Rates of Cancer by Dog Breed

Medical Articles
dog in grass

What are the rates of cancer by breed? In fact, there aren't many facts about relative rates of cancer by breed so I went to the source for the data. Dr. Steven Steinberg of VCA Veterinary Referral Associates, LLC has been collecting data on rates of cancer by breed over at the Vet Cancer Registry and built the following table based on a database of confirmed cancer cases compared to the numbers of AKC registered dogs in that breed. 

You can see that breeds such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Poodles and Rottweilers seem to have greater incidences of cancer than many other breeds.   

Mixed Breed

  • Number with Cancer: 1150

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 1

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 20.11%

Labrador Retrievers

  • Number Registered: 154,616

  • Rank by Number Registered: 1

  • Percent of Total Registered: 17.46%

  • Number with Cancer: 74

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 13

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 1.29%

Golden Retrievers

  • Number Registered: 56,124

  • Rank by Number Registered:2

  • Percent of Total Registered: 6.34%

  • Number with Cancer: 561

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 2

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 9.81%

German Shepherd Dogs

  • Number Registered: 49,963

  • Rank by Number Registered: 3

  • Percent of Total Registered: 5.30%

  • Number with Cancer: 197

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 3

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 3.45%

Beagles

  • Number Registered: 44,610

  • Rank by Number Registered: 4

  • Percent of Total Registered: 5.04%

  • Number with Cancer: 105

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 10

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 1.84%

Dachshunds

  • Number Registered: 42,571

  • Rank by Number Registered: 5

  • Percent of Total Registered: 4.81%

  • Number with Cancer: 71

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 14

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 1.24%

Yorkshire Terriers

  • Number Registered: 37,277

  • Rank by Number Registered: 6

  • Percent of Total Registered: 4,21%

  • Number with Cancer: 43

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 21

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.75%

Boxers

  • Number Registered: 34,340

  • Rank by Number Registered: 7

  • Percent of Total Registered: 3.88%

  • Number with Cancer: 155

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 5

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 2.71%

Poodles

  • Number Registered: 33,917

  • Rank by Number Registered: 8

  • Percent of Total Registered: 3.83%

  • Number with Cancer: 178

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 4

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 3.11%

Chihuahuas

  • Number Registered: 28,466

  • Rank by Number Registered: 9

  • Percent of Total Registered: 3.21%

  • Number with Cancer: 18

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 38

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.31%

Shih Tzu

  • Number Registered: 28,294

  • Rank by Number Registered: 10

  • Percent of Total Registered: 3.20%

  • Number with Cancer: 86

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 12

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 1.50%

Miniature Schnauzers

  • Number Registered: 23,926

  • Rank by Number Registered: 11

  • Percent of Total Registered: 2.70%

  • Number with Cancer: 105

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 11

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 1.84%

Pomeranians

  • Number Registered: 23,061

  • Rank by Number Registered: 12

  • Percent of Total Registered: 2.60%

  • Number with Cancer: 10

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 45

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.17%

Rottweilers

  • Number Registered: 22,196

  • Rank by Number Registered: 13

  • Percent of Total Registered: 2.51%

  • Number with Cancer: 143

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 6

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 2.50%

Pugs

  • Number Registered: 21,774

  • Rank by Number Registered: 14

  • Percent of Total Registered: 2.46%

  • Number with Cancer: 32

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 24

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.56%

Cocker Spaniels

  • Number Registered: 20,655

  • Rank by Number Registered: 15

  • Percent of Total Registered: 2.33%

  • Number with Cancer: 125

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 8

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 2.19%

Shetland Sheepdogs

  • Number Registered: 17,453

  • Rank by Number Registered: 16

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.97%

  • Number with Cancer: 140

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 7

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 2.45%

Boston Terriers

  • Number Registered: 15,983

  • Rank by Number Registered: 17

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.81%

  • Number with Cancer: 52

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 20

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.91%

Bulldogs

  • Number Registered: 15,810

  • Rank by Number Registered: 18

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.79%

  • Number with Cancer: 34

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 23

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.59%

Miniature Pinschers

  • Number Registered: 15,230

  • Rank by Number Registered: 19

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.72%

  • Number with Cancer: 1

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 51

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.02%

Maltese

  • Number Registered: 13,049

  • Rank by Number Registered: 20

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.47%

  • Number with Cancer: 25

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 32

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.44%

Siberian Huskies

  • Number Registered: 12,350

  • Rank by Number Registered: 21

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.39%

  • Number with Cancer: 58

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 18

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 1.01%

German Shorthaired Pointers

  • Number Registered: 12,174

  • Rank by Number Registered: 22

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.37%

  • Number with Cancer: 25

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 33

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.44%

Doberman Pinschers

  • Number Registered: 11,829

  • Rank by Number Registered: 23

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.34%

  • Number with Cancer: 124

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 9

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 2.17%

Basset Hounds

  • Number Registered: 10,789

  • Rank by Number Registered: 24

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.22%

  • Number with Cancer: 60

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 17

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 1.05%

Welsh Corgis (Pembroke)

