If you go to your vet if you notice any of the below symptoms, chances of saving your dog will be high. With different treatment options such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and immunotherapy, your dog can completely recover from many forms of dog cancer. As a dog owner, you need to be watchful and not wait until it’s too late to take action.

Swelling and Lumps
Swelling and the presence of lumps on the surface of your dog’s skin could be a sign of cancer. When you realize your dog has raised areas that weren’t there before, immediately take your dog to the vet just to make sure the lump or swelling is harmless. Most times it will be.


It is understandable for dogs to be low and slow on some days. However, if you realize your dog is moody day after day and just not acting like themselves, something else may be wrong. Cancer makes your pet feel uncomfortable and exhausted; you can easily notice your dog is dull.

Loss of Weight

Weight loss in dogs is associated with numerous health conditions. If you notice your dog suddenly begins losing weight under unexplainable circumstances despite eating a healthy diet, you need to be concerned and schedule an appointment with your vet.

Bad Odor or Smelly Breath

Bad odor from your dog’s mouth is commonly associated with tooth or gum disease. However, this symptom is also associated with dog cancer. Be careful of odors from the backside and ears as well. Note them and discuss them with your vet.

Bleeding or Discharge

The presence of blood and pus discharge from the eyes, nose, mouth, ears as well as other body openings could indicate the presence of an infection. Dogs with cancer also show this same symptom and therefore, taking your dog to the vet is the best way to get an accurate diagnosis of exactly what might be going on here.

Pain or Lameness

Pain and sensitivity in different body parts often causes great discomfort and could be a symptom of dog cancer. In addition, if you realize your dog is limping or snapping at you in an unusual way, it may be as a result of internal pain and they aren’t able to let you know what is going on.

Wounds Taking too Long to Heal

If your dog has superficial wounds that fail to heal within normal time frames, you need to be concerned. One indicator could be a skin disease but on the other hand, cancer could be responsible as well.

Breathing Difficulties

Having difficulties in breathing and coughing are usually common symptoms associated with pneumonia or a common cold but they could also be symptoms of lung cancer.

Loss of Appetite

If your dog used to have a good appetite and now, suddenly loses interest in eating, it’s better to seek medical opinion. This could be because of the discomfort associated with cancer causes dogs to lose their appetite or another health issue is causing your pet problems.

Frequent Digestion Problems

Dogs are often known to have digestion problems as a symptom associated with common ailments. What many dog owners don’t know is recurring digestion complications could be an underlying symptom of cancer as well.

If you realize your dog is exhibiting any or a combination of the above symptoms, see a vet immediately. While many cancer symptoms in dogs could be something minor, if you are concerned then a visit to the vet will help you alleviate the worry and get your dog back to feeling better as well.