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Cancer Prevention in Dogs: What Can Be Done?

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Cancer can be prevented in dogs and humans with knowledge, healthy choices, and one day preventative vaccines.

At, we know how scary owning a pet with cancer can be. Your dog is your most trusted companion; watching them battle this disease can feel like losing a family member.

Learn how to prevent cancer in dogs to keep your furry friend happy and healthy.

Dog Breeds & Cancer

Before we get into how to prevent cancer, it’s important to understand the nuances between the dog breeds.

Some dogs are more at risk of developing cancer than others due to their ancestral origins. Breeds from Asia, Africa, and Europe tend to have different immune responses to certain types of cancers than those from North and South America. According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, the following breeds are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer:

  • Golden Retrievers

  • Boxers

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs

  • German Shepherds

  • Rottweilers

Breed cancer predisposition depends on the type of cancer as well.

  • Histiocytic sarcoma is more common among Bernese mountain dogs, flat-coated golden retrievers, and Rottweilers.

  • Osteosarcoma affects larger breeds, including Rottweilers, Great Danes, Irish wolfhounds, Scottish deerhounds, borzois, greyhounds, Saint Bernards, Dobermans, German shepherds, golden retrievers, and Leonbergers.

  • Hemangiosarcoma is more likely to affect German shepherds, boxers, and golden retrievers.

  • Mast cell tumors affect the bullmastiff, Boston terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, pug, Rhodesian ridgeback, Weimaraner, beagle, shar-pei, and Labrador and golden retrievers.

  • Lymphoma is more common among boxers, bulldogs, bullmastiffs, English springer spaniels, Labrador and golden retrievers, Rottweilers, basset hounds, Saint Bernards, Scottish terriers, Airedale terriers, and Bouvier des Flandres.

  • Melanoma affects schnauzers, Scottish terriers, poodles, cocker spaniels, chow chows, golden retrievers, and Pekingese.

  • Mammary tumors occur among fertile female dogs and those that haven’t been spayed before the age of two, especially among boxers, spaniels, small terriers, dachshunds, setters, pointers, and German shepherds.

Preventing cancer among these breeds is all about knowing your dog’s risk. If you have a breed that’s more likely to develop cancer, take them in for regular screenings to detect it as early as possible and follow the tips below.

Reducing Your Dog’s Cancer Risk

Dogs develop cancer for various reasons. Poor air quality, unhealthy eating habits, and other toxins cause cancer in dogs and humans. Dogs are also more likely to get cancer as they age. It is the leading cause of death for those over the age of 10.

You can prevent cancer in your dog by:

  • Keeping them physically active

  • Taking them in for regular check-ups

  • Feeding them healthy food

Your dog may become less active as they get older. Around one in five dogs will develop canine arthritis, according to the American Kennel Club. The condition can make it painful for them to get around, which increases the risk of cancer.

Feed your dog quality food with healthy ingredients. Many brands contain carcinogens that can put your pet at risk. Research how your dog’s food was made by looking at the list of ingredients. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian for advice.

Avoid the following ingredients and preservatives when shopping for dog food:

  • Ethoxyquin

  • Propylene Glycol

  • Aflatoxins

  • Red Dye

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)

  • Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBH)

Take your dog in for regular screenings. Watch out for wounds that don’t heal, strange lumps, and bumps, and have your vet do a biopsy to see if they are cancerous. Keep an eye on their weight. Sudden weight gain or loss of appetite could be symptoms of cancer. The disease can affect their behavior as well. Irritability, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and depression are warning signs.

Treating Cancer in Dogs

Like humans, dogs diagnosed with cancer live longer than ever, thanks to new treatment methods.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four drugs designed to treat and reduce different types of cancer, including Palladia and Stelfonta for shrinking mast cell tumors and Tanovea-CA1 and Laverdia-CA1 for treating lymphoma.

These drugs are made with many of the same ingredients and medicines used to treat cancer in humans. All the drugs except for Laverdia-CA1 have received full FDA approval. The latter received conditional approval in 2021. They are all safe, effective options for treating the disease.

Preventing Dog Cancer With a Vaccine is funding research for the biggest clinical trial involving a groundbreaking canine cancer vaccine. Now in its fourth year, the study has shown promising results in preventing cancer tumors from forming. What does this mean? It means we are one step closer to a world free of cancer.

Let’s End Cancer for Dogs

It starts with you. You can help end cancer in dogs with a donation to cancer research. Your money supports the ongoing vaccine trials to help eradicate this disease. You can also make history by signing our petition to get USDA approval for an extraordinary vaccine that will prevent cancer in dogs.

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