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9 Dog Breeds with the Highest Cancer Rate

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Dog Breeds Most Prone to Cancer

By Jessica Remitz

While cancer can unfortunately strike any breed of dog at any age, there are certain breeds that have higher instances of the disease. We’ve asked the experts to share breeds with higher rates of cancer, what types of cancer seem to be the most prevalent among these breeds, and dogs in general, and how to detect any health changes in your pet.  


A large, powerful dog known for its strength and skills as a guardian, Rottweilers are descendants from Roman military dogs and were developed in Germany. They are among the breeds of dog with high cancer rates, according to Jennifer Coates, DVM in Fort Collins, Colorado and veterinary advisor to petMD.com. The breed requires lots of physical and mental exercise daily, such as a long walk or an energetic game in an enclosed area. With a lifespan between 8 and 11 years, Rottweilers are prone to major health problems, including canine hip dysplasia, osteosarcoma (or bone cancer), elbow dysplasia and gastric torsion.

According to Coates, common forms of canine cancer include lymphoma, mast cell tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, osteosarcoma, transitional cell carcinomas (or bladder cancer) and hemangiosarcomas (or cancer of the blood vessels).

Learn more about Rottweilers.

Bernese Mountain Dog

With a long, silky coat and calm, confident nature, Bernese Mountain Dogs also have high cancer rates, according to Coates. An easygoing family companion, the breed requires moderate daily exercise. With an average lifespan between 6 and 9 years, serious health conditions affecting the Bernese Mountain Dog include canine hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion and mast cell tumors. Care must also be taken to prevent heat stroke in the breed.

While we don’t know why certain cancers are common among breeds, Coates said some environmental factors may be important.  “For example, exposure to chemicals applied to lawns is associated with an increase risk of bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers,” she explained. “An element of bad luck is also involved.”

Learn more about Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Bouvier des Flandres

An agile, bold breed known for being a fearless and efficient farm dog, Coates lists Bouvier des Flandres among breeds with higher rates of cancer. Well-behaved and confident, Bouvier des Flandres are generally obedient and get along well with children. With an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, they are prone to health conditions, including elbow dysplasia, canine hip dysplasia, sub-aortic stenosis (a heart disease) and glaucoma.

Learn more about Bouvier des Flandres.

German Shepherd

Intelligent and versatile, German Shepherds were originally developed in Germany to guard and herd flocks of sheep but are used today in a variety of capacities, from police dog to companion animal. According to Denise Petryk, DVM and director of veterinary services at Trupanion pet insurance, this breed is among those with high rates of cancer. German Shepherds require frequent training sessions to keep their minds and bodies active and have an average lifespan between 10 and 12 years. Petryk explained that many things may cause canine cancer, including genetics.

“Cancer unfortunately is caused by many factors and many things we do not understand,” she shared. “Genetics are definitely thought to play a role in susceptibility and the incidence of cancers.”

Learn more about German Shepherds.

Great Dane

Known for its graceful appearance, large size and hunting skills, Great Danes make well-mannered family companions but are also among those breeds with higher rates of cancer, according to Petryk. With an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years, Great Danes may suffer from health conditions, including osteosarcoma, cardiomyopathy and gastric torsion. Some health concerns are more prone in certain Great Dane color varieties and the breed in general has a tendency to drool.

Learn more about Great Danes.

Labrador Retriever

A loyal and friendly companion, Labrador Retrievers make excellent family pets, hunting dogs and service animals. They do, however, have higher rates of cancer, according to Petryk. The breed also has a tendency to retain weight if it is sedentary too often, so it’s important to keep them fit and active throughout their lives. With a lifespan of 10 to 12 years, general health conditions that impact the breed include canine elbow, shoulder and hip dysplasia and osteochondritis dissecans.

Learn more about Labrador Retrievers.

Bichon Frise

A small breed with a playful nature and happy-go-lucky attitude, the Bichon Frise also has a high rate of cancer, according to Petryk. Friendly towards other dogs, pets and strangers, the Bichon Frise is also known for being good with children. With a lifespan between 12 and 15 years, this breed is prone to health problems, including allergies, patellar luxation and liver disease.

