Cancer in Poodles: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention


Certain dog breeds have greater dispositions to developing ailments throughout their lifetime, one of which is the Poodle. All variations of the breed quite often develop cancer at some point in their lives. While it may seem ominous trying to figure out if and when your Poodle will get cancer, there are plenty of steps you can take to help you recognize symptoms of this disease and help prevent its early onset. 

Poodles experience higher rates of cancer than other dog breeds and often manifest cancer as lumps under the skin. Cancer in poodles is commonly treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Healthy lifestyle choices and an ideal home environment are key to preventing cancer in poodles.

Keep reading to find out the best ways to prevent cancer in Poodles, as well as what symptoms to look for and treatment plans. While owners want to take the necessary steps to prevent cancers, providing poodles with the best care can improve their overall quality of life and hopefully bring them back to full health. 

Types of Cancer in Poodles 

Poodles may develop a wide range of cancers that nearly all dogs get eventually with old age. Being prone to cancer is also a result of the greater life expectancy compared to other dog breeds. There are certain forms of cancer that poodles are more likely to develop, however, poodles are still at risk for many cancers that are more common in other dog breeds later in life.  

The most common types of cancer found in Poodles include:

1. Lymphoma

Lymphoma is the most common type of cancer in poodles and can be found in at least 30 variations in dogs. Lymphoma can result in the inflammation of lymph nodes, irritations to the skin, changes to mouth and gums, breathing problems, or abnormal bowel movements depending on the form of lymphoma. 

3. Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is caused by exposure to the sun over time and is common in Poodles. Mast cell tumors and melanoma are the most common skin cancers, but benign tumors can also be found on the skin and mouth. Mast cell tumors can spread to other organs and account for 20% of all skin tumors in dogs.. 

3. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCDD)

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer found in the mouth and nailbeds most commonly. Squamous cell carcinoma is much more prevalent in dark-colored Poodles than light-colored ones. Looking for growths early is essential to diagnose and treat this very aggressive form of cancer. 

4. Mammary gland carcinomas

Mammary gland carcinomas are a type of cancer that develops around the nipples and quickly grows into large tumors with open wounds. If your female poodle is unspayed, she may be at risk for this type of cancer at an older age. While tumors are not always fatal, malignant tumors of this nature are particularly high risk for dogs.

5. Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is a common bone cancer found mostly in many large dog breeds. While the Joints and bones are usually the first areas affected, osteosarcoma is particularly challenging because it spreads rapidly into a dog’s organs. Lameness and extreme pain are common. As a result of this cancer’s intensity, amputation is often required to stop the spread as quickly as possible. 

6. Hemangiosarcoma

Hemangiosarcoma is cancer caused by cells in the blood vessels that target various organs throughout the body. Hemangiosarcoma shows few symptoms until tumors have ruptured, and as a result, this type of cancer can be very hard to treat. Surgery and chemotherapy are often required, but it is often ineffective in late-stage cancers. 

You can explore a list of cancers found in dogs here. If your poodle matches any of the descriptions mentioned, you should consult a vet immediately. Early detection is the most crucial step in successfully addressing any type of cancer.

Sources: American Kennel Club, Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine, American Animal Hospital Association, Washington State Veterinary Medicine, Blue Pearl

Symptoms of Cancer in Poodles 

Because your Poodle may be susceptible to multiple types of cancer, being very aware of your poodle’s physical well-being is important. Looking for symptoms and intervening early minimizes discomfort and can even detect early signs of cancer before it has spread to other body systems. 

Symptoms found in poodles that may suggest the onset of cancer include: 

1. Growths

Growths are lumps or bumps often found on a poodle’s legs or paw pads but can be found anywhere on their body. You will need to be especially careful if these lumps grow in size or change in shape. If a poodle has fluffy hair, you will need to check for these lumps more closely. Not all tumors are cancerous in poodles, but they are a risk.  

2. Inflamed Lymph Nodes

Inflamed lymph nodes are the most common symptom of lymphoma and will often appear as large hard lumps under the skin. Owners often find these inflamed nodes around the jaw or behind the knees. This inflammation is not typically painful to your dog but can quickly spread to different body parts through the lymphatic system. 

