Which Dog Breeds Are Prone to Certain Types of Cancer?
Cancer can be a quiet, elusive disease, or an aggressive and quick-developing one. Experienced veterinarians, especially those who embrace the concept of breed-specific preventative wellness, may recommend specific cancer screenings be performed on breeds of dogs most prone to certain types of cancer before there are any signs of disease. These screenings are designed to detect cancers as early as possible, to minimize suffering and maximize life expectancy. Although any type of cancer has a risk of striking any breed of dog, and at any age, certain breeds are more prone to developing specific types of cancer.
Great Danes are exceptionally large and graceful dogs who may suffer from many different health conditions, including gastric torsion, hip dysplasia, and cardiomyopathy (a type of heart condition). However, when it comes to cancer, these gentle giants have a high propensity to develop osteosarcoma, which is an aggressive bone cancer. Osteosarcoma tends to develop in large dogs, including Great Danes, at an earlier age than most other breeds. The first indication of osteosarcoma is lameness, so these dogs should have an X-ray as soon as possible to diagnose this disease. Aggressive treatment, including amputation of the affected limb and chemotherapy, is the best option for these pets, and may extend their life up to two years or more.
Golden Retrievers are highly active dogs, commonly used as working animals. Aside from their role as hunting dogs and as service animals, they make fantastic family companions because of their friendly nature. In addition to having high rates of cataracts, hip dysplasia, and a cartilage disease called Osteochondritis Dissecans, Golden Retrievers have a greater tendency toward developing lymphoma. This cancer originates in the lymphocyte cells of the immune system. Symptoms that include lack of appetite, lethargy and weakness, and weight loss are signs that should not be ignored in Golden Retrievers, and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Routine laboratory testing, including CBC (complete blood count) and biochemistry profiles may be recommended more frequently for this breed to diagnose this cancer as early as possible. Lymphosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma are two other common types of cancer in Golden Retrievers.
Active, curious, and outgoing, Boxers are excellent companions for active families. They have a high incidence of hip dysplasia and cardiomyopathy, but also develop mast cell tumors more frequently than any other breed. Although they affect older dogs more frequently, they may occur at any age. Boxers are also at higher risk for lymphoma, brain tumors, and melanoma. They should be inspected frequently for any unusual lumps or bumps on or under their skin or changes in their coat.
A beloved family companion, the sweet and cheerful Cocker Spaniel is happiest when snuggling with his family. This dog’s gentle and loving nature and gorgeous coat reminds us of the most notorious Cocker Spaniel, the “Lady” in Lady and the Tramp. Allergies are especially common in this breed, as is hypothyroidism and epilepsy. Unfortunately, cancer is common in Cocker Spaniels, and is a leading cause of death in this breed. Common cancers include melanoma, basal cell tumors, fibrosarcoma, and anal sac adenocarcinoma.
Another handsome gentle giant is the Bernese Mountain Dog. Hailing from the farmlands of Switzerland, these dogs make great working dogs, watchdogs, and loyal companions. Some health conditions common to this breed of dog include hip and elbow dysplasia and gastric torsion. For some unknown reason, the cause of death for nearly half of all Bernese Mountain Dogs is from cancer. Despite being prone to develop many different types of cancer, mast cell tumors are the most common type of cancer to affect this breed. If caught early, mast cell tumors may be treated with surgical removal, chemotherapy, and medications. This dog’s skin should be examined frequently for any abnormal swelling or bumps.
The German Shepherd Dog is one of the most popular breeds of dog in America. Their intelligence and trainability makes the German Shepherd Dog a popular choice for police and military service, guide assistance work, search and rescue operations, and drug detection. They excel at competitive sports, and make faithful companions. Although generally healthy, GSDs are prone to certain health conditions, including hip dysplasia, allergies, and degenerative myelopathy, a progressive disease of the spinal cord. Cancers such as hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels, as well as lymphoma, are more prevalent in GSDs than most other breeds of dogs.
Rottweilers embody strength and stamina with their broad chests and heavily muscular bodies. They have a natural instinct to protect their families, but are also gentle, playful, and loving dogs. Rottweilers are prone to hip dysplasia, gastric bloat, and allergies, among other health disorders. Some cancers common to this breed include lymphoma, mast cell tumors, and soft tissue sarcomas, but osteosarcoma is the most prevalent cancer in Rottweilers. This is often an aggressive cancer, requiring an aggressive treatment plan. Early detection and treatment is crucial for the best life expectancy.
Every breed of dog has its own set of personality traits, needs, and health risks. As a responsible pet owner, it is imperative to research the breed you choose to ensure that it is compatible with your family’s lifestyle. Some will require more care and maintenance, while others may need to be more physically or mentally active. Once you have found your new pet, it is important to develop a collaborative relationship with a veterinarian. Together as a team, you and your veterinarian can create a plan for the lifetime care of your pet that can maximize his or her health and quality of life.
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