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At What Age Can Dogs Get Cancer: Essential Info For Pet Owners



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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As a loving pet owner, you want to do everything possible to keep your furry friend healthy and happy. Unfortunately, cancer is a disease that can affect dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes. Knowing at what age dogs can get cancer is crucial for early diagnosis and treatment.

In this article, we will provide you with important information on understanding canine cancer, recognizing early signs, factors that can contribute to cancer risks and prevention strategies.

We will also explore the most common types of cancer in dogs, discuss diagnosis and treatment options, and provide emotional support and coping strategies for pet owners.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cancer can affect dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes
  • Understanding at what age dogs can get cancer is crucial for early diagnosis and treatment
  • Pet owners can take proactive steps to help prevent cancer in their dogs
  • Early detection and treatment can improve the prognosis and quality of life for dogs with cancer
  • Pet owners should prioritize their dog’s health and well-being by staying informed and working closely with their veterinarians

At What Age Can Dogs Get Cancer?

At What Age Can Dogs Get Cancer

Dogs can develop cancer at any age, but the risk tends to increase as they get older, with the median age for cancer diagnosis in dogs being around 8.8 years.

Certain cancers, such as osteosarcoma and lymphoma, can be diagnosed in dogs younger than 2 years old, while others may occur more commonly in middle-aged or elderly dogs.

It is estimated that 1 in 4 dogs will develop cancer at some point, with the risk rising to nearly 50% for dogs over the age of 10.

Understanding Canine Cancer

Cancer is a disease that can affect dogs of all ages but is generally more common in older dogs. Cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells that form a tumor or tumors in the body.

There are many different types of cancer that can affect dogs, and some are more common than others.

Common Types of Cancer in DogsSymptomsDiagnosisTreatment Options
LymphomaSwollen lymph nodes, lethargy, weight loss, decreased appetiteBiopsy, blood tests, X-raysChemotherapy, radiation therapy
OsteosarcomaLameness, swelling, and pain in the affected boneX-rays, biopsySurgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy
Mammary gland tumorsLumps or masses in the mammary glands, discharge from the nipples, ulceration or inflammation of the skin around the mammary glandsBiopsy, imaging testsSurgery, chemotherapy

Dogs of certain breeds may be more susceptible to developing certain types of cancer. For example, Boxers are more likely to develop mast cell tumors than other breeds, while Golden Retrievers have a higher risk of developing lymphoma. However, any dog can develop cancer, regardless of breed.

Regular veterinary check-ups can help detect cancer early on, making it easier to treat. Symptoms of cancer can include lethargy, weight loss, loss of appetite, lumps or bumps on the body, and changes in behavior or mood. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s important to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Early Signs of Cancer in Dogs

At What Age Can Dogs Get Cancer

As a pet owner, it’s important to be familiar with the early warning signs of cancer in dogs. Early detection can make a significant difference in the outcome of the disease, so take note of any changes in your dog’s behavior or health. Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

Unusual lumps or bumpsCheck for any new growths or masses, particularly around the neck, legs, and chest areas, that feel hard or irregular.
Abnormal bleeding or dischargeWatch for any unusual discharge from the eyes, nose, ears, or anus, as well as any excessive or abnormal bleeding.
Loss of appetite or weight lossNotice if your dog seems to have a decreased appetite or is losing weight unexpectedly. This can be a sign of several types of cancer.
Lethargy or fatiguePay attention if your dog seems to have less energy or appears tired and uninterested in activities they previously enjoyed.
Changes in bathroom habitsBe aware of any irregularities in your dog’s urination or bowel movements, such as difficulty or straining, diarrhea, or blood in their stool.

Keep in mind that these symptoms are not definitive indicators of cancer, and can be associated with other medical conditions as well. However, if you notice any of these signs in your dog, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for further evaluation and diagnosis.

When to Seek Veterinary Help

If you notice any unusual changes in your dog’s health or behavior, don’t hesitate to consult with your veterinarian. They can perform a physical exam, run diagnostic tests, and determine if cancer or another illness may be the cause. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve your dog’s prognosis and quality of life.

Factors Affecting Cancer Risks in Dogs

Just like humans, certain factors can increase a dog’s risk of developing cancer. Understanding these factors can help pet owners take proactive steps to reduce their dog’s cancer risk and detect cancer early. Here are some of the most significant factors affecting cancer risks in dogs:

Breed Predispositions:Some dog breeds are more prone to certain types of cancer than others. For example, Golden Retrievers are at higher risk for developing lymphoma, while Boxers have a higher rate of mast cell tumors. Knowing your dog’s breed and cancer risk can help you be more vigilant and aware of potential symptoms.
Genetic Factors:Genetics can also play a role in a dog’s cancer risk. Dogs with a family history of cancer may be more predisposed to developing cancer themselves.
Environmental Influences:Exposure to certain environmental toxins and chemicals can increase a dog’s cancer risk. Carcinogens like cigarette smoke and pesticides can be harmful to a dog’s health and contribute to the development of cancer.
Lifestyle Choices:Similar to humans, lifestyle choices can impact a dog’s cancer risk. Obesity, lack of exercise, and poor diet can all increase the likelihood of cancer development.