3. Enlarged Stomach

While an Enlarged stomach can be a symptom of infection or bloat, it may also indicate the presence of a stomach tumor or mass. Having your veterinarian inspect the enlargement with a scan can help to determine the cause. 

4. Unhealed Wounds

If wounds or sores on your poodle’s skin will not heal, you should consult a veterinarian immediately. These wounds may be signs of skin cancer and can lead to a greater risk of infection. Tumors that are close to the skin surface may also lead to open wounds. 

5. Fluid Changes

If you notice Fluid changes in color or consistency, including discharge, blood, or puss, you should seek veterinary care immediately. If your Poodle has difficulty going to the bathroom or has changes in the urine or stool, this could be a sign of bladder or kidney cancer. You should also be concerned about random bleeding from all areas. 

6. Weight Fluctuations

Major weight fluctuations, usually weight loss, can be a sign of cancer in your poodle. Any significant shift in weight or changes in body structure should be taken seriously. Not all weight loss is related to cancer, but it is a common symptom.

7. Bad breath

Dogs do not always have the best breath, but if you notice bad breath from your poodle, your dog may have developed oral cancer. You may also see similar unusual odors from the tail end. 

Less common symptoms that may raise a concern about cancer in your dog include:

  • Lethargy
  • swelling
  • changes to bathroom behaviors

These symptoms could be linked to cancer, but may also be another health issue. If your dog’s behavior or health changes, you may want to consult your veterinarian to diagnose the problem quickly. 

While there are common cancer symptoms you should be aware of, any abnormal changes to your poodle’s appearance or behavior should be monitored. Tumors are one of the most obvious warning signs so you should perform inspections regularly. These changes usually become more common as your poodle ages and the risks for all types of dog cancers increase. 

Source: Animal Cancer Foundation, American Veterinary Medical Association

Treatment Options for Cancer in Poodles 

Discussing treatment options with your veterinarian will allow you to choose the best plan for your poodle’s diagnosis. The most common treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of them. The choice in treatment method will depend on your dog’s other health conditions, your financial situation, and wishes for care. 

There are three primary cancer treatment options for poodles: 

1. Surgery

Surgery is typically the first step taken by veterinarians to remove cancer cells, primarily if it is concentrated in a single area. Ideally, cancer should be removed before it progresses and spreads to multiple areas in the body. Emergency surgeries may also need to be performed if tumors rupture or limbs need to be amputated. 

2. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a standard treatment for dogs to remove cancer. This can be done as a stand-alone treatment method or in conjunction with surgeries and other treatments. Chemotherapy is often a more effective treatment if cancer cells are in multiple places or cannot be removed with surgery. 

3. Radiation

The most common use of radiation involves targeting tumors with x-rays or other types of energy beams. This can result in lethargy in your poodle but is an effective treatment method for reducing tumor size or Emilminating them entirely. Because dogs cannot move during treatment, they may need to be sedated. 

While S\side effects may bring about lethargy, most dogs do not experience significant negative side effects with radiation treatments. The doses administered to dogs are usually much smaller than humans, allowing dogs to maintain their normal behaviors and appearance. Poodles may experience hair thinning with chemotherapy and may have a decreased appetite after treatments. 

You may choose alternative methods due to cost or a desire to explore holistic treatments. Some of these treatments can be used alongside the standard treatment methods above. Consulting with a holistic veterinarian will allow you to incorporate the most effective methods for your Poodle’s treatment plan. Acupuncture, food therapy, and aromatherapy are common. 

4 Questions to Ask When Your Poodle Has Cancer 

You hope never to have to ask yourself this question, but it is important to be prepared so you can take the necessary steps to treat your poodle. The treatment methods above will be discussed with your veterinarian, but other important steps should be taken to make sure your Poodle can increase their odds in beating cancer. 

Four essential questions to ask when your poodle has cancer include: 

  • What are the best treatment options? This will be a specific conversation you have with your veterinarian based on the diagnosis. Early-stage cancers can be treated more successfully than late-stage, so sometimes more aggressive treatment is recommended depending on the case. 
  • Should we treat cancer? Many pet owners have to ask this tough question for a variety of reasons. If the dog is really old, will cancer treatments be effective or offer a better quality of life? Sometimes the medical bills are too expensive for cancer treatments, and you are forced to make a difficult decision. 
  • How could this have happened? While it’s hard to look back and think about what could have been done better, we can refer back to the prevention section. You can still limit more significant risks with continued environmental exposure or think ahead in preventing many factors that could have led to the cancer diagnosis. 
  • What will make my Poodle happy? At the end of the day, you want to provide the best life for your poodle. Will putting them through treatments be worth it? Consider the extra time you could gain by treating cancer versus losing them with no treatment. The goal should be to minimize suffering and give them a full life. 

