Are Pitbulls Prone to Cancer? Here’s the Truth

No matter what type of dog you get, you have a lot to consider. Of course, you need to get food and toys, but you also have to think about their health. From regular checkups to serious conditions like cancer, you should know what to expect when you have a pitbull.

Pitbulls are prone to cancer but not more so than other breeds. About one in four Pitbulls will develop cancer at some point. Once a dog reaches 10 years old, the odds increase to 50%. Mast cell and other skin tumors are the most common in Pitbulls, but they can get any type of cancer.

Whether you have a Pitbull puppy or a senior dog, you should know how to take care of them. Part of that involves understanding the dog’s cancer risk. Keep reading to learn the truth about Pitbulls and cancer.

Benign vs. Malignant Tumors

When you have a Pitbull, you should know the difference between benign and malignant tumors. Benign tumors grow slowly but aren’t cancerous. They also don’t typically kill dogs.

However, malignant tumors are cancerous, and they can cause problems. Make sure you know the difference so that you can understand any diagnoses your vet gives.

Types of Cancer for Pitbulls

If your vet does tell you your Pitbull has a malignant tumor, you can take steps to treat it. However, knowing the common types of cancer affecting dogs can help. 

Consider a few types of cancer that your dog may develop.

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer affects your dog’s bladder, so they may have trouble doing their business. Unfortunately, this cancer can be hard to find early on. Many cases don’t get a diagnosis until the cancer has progressed too much.

If you notice your dog isn’t going to the bathroom as normal, don’t be afraid to check for bladder cancer. You may be able to find it and treat it.


Hemangiosarcoma is a type of cancer that comes from the cells that line your dog’s blood vessels. The cancer can make your dog weak and lethargic, and it can look like blood loss or similar issues.

This cancer makes up about 5% of all cancers in dogs, so it can be more common than you think. Unfortunately, this cancer can be very aggressive and doesn’t have a great prognosis for Pitbulls who get it.


Lymphoma is another cancer that can affect Pitbulls just like it can affect humans. This cancer comes from the lymph nodes, which makes it easy to spread.

There are also dozens of types of lymphoma found in dogs. The different types can affect different organs, so it can be hard to determine if it’s cancer. Make sure to visit your vet any time your Pitbull isn’t acting as normal.

Mammary Carcinoma

Mammary carcinoma can affect female dogs, but it’s more common in dogs that haven’t been spayed. It can also occur in females after being spayed. The odds are higher if the dog has had one or two heats before the procedure.

If you have a female puppy, be sure to get her spayed soon. Spaying before the first heat can drastically reduce a dog’s chances of getting this cancer.

Mast Cell Tumor

A mast cell tumor is one of the most common cancers in dogs, and it makes up about 20% of all skin tumors. You can find this tumor when petting your dog or looking at their skin.

Fortunately, a vet can easily remove the tumor, and your dog can get better. In most cases, you won’t have to worry about the tumor reappearing.


Another type of skin cancer that can affect dogs is melanoma. It’s much more life-threatening than a mast cell tumor, but you can detect it on your dog’s skin. If you see raised lumps, that can be a sign of melanoma.

Then, you can take your dog to the vet to confirm the diagnosis and initiate treatment. Unfortunately, it can be hard to treat in dogs like it is in humans.

Oral Tumors

Older Pitbulls may be more prone to oral tumors, which are already quite common. If you notice changes in and around your dog’s mouth, there’s a chance it could be an oral tumor.

Your vet can look at the dog and consider their age and other risk factors. Then, they can make a diagnosis, and you can treat the cancer.


Osteosarcoma can be a very painful cancer for the 5% of dogs who get it. The cancer can be aggressive and life-threatening if you don’t seek treatment for your dog.

If you notice any swelling or think your dog is in pain, take them to the vet. Then, you can see if the cause is cancer or another issue, like arthritis.

Prostate Cancer

Male dogs of any age may develop prostate cancer. However, dogs who aren’t neutered have a much greater chance of getting this cancer than dogs who are.

If your male dog starts drinking a lot more water or their urinary habits change, that could be a sign of prostate cancer. Make sure you take your Pitbull to the vet to rule out any other causes of the issue.

What Causes Cancer in Pitbulls?

As with other dogs and humans, many things can cause cancer. In some cases, there may be more than one thing that contributes to the disease. Consider a few common causes of cancer in Pitbulls and other dogs.

  • Injury
  • Trauma
  • Poor diet
  • Exposure to chemicals
  • Other environmental issues
  • Genetics

Knowing these risk factors can help you determine if your Pitbull is prone to cancer. If you know you live somewhere with a lot of pollution, you and your dog could have an increased chance of getting sick. Fortunately, some of these factors are things you can change to help your dog.

How to Reduce Your Pitbull’s Risk of Cancer

If you learn that your Pitbull is prone to cancer, you can do a few things to lower the dog’s risk. These things may not eliminate the risk completely, but they can help.

Improve Their Diet

Make sure you feed your dog healthy dog food. Look for food that’s suitable for their age, weight, and activity level. You can also supplement with treats, but also find healthy dog treats that can support your dog’s diet.

Try not to give your dog too much of your food or snacks. When you do, only give your dog a bite or two. You should also avoid foods like chocolate and avocado, which can cause problems for your dog.

Keep a Clean Home

You can also help your dog by keeping your home clean and free of harmful chemicals. Use more natural cleansers when you need to clean up, especially when it comes to your dog’s food bowl, bed, and kennel.

Try to do any painting or other activities with strong smells outside or away from your dog. Then, you can keep your dog from breathing in those fumes.

Minimize Outside Time

You can also protect against skin cancer and similar issues by keeping your dog inside more. If your dog does need to go outside, do the following:

  • Keep them in the shade
  • Take them out before and after peak sun hours
  • Bring your dog inside after a few minutes
  • Use dog sunscreen

By minimizing the time your dog spends outside, you can keep them safe from certain cancers. While your dog will need to go out, you can keep them safe in the process.

Final Thoughts

Pitbulls are as prone to cancer as other dogs. However, spending too much time outside or not spaying and neutering your dog can put them at a higher risk. Make sure you take care of your dog and give them a safe environment to keep them as healthy as possible.

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