It’s important to note that not all factors are within a pet owner’s control, but being aware of these risks can help pet owners take proactive steps toward prevention and early detection. Working closely with your veterinarian and maintaining routine check-ups can also help identify potential risks and catch cancer early.

Dog Cancer Prevention

Preventing cancer in dogs is not always possible, but there are steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk. Here are some tips:

  • Feed a balanced diet: Providing your dog with a healthy, balanced diet can help support their immune system and reduce their risk of developing certain types of cancer.
  • Keep your dog at a healthy weight: Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer in dogs, so it’s important to keep your dog at a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
  • Limit exposure to carcinogens: Carcinogens are substances that can cause cancer. Limit your dog’s exposure to potential carcinogens, such as tobacco smoke, pesticides, and certain household cleaners.
  • Exercise your dog: Regular exercise can help keep your dog at a healthy weight and reduce their risk of developing cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
  • Schedule routine veterinary check-ups: Regular check-ups can help detect any health issues, including cancer, early on. This can improve your dog’s treatment options and prognosis.

Common Types of Cancer in Dogs

Cancer is a leading cause of death in dogs, and early detection is key to successful treatment and management. There are many different types of cancer that can affect dogs, but some are more common than others.

Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cell tumors are the most common type of skin cancer in dogs, accounting for about 20% of all skin tumors. They can appear on any part of the body and vary in size and shape. Some dogs may develop multiple mast cell tumors. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.


Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is responsible for fighting infections and diseases. It is one of the most common cancers in dogs, with some breeds more at risk than others. Symptoms may include enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.


Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that typically affects large breeds of dogs, such as Great Danes and Rottweilers. It can occur in any bone, but most commonly affects the legs. Symptoms may include limping, swelling, and pain. Treatment options include amputation, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.


Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer of the blood vessels that typically affects older dogs. It can occur in any part of the body, but most commonly affects the spleen, liver, and heart. Symptoms may include weakness, lethargy, and collapse. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Brain Tumors

Brain tumors can affect dogs of any age, but are more commonly seen in older dogs. Symptoms may include seizures, confusion, and behavioral changes. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. However, some brain tumors are not treatable and palliative care may be the only option.

It’s important to note that these are just a few of the many types of cancer that can affect dogs. If you suspect that your dog may have cancer, it’s important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Cancer Diagnosis in Dogs

Diagnosing cancer in dogs can be a complicated process. Early detection is key in ensuring the best possible outcome for your furry friend. If you notice any concerning symptoms, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Your vet will likely start with a physical examination and take a detailed medical history. They may also use diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays or ultrasound, to look for any abnormalities or tumors. Blood tests and biopsies can also be helpful in confirming a diagnosis.

Types of Biopsies

There are several types of biopsies that your veterinarian may perform to determine if your dog has cancer. These include:

Type of BiopsyDescription
Needle Aspiration BiopsyIn this type of biopsy, a needle is inserted into the tumor to collect a sample of cells for analysis.
Incisional BiopsyThis type of biopsy involves taking a small sample of the tumor for analysis.
Excisional BiopsyIn an excisional biopsy, the entire tumor is removed and sent for analysis.

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your veterinarian will work with you to develop a treatment plan that best suits your dog’s individual needs.

Age-Related Cancer Risks

Like humans, dogs are more susceptible to certain types of cancer at different stages of their life. As they age, their bodies become less resilient, and their cells become more prone to mutations that can lead to cancer.

Puppies are also at risk of developing cancer, albeit less commonly than adult and senior dogs. In puppies, lymphoma is the most common cancer type, followed by osteosarcoma (bone cancer).

While cancer can occur in dogs of any age, the risk of developing cancer increases significantly after the age of seven. At this point, dogs are considered seniors and are more susceptible to cancers such as lymphoma, osteosarcoma, mast cell tumors, and mammary gland tumors.

The Importance of Early Detection

Early detection is crucial for successful cancer treatment in dogs, especially as they age. Pet owners should monitor their dogs’ health closely and seek veterinary attention if they notice any unusual signs or symptoms.

Regular wellness exams and cancer screenings can also help detect cancer in dogs before it becomes advanced and more difficult to treat. Pet owners should work closely with their veterinarians to develop a proactive cancer prevention and treatment plan tailored to their dog’s age, breed, and overall health.

Breed-Specific Cancer Risks

While every dog can develop cancer at some point in their life, certain breeds may be more susceptible to certain types of cancer. For example, Boxers are at a higher risk of developing mast cell tumors, while Golden Retrievers are prone to lymphoma.

