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Cancer Prevention Begins with Genetics    

Dr. Al Townshend

As with humans, we are learning that genetics can play a significant role in reducing the risk of your pet developing cancer. Before you even get a pet, it is important to consider genetics in the pet you might consider.

We know that certain breeds have a greater incidence of cancer: Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bouvier des Flandres, Golden Retrievers, Scottish Terriers, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Labrador Retriever, Bichon Frise, and more purebred breeds have a greater potential.

In addition, certain families or bloodlines within a breed are known to have a greater potential for developing cancer at some point in their lives.

We also know that mixed breeds have far less risk of developing cancer than certain purebred breeds.

Among cats, there is less breed-specific data on the cancer risk. However, purebred cats are generally believed to be more susceptible. Persians, Bengals, and Siamese cats appear to suffer from cancer at increased rates.

There can be multi-genetic factors to consider when it comes to cancer. Certain colors within a breed can increase the risk of cancer.

Cats with white faces and ears are prone to a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. In these cats, cancer develops on the head and ears, and exposure to sunlight increases the risk.

An example in dogs is black Standard Poodles. They have an increased incidence of carcinomas of the toes and nail bed, but it is rarely seen in white, brown or apricot Poodles.

If you are considering a pure-bred dog, it is essential you work with a breeder you can trust. Ask detailed questions about the breed and the specific bloodlines of their dogs, as it relates to cancer.

  • Have there been dogs/cats within your bloodlines that have developed cancer?
  • At what age? Genetic forms tend to develop at a younger age. All older pets have the potential to develop some form of cancer due to non-genetic factors later in life.
  • Are your bloodlines inbred? Inbreeding can increase the risk of all genetic problems from cancer to hip dysplasia. Outbreeding tends to help eliminate genetic defects within the bloodlines.

Planning ahead can save a lot of frustration, anguish, as well as time, money and heartbreak.


Additional Resources

When Cancer in Dogs isn’t Just Bad Luck

Dog Cancer Genetics


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