It is thought that spaying or neutering your dog may also play a role in preventing cancer. “There is new statistical evidence that early spay or neuter before one year of age might influence the incidence of certain cancers,” Petryk said.

Learn more about Bichon Frises.


With a curious and outgoing personality, Boxers make excellent companions for an active family. However, both Petryk and Coates list the Boxer among breeds with high cancer rates. They require plenty of daily physical and mental exercise and, with a lifespan between 8 and 10 years, are prone to hip dysplasia, Boxer cardiomyopathy and sometimes brain tumors.

To help detect signs of cancer or changes in your dog’s health, Petryk recommends looking for a variety of symptoms. Physically, you’ll want to look for any new lumps or bumps on the skin or changes in their hair coat. Petryk also suggests looking for changes in your dog’s appetite, water consumption, weight loss or changes in behavioral patterns like spending more time alone or sleeping in odd places or a sudden slowing down.

Coates recommends looking for slight changes in your dogs and, if they notice anything unusual, taking your dog to see a veterinarian right away.

“Owners should be on the lookout for what may at fist appear to be subtle changes in their dogs. An enlarged abdomen, coughing, difficulty breathing, limping, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in urinary habits and skin lesions that don’t health normally can all be signs of cancer,” Coates said.

Learn more about Boxers.

Golden Retriever

Affectionate, obedient and loyal, Golden Retrievers make ideal family pets that love human companionship. According to both Coates and Petryk, the breed is among those with high cancer rates. With a lifespan between 10 and 13 years, health concerns that can affect Golden Retrievers include lymphoma, canine hip dysplasia and skin problems. To identify these conditions, your veterinarian may recommend heart, hip, thyroid or elbow tests during routine checkups. Coates also recommends taking your dog to see a veterinarian for a thorough physical exam at least once, if not twice, a year.

Learn more about Golden Retrievers.


Comments  12

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  • I have a bichon
    03/04/2014 07:09pm

    I have had a bichon for a longggggg time.
    we had some benign tumors removed from the inside of his mouth when he was 10, but I have never had problems beyond that (that I know of..)
    in nine days it is his birthday.
    his party-less "sweet 16" really.
    12-15 years? prepare to break the average, Louie.

  • Lost 2 dogs in 2 years
    12/31/2014 05:21pm

    Even though neither breed of my dogs is on the list, it happens. We had an American Bulldog - Juana, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer on March 4, 2010 and was predicted only 6-8 weeks more of life. She beat the odds and done well for about six months before she became ill again. She was released from her pain on October 7, 2010.
    We then acquired a 4 month old Pitbull mix from our local animal shelter in March of 2011. Her name was Sheeva, and she was diagnosed with a very aggressive and invasive form of bone cancer on January 3, 2013, and was released from her pain on January 14, 2013. Her tumor grew so fast that her shoulder appeared dislocated. I don't think I will ever recover from her loss.
    We now have 2 Pitbulls, Deja and Jade. And a Boxer/American Bulldog mix by the name of Duke.

  • Spring water
    01/01/2015 01:14pm

    When I lived in Fla. people used to say they had the highest rate of pet cancer there and to stop giving tap water to drink. Thankfully, none of my dogs have been unfortunate but I have since given bottled spring water to be on the safe side.

  • Cocker Spaniels
    01/01/2015 02:44pm

    My first Cocker to die of cancer was in 1973 and was 10 years old. I don't know what type of cancer it was because I was in the military at the time. I lost another Cocker in 2006 to mouth cancer and he was 5 years old. Our Cocker named Oreo was diagnosed with soft cell cancer in April of 2011. She was 14 years old when it was discovered. In June 2011 and $7000.00 later, she was cancer free. The vet said we may get another year with her. She passed away from a stroke 4 days after my mom's funeral. (3 Sept 2014) Oreo was 17 years young. Her brother, Earnie, died on 5 December 2014. I wonder how Cocker Spaniels are listed in this cancer rate????

  • Cancer Murdered My Dogs
    05/14/2015 02:13pm

    Yup. I've lost most dogs in my lifetime to cancer.

