German Shepherd Cancer: Everything You Need To Know

by David
German Shepherd cancer

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Today we discuss the subject of German Shepherd cancer.

This breed that we love so much is far more susceptible to cancer than most other breeds.

Owners need to know as much as possible in order to reduce its development.

We will be looking at how it develops. The different types of tumor/cancer.  And how a cancerous tumor can spread.

We will look at some of the most common German Shepherd cancers.

It is critical to know the signs and symptoms which we will explore.

There are also various treatments and ways to reduce its development which we will look at.

German Shepherd Health Issues

1.) How German Shepherd Cancer and Tumours develop

A tumor develops when a lesion or lump is formed in the body, due to abnormal cell growth.

Benign tumors are not cancerous, and they remain at a local site in the body.

A tumor becomes cancer when it is malignant.

With cancer, cell growth becomes uncontrollable and spreads throughout the body. An exception to this is blood cancer, where no tumor is involved.

The normal lifespan of a healthy cell is limited and self-regulating. Cells die off in a process known as apoptosis, to be replaced by healthy new ones.

If any abnormal or mutated cells are present, they send out messages preventing apoptosis from happening.

In this case, cell life becomes indefinite and prolonged.

When abnormal cell division occurs, the abnormality is passed on to the new cells.

A tumor (neoplasm) results in a mass of tissue or abnormal skin growth. They can vary in size from tiny nodules to a large mass. In normal circumstances cells have the ability to self-regulate, old cells die off to be replaced by new ones.

In tumor cells, the self-regulation process is disturbed. More cells are created and do not die when they should.

The tumor tissue continues to grow, putting pressure on other organs in the body. Causes that pre-empt this change are not fully known, however, there are factors that can increase the risk of its development.

2.) Types of Tumour

There are three main types of tumor:

Benign –  These are non-cancerous, they don’t spread to other parts of the body, and if they do grow, it’s often very slowly i.e warts, moles.

Pre-malignant –  At this stage, the tumor cells are not cancerous, but they have the potential to become malignant at some point.

Malignant – These are cancerous tumors that can invade surrounding tissue and spread (metastasize) throughout the body to other organs i.e Hemangiosarcoma, Melanoma.

Dogs in later life are more susceptible to a variety of benign and malignant tumors, affecting organs, bones, and the skin.

Purebred dogs with long lines of breeding such as the German Shepherd are also more likely to develop tumors.

Sustained exposure to carcinogens in the environment may also be a factor. These can include particular cleaning/laundry products, weed killers,  or from certain foods, vaccinations or medications.

3.) How to Reduce The Risk Of Development

Owners can help their dogs by reducing their chances of developing types of tumors/cancer.

Spaying or neutering at a young age is advised. Unaltered dogs are more likely to develop cancer than those that have been spayed/neutered.

This is not just down to surgical removal or the effects on the endocrine system.

Altered dogs are less likely to roam and become exposed to carcinogens further from home.

This includes the transmission of pathogens via sick animals, residues from excrement, saliva, dander,  chemically from pesticides, or from toxins in landfills or trash dumps.

Feeding a natural diet or by giving the best quality commercial food possible.

Check out our article on 11 Proven German Shepherd Diet Tips here for more information on food.

Administering safeguard remedies to deter pests such as fleas, worms, mosquitos, etc.

Providing sun shelter and sunscreen.

Dogs have sensitive skin susceptible to sunburn/tumors.

Particularly in the inguinal areas (around the groin, backs of legs) short-coated GSDs, shaved, or paler dogs. Sunscreen for dogs is available to buy (zinc oxide free). Human sunscreen can also be applied, but it must not contain zinc oxide since it is toxic if ingested.

Avoiding unnecessary vaccinations and boosters

Provide the best care physically and mentally, to help maintain a healthy immune system.

An animal with a healthy immune system is able to eliminate rogue cells more effectively. A weakened immune system may not be able to filter out all of those cells, allowing them to increase uncontrolled to become a tumor.

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4.) Common German Shepherd Cancer/Tumours

  • Skin tumors
  • Mammary ( breast ) cancer
  • Testicular tumors ( particularly dogs with retained testes )
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Abdominal tumors
  • Cancers of the head/neck

5.) Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms listed above are the most common and cover all types of cancer.

However different types of cancer will often have characteristics such as:

  • Skin spots, appearing suddenly with continued growth or persistence (often with unusual coloring)
  • Sores/ lesions that do not heal
  • Unusual swelling at any site on the body
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy/ loss of stamina, not wanting to play or run.
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Unusual discharge from orifices
  • Lameness or stiffness
  • Difficulty in voiding/urinating
  • Blood in urine, vomit, or feces
  • Problems with eating or swallowing
  • Recurrent vomiting/diarrhea
  • Bad odor from the mouth/skin
  • Labored breathing

One of the biggest problems owners face is not identifying earlier after noticing these symptoms.

Seek veterinary advice promptly if you notice anything out of place.

One quick tip that a lot of owners use is an online vet service.

You can quickly book an online appointment with a qualified vet from the comfort of your own and act quickly.

The most popular of these services is Vetster, check them out here to learn more. 

6. Treatment

A  cancer diagnosis does not mean an automatic death sentence will follow as a result.

Every dog is an individual and can be affected differently by the condition.

Veterinary medicine has greatly improved over the years with customized plans and efficient treatments available.

Treatment can include chemotherapy, radiation, immune therapy, hyperthermia, and cryosurgery.

German Shepherd Cancer Conclusion

We have looked at how tumor/cancer develops generally, and what an owner can do to help prevent its possible development.

Cancer is a very common condition and can’t be avoided in every circumstance.

Things like genetics in the GSD and increased age can be contributing factors.

There’s a long list of signs and symptoms that can point towards a tumor.

However, the list can apply to a range of other illnesses.  A vet should be contacted promptly to determine a cause.

Treatments for canine cancers have improved in recent years, with advancements in treatments.







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1 comment

German Shepherd Hemangiosarcoma: Everything You Need to Know April 17, 2021 - 4:18 pm

[…] If you are interested in learning more about cancer in German Shepherds, check out our article on German Shepherd Cancer: Everything You Need To Know here. […]


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