  • Number Registered: 9,921

  • Rank by Number Registered: 25

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.12%

  • Number with Cancer: 26

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 31

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.45%

Bichon Frises

  • Number Registered: 9,706

  • Rank by Number Registered: 26

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.10%

  • Number with Cancer: 20

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 37

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.35%

English Springer Spaniel

  • Number Registered: 9,128

  • Rank by Number Registered: 27

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.03%

  • Number with Cancer: 24

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 36

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.42%

Great Danes

  • Number Registered: 8,975

  • Rank by Number Registered: 28

  • Percent of Total Registered: 1.01%

  • Number with Cancer: 29

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 28

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.51%

Weimaraners

  • Number Registered: 8,774

  • Rank by Number Registered: 29

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.99%

  • Number with Cancer: 25

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 34

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.44%

Brittanys

  • Number Registered: 7,846

  • Rank by Number Registered: 30

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.89%

  • Number with Cancer: 41

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 22

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.72%

West Highland Terriers

  • Number Registered: 7,814

  • Rank by Number Registered: 31

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.88%

  • Number with Cancer: 55

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 19

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.96%

Collies

  • Number Registered: 6,252

  • Rank by Number Registered: 32

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.71%

  • Number with Cancer: 32

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 25

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.56%

Pekingese

  • Number Registered: 5,822

  • Rank by Number Registered: 33

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.66%

  • Number with Cancer: 8

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 47

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.14%

Mastiffs

  • Number Registered: 5,791

  • Rank by Number Registered: 34

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.65%

  • Number with Cancer: 12

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 41

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.21%

Australian Shepherds

  • Number Registered: 5,789

  • Rank by Number Registered: 35

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.65%

  • Number with Cancer: 31

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 26

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.54%

Lhasa Apsos

  • Number Registered: 5,259

  • Rank by Number Registered: 36

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.59%

  • Number with Cancer: 30

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 27

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.52%

Saint Bernards

  • Number Registered: 5,188

  • Rank by Number Registered: 37

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.59%

  • Number with Cancer: 5

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 49

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.09%

Papillons

  • Number Registered: 4,547

  • Rank by Number Registered: 38

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.51%

  • Number with Cancer: 4

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 50

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.07%

Chinese Shar-Pei

  • Number Registered: 4,437

  • Rank by Number Registered: 39

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.50%

  • Number with Cancer: 61

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 16

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 1.07%

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

  • Number Registered: 4,028

  • Rank by Number Registered: 40

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.45%

  • Number with Cancer: 6

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 48

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.10%

Akitas

  • Number Registered: 3,987

  • Rank by Number Registered: 41

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.45%

  • Number with Cancer: 10

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 46

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.17%

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

  • Number Registered: 3,829

  • Rank by Number Registered: 42

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.43%

  • Number with Cancer: 15

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 39

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.26%

Cairn terriers

  • Number Registered: 3,812

  • Rank by Number Registered: 43

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.43%