Other breeds that are predisposed to specific cancers include:

BreedCancer Type
Bernese Mountain DogsOsteosarcoma
Boston TerriersMammary gland tumors
BulldogsSkin cancer (particularly on the nose)
Doberman PinschersProstate cancer
Giant Breeds (Great Dane, Saint Bernard, etc.)Osteosarcoma
PoodlesHemangiosarcoma (especially in the spleen or heart)

It is important for pet owners to be aware of their dog’s breed-related cancer risks and to discuss any concerns with their veterinarian. With early detection and treatment, many cancers in dogs can be successfully managed or even cured.

Treatment Options for Canine Cancer

There are several treatment options available for dogs diagnosed with cancer, including:

Treatment OptionDescription
SurgeryThe surgical removal of cancerous tumors or tissues is a common treatment option for many types of cancer. The success of the procedure depends on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the dog’s overall health.
ChemotherapyThe use of chemotherapy drugs to kill cancer cells is another common treatment option. These drugs can be given orally, through injections, or intravenously. Chemotherapy can have side effects such as nausea, fatigue, and hair loss.
Radiation TherapyThis treatment involves the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy. Side effects can include skin irritation and fatigue.
ImmunotherapyThis treatment uses the dog’s immune system to fight cancer. It can involve the use of vaccines or other treatments that boost the immune system’s response to cancer cells. Immunotherapy is a newer treatment option and is still being researched.

Pet owners should work with their veterinarians to determine the best treatment plan for their dog based on the type and stage of cancer, as well as their dog’s overall health and age.

Emotional Support and Coping Strategies

A cancer diagnosis in your dog can be a devastating experience. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, fear, and uncertainty. Remember that you are not alone, and there are resources available to help you cope with the emotional fallout of a cancer diagnosis.

One of the most important things you can do is take care of yourself. Managing your own stress and emotions is crucial to providing the best possible care for your dog. Make sure to take time for self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends and family.

You can also seek out support from others who understand what you’re going through. Consider joining a support group for pet owners with cancer-affected pets or consulting with a mental health professional who has experience with pet loss and grief.

“Cancer is a difficult diagnosis to receive, but it’s important to remember that there are many treatment options available, and with early detection, there’s hope for a positive outcome.”

Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian for guidance and support. Your vet can help you understand your dog’s diagnosis, explain treatment options, and offer advice on how to manage side effects and make your dog as comfortable as possible throughout the treatment process.

Remember, the most important thing you can do is to be there for your dog. With good care and attention, many dogs with cancer can go on to live happy, fulfilling lives. Stay informed, stay involved, and don’t give up hope.


Q: At what age can dogs get cancer?

A: Dogs can develop cancer at any age, but certain types of cancer are more common at specific stages of their life. It is important for pet owners to be aware of the risks and take steps to prevent and detect cancer early.

Q: What are the common types of cancer in dogs?

A: Some of the common types of cancer in dogs include lymphoma, mast cell tumors, osteosarcoma, and mammary gland tumors. Awareness of these cancers can help pet owners recognize potential symptoms and seek timely veterinary care.

Q: What are the early signs of cancer in dogs?

A: Early signs of cancer in dogs can vary depending on the type of cancer, but common symptoms include lumps or swelling, changes in appetite or weight, persistent coughing or difficulty breathing, and abnormal bleeding or discharge. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to consult a veterinarian for further evaluation.

Q: What factors contribute to canine cancer risks?

A: Several factors can affect a dog’s susceptibility to developing cancer, including breed predispositions, genetic factors, environmental influences, and lifestyle choices. Understanding these factors can help pet owners make informed decisions to reduce cancer risks.

Q: How can I prevent cancer in my dog?

A: While it is not always possible to prevent cancer in dogs, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. This includes maintaining a healthy diet, providing regular exercise, avoiding exposure to carcinogens, and scheduling routine vet check-ups for early detection.

Q: How is cancer diagnosed in dogs?

A: Cancer in dogs is typically diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, imaging tests (such as X-rays or ultrasounds), blood tests, and biopsies. Early detection plays a crucial role in improving treatment outcomes.

Q: Are certain dog breeds more susceptible to cancer?

A: Yes, certain dog breeds have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer. This can be due to genetic factors or breed-specific characteristics. It is important for owners of these breeds to be aware of the potential risks and monitor their dogs’ health closely.

Q: What are the treatment options for canine cancer?

A: Treatment options for canine cancer depend on factors such as the type of cancer, its stage, and the overall health of the dog. Typical options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and supportive care. A veterinarian can help determine the best course of treatment for an individual dog.

Q: How can pet owners cope with the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis?

A: A cancer diagnosis in a dog can be emotionally challenging for pet owners. It is important to seek emotional support from friends, family, and support groups. Taking care of oneself and finding healthy coping strategies can also help during this difficult time.


As a pet owner, understanding at what age can dogs get cancer is essential knowledge that can help you detect the disease early and take proactive measures to prevent it.

By keeping an eye out for early warning signs, scheduling routine veterinary check-ups, and making healthy lifestyle choices for your dog, you can reduce your pet’s cancer risks and improve their overall quality of life.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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