Is cancer related to breed?

Certain breeds of dog appear to be susceptible to specific tumours. This may be related to the characteristics of the breed or due to a genetic predisposition. However, most cancers are not inherited and truly hereditary cancers (those that are passed down in certain family lines) tend to be rare in dogs.

Bone cancer is more common in giant and large breeds such as the great Dane, Irish wolfhound, Rottweiler and St Bernard, Boxers have a relatively high incidence of tumours of the skin and the brain. Bernese mountain dogs appear to suffer from a malignant histiocytosis that tends to affect a younger age group. Similary, Flat-coated retrievers tend to have a relatively high incidence of sarcomas that behave more aggressively. these and other cancers such as mast cell tumours in golden retrievers are highly suggestive of a widespread genetic susceptibility for the specific cancer type associated with breed.


Most cancers develop as a result of changes in genes (mutations). A normal cell may become a cancer cell after a series of genetic changes occur. Some gene changes that increase the risk of cancer are passed from parent to offspring. these changes are present at birthday in all cells of the body. While it is uncommon for cancer to run in a family, certain types of cancer do occur more often in some families than in the rest of the population. Several cases of the same cancer type in a family or line of pedigree dogs may be linked to inherited gene changes that may increase.

if you think your pet is likely to be affected by a certain type of cancer, you should talk to your vet about ways to detect cancer early. You may also want to ask about genetic testing as there are some tests that check for certain inherited gene changes that increase the risk of developing cancer. However, inheriting a gene change does not mean that your pet will definitely develop cancer. it means that your pet has an increased chance of developing the disease.