Cancer remains a leading cause of death in dogs, but not all breeds face the same level of risk. Recent research sheds light on which dog breeds are more susceptible to cancer, challenging long-held beliefs about the correlation between size and cancer risk.
Contrary to popular belief, larger dog breeds do not always have a higher risk of developing cancer.
Size and Cancer Risk: A Complex Relationship
Leonard Nunney, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Riverside, and lead author of a study published in Royal Society Open Science, explains that while larger individuals in humans may have a higher overall risk of cancer, this pattern does not necessarily apply to dogs. The research suggests that large dog breeds, but not the largest, might be more prone to the disease due to factors other than just their size.
Breeds with Elevated Cancer Risks
The study, which analyzed data from 85 dog breeds, found that flat-coated retrievers have a significantly higher risk of dying from cancer, particularly a rare form of sarcoma affecting bones and soft tissues, reports WPRI. Other breeds, such as Scottish terriers, Bernese mountain dogs, and bullmastiffs, also showed a notably higher risk, more than 50% above what would be expected.
As pointed out by the research, specific dog breeds that are more susceptible to cancer include:
- Flat-Coated Retrievers: Known for a significantly higher risk of sarcoma, a rare cancer affecting bones and soft tissues, reports 23 ABC.
- Scottish Terriers: These dogs have a notably higher chance of developing bladder cancer, with risks up to 20 times higher than other breeds, according to Purdue University.
- Bernese Mountain Dogs: This breed is particularly vulnerable to lymphoma, mast cell tumors, and hemangiosarcoma, a cancer affecting the blood vessels, reports Anivive.
- Bullmastiffs: They have a heightened risk for mast cell tumors and lymphoma, even from a young age.
- Boxers: Face a substantial risk with nearly 44.3% dying from various forms of cancer, according to a 20-year study by the University of Georgia.
- West Highland White Terriers: Like Beagles and Scottish Terriers, Westies are are predisposed to bladder cancer and also show a higher frequency of adenoma/adenocarcinomas.
Understanding the specific predispositions of these breeds can aid in the development of breed-specific health strategies and interventions.
Recognizing Symptoms and Seeking Expert Care
Early detection is key in the fight against cancer in dogs. Owners of at-risk dogs should be particularly vigilant for signs of cancer and maintain regular veterinary checkups to ensure any issues are caught early. This proactive approach is key in managing the health of breeds with elevated cancer risks.
Pet owners should be aware of common symptoms, which, according to SASH Vets, may include:
- Unusual swellings that persist or grow
- Sores that do not heal
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
- Offensive odor
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- Hesitance to exercise or loss of stamina
- Persistent lameness or stiffness
- Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
Knowing Your Next Steps
If any of these symptoms are observed, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. A professional can provide a thorough examination, potentially including diagnostic tests such as blood work, urinalysis, X-rays, or biopsies to determine the cause of the symptoms and the best course of action.
Pet owners should also consider the benefits of consulting with veterinary oncologists, specialists who are experts in cancer care for animals, as the Pet Veterinary Cancer Society recommends. These professionals can offer advanced treatment options and provide guidance on managing a pet’s illness effectively.
We have much to learn about our furry friends, but recent studies studies have provided crucial insights into the genetic and environmental factors influencing cancer risk in dog. By understanding which breeds are more susceptible and the symptoms to watch for, pet owners can take proactive steps to ensure the health and well-being of their furry companions.
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