  • Number with Cancer: 29

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 29

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.51%

Scottish terriers

  • Number Registered: 3,516

  • Rank by Number Registered: 44

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.40%

  • Number with Cancer: 71

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 15

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 1.24%

Newfoundlands

  • Number Registered: 3,121

  • Rank by Number Registered: 45

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.35%

  • Number with Cancer: 11

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 42

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.19%

Vizslas

  • Number Registered: 3,106

  • Rank by Number Registered: 46

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.35%

  • Number with Cancer: 25

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 35

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.44%

Bullmastiffs

  • Number Registered: 2,900

  • Rank by Number Registered: 47

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.33%

  • Number with Cancer: 15

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 40

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.26%

Airdale Terriers

  • Number Registered: 2,841

  • Rank by Number Registered: 48

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.32%

  • Number with Cancer: 29

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 30

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.51%

Bloodhounds

  • Number Registered: 2,804

  • Rank by Number Registered: 49

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.32%

  • Number with Cancer: 11

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 43

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.19%

Great Pyrenees

  • Number Registered: 2,773

  • Rank by Number Registered: 50

  • Percent of Total Registered: 0.31%

  • Number with Cancer: 11

  • Rank by Number with Cancer: 44

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 0.19%

Totals:

  • Number Registered: 885,429

  • Number with Cancer: 4208

  • Percent of Total with Cancer: 73.59%

As Dr Steinberg would say, this table is only the first step in understanding cancer in different dog breeds but it's a good start.

For the past thirty years the veterinary literature has been hampered by small numbers of cases even in the best-designed scientific studies. Every month we read of questions raised about human medical research where thousands of individuals have been included and yet we have been at the mercy of the results of veterinary studies in which rarely more than 30 individuals have been the basis of the study.

Individual institutions usually don't generate enough consistent cases in large enough quantities to solve this problem and only by applying collated data collected cooperatively is veterinary medicine going to address this issue.  

The Vet Cancer Registry is a web based (www.vetcancerregistry.com) data collection point for confirmed veterinary cancer cases. Cases have been registered from all over the world and only those cases with confirmed diagnoses are accepted into the database. This service is totally free and has been developed to be user friendly. There are currently more than 7600 cases on the website and cases are being added at a rate of about 12-18 per week. The website is recording about 2000 to 4000 hits per day. There are 5,718 dogs and 1,959 cats registered at this time in the registry.  

Although the data are of a general nature, by looking at thousands of cases at one time one can notice trends that would not be evident in evaluating only a handful of cases. The search format is extremely interactive and allows for creative pursuits that are left to the imagination of the investigator. There is also a mechanism to query case submitters and to encourage collaboration among researchers.

We can associate the popularity of various dog breeds with the collected data from the Vet Cancer Registry by breed. In the following figure the top 50 dog breeds are listed with the number of individuals registered by breed according to published data from 2002 for the AKC. This table denotes trends where various dog breeds are over or under represented based on number of cancer cases reported in the registry in relation to popularity based on AKC registration. These kinds of trends are rarely used when a popular breed is noted to be susceptible for a specific disease in an institution's population. For example, Labrador Retrievers are by far the most popular breed, yet they are only number 13, among the top 50 breeds, in dogs most affected by cancer in cases registered in the Vet Cancer Registry. Similarly Chinese Shar-Peis are 39th in popularity according to the AKC but 16th , among the top 50 breeds, in dogs reported to have cancer in the Vet Cancer Registry.

Even this most simple study starts to reveal trends that as with all scientific endeavors raise more questions than they answer. Only by attaining significant numbers, will we obtain the knowledge to truly recognize incidence and treatment response trends.

Reprinted with permission of H. Steven Steinberg, VMD, DACVIM