Cancer and Golden Retrievers

Written on August 19, 2013 by Mitchell Kaye, DVM, (Practice limited to Oncology) Hospital: Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital

The Breed

Golden on the beachGolden retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. They were originally bred to aid in retrieving ducks and other birds during hunting trips. They are very intelligent dogs, and they currently perform many other jobs such as serving as guide dogs, search and rescue participants, and illegal drug detectors, in addition to being great family pets.


It is estimated that between 40-60% of golden retrievers may get cancer as they age.

Common cancers that they are at risk for include:

  • Lymphoma
  • Mast cell tumors
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Osteosarcoma.

The initial signs of cancer will vary based on the type of cancer and area of the body that is affected. For some cancers you may notice lumps or masses on the outside of the body, while other cancers that originate internally may cause changes in behavior such as decreased energy level or decreased appetite.

Diagnosis and Treatment

In many cases cancers can be diagnosed by withdrawing a sample of tumor cells with a small needle, while in other cases a surgical biopsy may be performed. Often x-rays, ultrasounds, and other tests may be used to aid in diagnosis and to determine the extent of the cancer.

The ideal treatments for cancer depend on the type of cancer and its typical behavior. Treatment options can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these. Early diagnosis and treatment often leads to the best outcomes with cancer.


Depending on the type of cancer, dogs may live for many months to many years after they have been diagnosed. Maintaining a good quality of life is of the utmost concern when treating dogs with cancer, and regardless of what treatment options are used, we try to minimize their discomfort and side effects.

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