Once a dog reaches the age of 10, he's got an approximately 50 percent chance of developing some type of cancer. That's not necessarily a death sentence, as certain cancers are more treatable or slower-growing than others. Breeds at high risk of cancer usually are vulnerable to different types of the disease.
Approximately 60 percent of golden retrievers eventually succumb to cancer, according to the Wall Street Journal. Other breeds with high cancer risks include the boxer, rottweiler and the Bernese mountain dog. The latter breed runs a 50 percent risk of dying from histiocytosis, a type of cancer for which these big dogs are genetically predisposed. The flat-coated retriever, a close relative of the golden retriever, is another susceptible breed, as are cocker spaniels, English bulldogs and Boston terriers.
Many breeds have only a moderate risk of developing cancer, often of a specific type particular to that breed. Medium-risk breeds include the standard and miniature poodle, the standard and miniature schnauzer, the dachshund, the Brittany, the Jack Russell terrier, the Alaskan malamute, the bichon frise, the Pekingese, the shih tzu and the Weimaraner.
In some breeds, cancer is a relative rarity. That doesn't mean other potentially fatal diseases or conditions don't affect them, but there is less likelihood of malignancy. These "lucky dogs" include the border collie, the Australian shepherd, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, the greyhound, the Havanese, the Maltese, the miniature pinscher and the Welsh corgi.
Osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, often affects large breeds, although any dog can come down with the disease. Unfortunately, the prognosis for this rapidly spreading cancer usually isn't good. Breeds most likely to develop bone cancer include the Saint Bernard, the Doberman pinscher, the Great Dane, the German shepherd, the Irish setter -- and the golden retriever.
While it's not possible to completely prevent cancer in your dog, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. Spaying or neutering your dog eliminates or significantly reduces the likelihood of your pet developing mammary, uterine or testicular cancer. Check your dog for lumps on a weekly basis. Since oral carcinomas are common, inspect his mouth frequently for any lesions or bumps. If you find a lump or growth on your dog, schedule an appointment with your vet to have it checked out. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a difference in your dog's longevity.
By Jane Meggitt
North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine -- One Medicine: Dogs, People and Cancer
Wall Street Journal: When Cancer Comes With a Pedigree
Houston Pet Talk: Canine Cancer -- High Risk Breeds
WebMD: Dogs and Cancer -- Get the Facts
National Veterinary Cancer Registry: Types of Cancer
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New Yo