A small brown dog sitting on a sofa

Dog's size and shape associated with higher bone tumour risk

Osteosarcoma, a painful and aggressive bone tumour in dogs, can affect any breed but larger breeds in particular are more susceptible, new research has confirmed.

Findings published in the journal Canine Medicine and Genetics show that larger breeds such as the Rottweiler, Great Dane and Rhodesian Ridgeback have a greater risk of osteosarcoma than smaller breeds, while breeds with shorter skulls and legs have a lower osteosarcoma risk.

The study, led by the University of Bristol Veterinary School in collaboration with Cardiff University and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), included 1,756 laboratory-confirmed osteosarcoma cases in dogs compared with 905,211 dogs under veterinary care in the RVC’s VetCompass database.

The research team found that 27 breeds, mainly larger breeds, had an increased risk of osteosarcoma compared to crossbreeds. Another 30 breeds, mainly smaller breeds, including Jack Russell, Border Terrier, Bichon Frise, French Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, had a reduced risk of osteosarcoma compared to crossbreeds.

Comparing various measures of body mass and leg length, the researchers also confirmed previous findings that heavier dogs with longer legs and longer skull shapes are at greatest risk of bone tumours.

It’s thought that the findings could inform future breed health reforms as well as studies into the way tumours develop from normal bone.

Commenting on the study findings, Dr Dan O’Neill, senior lecturer in Companion Animals Epidemiology at the RVC, said: “There are increasing concerns about the wisdom of breeding dogs with extreme body shapes such as flat-faced breeds like French Bulldogs or breeds with long backs such as Dachshunds.

This study highlights the health risks from another extreme body shape – large body size.”

He added: “To reduce the risks of picking a dog that may develop bone cancer, owners may need to consider choosing puppies from smaller-sized parents of these giant breeds or opting for different smaller breeds instead.”

Owners of high-risk breeds should be especially alert for signs of osteosarcoma, which include lameness and painful, bony swelling.

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