    My first dog, a lab mix - she had a digestive issue that may have been cancer.

    Second dog, Lab Chow - Cancer on her mouth.

    Third dog, Lab Chow (previous dog's brother) - cancer, stomach.

    Fourth dog, German Shepard mix - Bladder Cancer

    I didn't get to say goodbye to my Shepard. I live out of state with my family, and my Shepard lives back up North with my mother. She was diagnosed with bladder cancer in November 2014. She died in February 2015. I had just made plans to take the family to NY too. I was hoping I'd get to see her one last time.

    F--- cancer.

  • Lady
    05/19/2015 07:01pm

    April 29th I had to say goodbye to Lady she wasn't even seven yet she was a mix of lab, golden, german shepherd and rott . She had lymphoma. I miss her so much. I still have Gabe my 8 yr old shepherd. I tried so hard to keep them healthy. I never that about cancer she was so healthy and beautiful. If I moved she moved she didn't let me get out of her site. Gabe misses her too he hates eating alone so I sit with him till hes done.

  • Female Jack Russell
    07/31/2015 12:48pm

    Jack Russell

    My Jack Russell was 12 when she had a lump come up on her side. The vet said it was just a cyst and not to worry about it. In February, it began to grow, but again he said just to watch it and he would remove it later if it got very big. In June 2015, just in a few days the tumor grew to the size of a small fist, and we made an appointment to have the tumor removed, but it burst and we took her to another Dr. and he removed it, and said he gave us some more time with her. She seemed fine but early July she started to swell up, we rushed her to the Dr. and he said there was nothing more to do for her, so he had to put her to sleep. Our hearts were broken, but she is at peace now. I wish we had taken her to the 2nd. Dr. earlier and maybe he could have removed the tumor in time.

  • Doxie is failing at 13 y
    08/03/2015 12:55am

    Most of my dogs have lived a full life and end up with organ failure or cancer. I have a 13 year old Doxie that is going down fast. Her needs are increasing, and I will taking her in to be put to sleep this week, She is happy and enjoys life, but I do not need to take her to a Vet to tell me that she can not be cured. She has the signs of renal failure, and cancer. My dogs get chicken liver and filtered water, digestive enzymes. I also get the best type dry dog food, Close to food grade as I can find. After hearing the true facts on how dog food is made, I will cook chicken liver for them plus the best dry dog food.

  • No Real Information
    10/26/2015 12:37am

    Unfortunately, this article didn't provide any real information. Everyone knows that anyone can get Cancer and other posts here even stated breeds that aren't listed in the article! I was hoping for a more comprehensive article from PetMD -- you know, like real stats about WHICH cancers, at WHAT age, and if mixed breeds are just as predisposed (usually not from what I've read elsewhere but...). I have German Shepherd mixes. Re-read the GSD paragraphs in this article and they say absolutely nothing that's worth remembering.

  • 4 year old Chihuahua
    11/13/2015 07:19pm

    Beau is a 4 year old Chihuahua who has been diagnosed with mast cell sarcoma of the paw. The 1st tumor I had removed in July 2015. It has returned with a vengeance leading to the amputation of two toes on his paw. The vet recommended radiation to the amount of $3500 after I've already spent almost $3000. With savings exhausted I don't know what to do at this point.

    Didn't read the article but don't know if Chihuahuas are on it but Beau and I wouldn't mind adding them to it.

  • Bichon with Cushings
    11/26/2015 04:30am

    Our Bichon was diagnosed with Cushings this summer (google it) I had never heard of it but it is very common in dogs horses and humans apparently.
    I want as many people to know about it because if left untreated it will kill the dog....it means spending a lot of money on vets and meds so make sure you are insured.....I know a lot of people aren't and all that will happen is that people will dump their dog because of not being able to afford the maintenance for this.
    Please think carefully when taking on a dog they do cost more than just food.
    We are lucky because we have insurance and love our dog but I can see this causing a lot of problems for some people.

  • 11/26/2015 09:55am

    Our dog has Cushing's disease also. The medicine is very expensive and he has to have blood work done every 3 months or so. I would highly recommend getting insurance BEFORE your animals get older.