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Answers from vets about your dog:

Is Cancer Ever Preventable in Dogs?

Reviewed by Robert M. DuFort, DVM, DACVIM on Friday, October 28, 2016
Posted November 02, 2016 in Dog Checkups & Preventive Care

cancer free golden retriever on lawn

Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.

Cancer is one of the scariest words a pet lover can hear. Today, pet parents are taking better and better care of pets: Offering better food, providing more consistent vaccination protection, better dental care and so much more. It’s a great time to be a pet, and pets are living to be older. Just like people though, our aging pets have an increased risk of cancer.

What can we do to keep our pets as healthy as possible? Can some cancers be preventable in dogs?

Chemicals you can eliminate to reduce cancer risk in dogs
Did you know that dogs can be affected by second hand cigarette smoke? The same goes for harsh chemicals, including some cleaning products. You can protect your dog by avoiding smoking areas and checking the labels on cleaning products. If the label directs you to use a product in a well ventilated area, use a mask or avoid the area for a few hours, always assume this applies to your dog too. You should keep your pets away until the fumes have dissipated.

Two types of herbicides have been implicated in a link between chemical lawn treatment and cancer:

  • Lawn care products containing insect growth regulators can cause lymphoma.
  • Phenoxy herbicides can lead to an increased risk of bladder cancer (transitional cell carcinoma), for example in Scottish terriers.

Asbestos and cancer in dogs
Asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma, a type of cancer usually in the chest. Asbestos is found in old insulation material. If your house is old, have it checked for asbestos.

Obesity and cancer in dogs
An overweight dog may have an increased risk of cancers including breast (mammary) and bladder cancer (transitional cell carcinoma). Incidentally, obesity also increases the risk of some benign tumors, such as lipomas (benign fatty tumors).
One study concluded that “calorie restriction is the most potent, broadly acting cancer-prevention regimen in experimental (cancer) models in a variety of animal species, including mammals1.”

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at