If your poodle gets cancer, try to keep the same routines he or she previously had. Keep fun activities a part of the day and add in treatment methods around that schedule. A positive attitude and a willingness to compassionately walk alongside your dog is the best thing you can do to show you love them. With or without treatment, bring as much joy to their life as possible! 

Source: Holistic Animal Wellness, PetMD, American Kennel Club

Preventing Cancer in Poodles 

Unfortunately, you cannot change the genetic predisposition to cancers in Poodles. However, you can provide them with an environment and lifestyle that will limit their cancer risks. The most effective cancer treatment is prevention, so take the necessary steps to keep your pet healthy in day-to-day life. Cancer risks are increased as your Poodle ages. 

Cancer prevention will require discipline and potential life changes of the owner. The environment you live in has a large impact on your dog’s health. Smart lifestyle choices will lead to better health outcomes for both you and your Poodle. Consider this when you bring a Poodle into your life, and if your environment is suited for their well-being. 

Here are some actions you can take to prevent cancer in Poodles: 

1. Spay and Neutering

Cancers in the reproductive system of both male and female poodles can be quite common when they are not spayed or neutered. By fixing your poodle, you can greatly reduce the risk of developing mammary (female) and testicular (male) cancers. This should be done between 3-4 months for females (before first heat) and 4-6 months for males.  

2. Weight Management

Nutrition is an important factor in preventing cancers in poodles. This is particularly important in weight management as obesity can lead to health problems, including cancer. You should monitor your poodle’s diet and make sure he gets ample exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

3. A Healthy Diet

Not only is a healthy weight important, but providing a healthy diet is essential to reduce your poodle’s risk of developing cancer. Aim to serve an anti-inflammatory diet that limits grains and avoids processed foods. Whole and raw foods help to prevent the growth of cancer cells. You may consider nutritional supplements later in life.

I feed my dog high-quality food from Pet Plate. Pet Plate is a premium dog food subscription service that provides freshly cooked and pre-portioned meals, and snacks, completely customized for your dog. I really love the fact that Pet Plate delivers the highest quality meals to my door without me ever having to think about it! Check out Pet Plate here to find more information and see if Pet Plate is right for you and your pet.

4. Avoid Environmental Toxins

Environmental toxins in gardening products, paints, pesticides found in grass and plants, chemical-heavy soaps and cleaners, and other chemicals found in their environment contain carcinogens that cause cancer. Limit your poodle’s exposure to these products and choose to use products that are not rich in chemicals.  

5. Limit Injections

While vaccinations and protection from fleas and ticks are essential, try to avoid unnecessary injections or revaccinations as they have been linked to the onset of certain cancers. Initial core vaccines are necessary for safeguarding your dog’s health, but routine vaccinations can put immense stress on the immune system and should be avoided unless necessary. 

6. Stop smoking

We do not often think about secondhand smoke impacting our animals, but smoking may increase the risk of lymphomas and oral cancers in dogs. By providing your poodle with a smoke-free environment, you are helping to keep the air they breathe cleaner. This change positively impacts all involved parties. 

7. Excessive Sun Exposure

While Poodles enjoy the outdoors, you should be mindful of how much sun they are exposed to. Skin cancers are common in poodles, especially in lighter colored dogs. Many poodles have bald or thin spots and are more susceptible to UV exposure. Make sure your poodle has access to shaded areas if they spend extended periods of time outside. 

8. Holistic care

Holistic veterinarians can create plans for your poodle that may help prevent many types of cancers. These often include an emphasis on whole foods over processed, exercise plans, strict toxin reduction, and promoting frequent body checks by owners. Not all veterinarians will offer holistic approaches, so you may need to seek out a specialist. 

9. Oral hygiene

Make sure you are also paying attention to your dog’s mouth. While not a leading cause of cancer, dogs with poor oral hygiene are more likely to develop oral cancers than those with clean teeth and gums. 

