The Dog Breeds Most Likely to Get Cancer, New Study Finds

A scientific breakthrough examines a dog's size and its likelihood of cancer.

As observed from the human experience, early detection is key when combating different forms of cancer—and the same is true for dogs. Of course, diet and exercise, as well as regular vet visits, can all help keep your four-legged friend healthy. But what if you knew in advance that your dog was more predisposed to cancer? According to a new study published in Royal Society Open Science, there is a strong correlation between the size of a dog and their likelihood of getting cancer.

RELATED: 8 Dog Breeds With the Worst Health Problems, Vet Tech Warns.

The study looked at dogs ranging in size from "a chihuahua up to a mastiff, or a Great Dane," Leonard Nunney, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Riverside, and lead author of the study, told ABC News.

Despite what many have come to believe over the years, it turns out that larger dogs are at a lower risk for cancer simply because they tend to have a shorter lifespan—compared to smaller dogs, who typically live longer. With old age comes more health risk factors and a weakened immune system.

Canines like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labradors are considered large dog breeds and typically live eight to 12 years, per the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Conversely, research shows that medium-sized dog breeds—French Bulldogs, Poodles, and Cocker Spaniels—and smaller-sized dog breeds—Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Terriers—are at a higher risk for developing cancer because they usually live longer. Medium breeds can live for 10 to 13 years, while small canines can live upwards of 15 years, per the AKC.

However, while conducting their research, Nunney and his team also learned that specific breeds, regardless of size, are more predisposed to specific cancers.

Terriers, specifically Scottish Terriers, have a higher probability of getting bladder cancer. And Flat-Coated Retrievers often develop a rare cancer called sarcoma that is found in the bones and soft tissues, Nunney said.

But before you call your vet in a tizzy, Nunney assured owners that just because smaller canines have a higher likelihood of developing cancer, it doesn't mean they will. Rather, this new development can help scientists and animal experts better analyze dog breeds and how their genetics play a role in developing cancer.

"Dogs are an extremely good model for understanding the genetic changes that may lead to a higher susceptibility of specific cancers," Nunney concluded.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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