Cancer is a health condition in which cells grow out of control and no longer perform the functions necessary for life. These cells can form solid tumors that press on other organs, causing pain and malfunction. Cancers can metastasize, meaning that the original cancerous cells can travel to nearby and distant parts of the body and cause a secondary type of cancer to grow there. For example, breast cancer can spread to the lungs and liver.
As with humans, canine cancer risk rises with age. Other possible canine risk factors include exposure to toxins, early spay and neuter, and diet. The link between spaying and neutering and cancer risk is controversial. Some studies indicate that spaying and neutering reduce the risk of certain cancers; more recent ones suggest that early spaying and neutering increases cancer risk. The AKC now recommends that spaying and neutering be delayed at least until a dog has reached sexual maturity. This delay also allows a male dog’s muscles to develop properly, too.
Unfortunately, some types of cancer are more prevalent in some dog breeds than in others because of genetics. In humans, certain genes are also powerful predictors of cancer risk. Although there are some things you can do to reduce the chances of cancer development in your dog, you can’t eliminate cancer risk entirely. Sometimes, it’s a matter of bad luck. It’s just part of having a pet.