As a pet owner, you will need to examine the environment you have provided for your poodle. Make necessary changes to create the ideal cancer-preventing environment for them. Prioritizing their health not only includes what they eat and do but how the environment around them impacts their quality of life.  

Source: Animal Medical Center, American Kennel Club, PetMD

Are Poodles Prone to Cancer? 

In an extensive study conducted by the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine, cancer is among the top three causes of death across poodle breeds. In standard poodles, cancer is the single leading cause of death. Cancer is also the leading cause in Miniature Poodles and the second leading cause of death in Toy Poodles. 

It is also crucial to note that because Poodles have a longer life expectancy than many other breeds, they are more likely to develop cancer when they are older. Dogs typically live 10-13 years across all breeds, while poodles live 12-15 years on average. Older dogs are prone to cancer across all breeds. The Veterinary Cancer Society suggests that 1 in 4 dogs will develop cancer. 

Genetic factors and longer lives make poodles more susceptible to cancer than other diseases and at higher rates. Because of this, looking for warning signs and treating the symptoms early will be the best course of action to treat cancer before it progresses too far. Regular check-ups with the vet and systematic attention to your dog’s health care the best preventative measure. 

Poodles are also prone to multiple diseases in addition to cancer. Diseases such as parvo, rabies, and distemper are common conditions poodles can develop over the course of their lives. Because poodles are prone to these illnesses, as well as cancer, any changes in behavior or physical appearance should be treated with urgency. 

Source: Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Animal Health Clinic, PetMD, Veterinary Cancer Society

Is Cancer Painful for Poodles? 

Cancer can be painful for Poodles, but it largely depends on the type of cancer they have and the associated symptoms. It is difficult to report the prevalence of pain in dogs with cancer as they cannot communicate as effectively as humans. By the time dogs have pain and show any related symptoms, cancer may have already become a severe medical issue. 

If a dog is in pain, he will typically be vocal or exhibit behaviors to eliminate the pain. This could be lameness in specific body regions, lethargy, or verbal communication to express discomfort. Most growths or inflamed lymph nodes will not be painful for poodles but are among the most common symptoms of cancer. 

Unhealed wounds will be painful if touched or exposed to soaps and chemicals. In some dogs, the treatment of cancers may be more painful than the cancers themselves. Alongside surgery, chemo, or radiation, veterinarians may also prescribe other treatments and therapies to help dogs counteract any negative reactions they have to the cancer treatment. 

Adverse side effects of cancer treatment may bring about the following pains in poodles: 

  • Sores with radiation: Radiation makes contact with a specific area of the body to target tumors. Poodles may experience pain on the surface of the skin or in the targeted area. If dogs have brain tumors, they may also experience headaches or similar side effects that impact their cognitive abilities after treatment. 
  • Stitches: After surgery, the area that was operated on may be sore or irritating to the dog. This is especially true if some stitches or wounds are in the process of healing. Preventing your poodle from licking or scratching at their stitches is critical to allow for proper healing. 
  • Invasive tumors: Tumors themselves can be painful if they grow into tissue that can become irritated. As tumors increase in size, they often force healthy tissues to expand. Your dog may shy away from placing its weight in these areas. 
  • Psychological or emotional variations: Pain can also be psychological in dogs, where you may notice major changes in attitudes and behavior. These may be in reaction to the drugs or accompany physical pain. Giving them lots of love and trying to keep their routine consistent can help to distract them from the pain they are experiencing. 
  • Chronic pain: Some cancer symptoms may be chronic depending on the affected areas. Once these pains and symptoms have been identified, you can consider therapies to provide relief. Acupuncture and pain medications are popular methods to help dogs cope with cancer-related pain. 

Source: DMV360, Today’s Veterinary Practice

Does Cancer Spread Quickly in Poodles? 

Cancer in poodles does not spread notably faster than in other dog breeds. Certain forms of cancer are likely to spread more quickly than others, but some are not among the most common Poodle cancers. Cancer spreads more quickly when it is in advanced stages, which is more challenging to treat and hard to diagnose with subtle symptoms. 

lymphoma can spread quickly depending on the variation. Some lymphomas are very severe and spread quickly, while others are easier to manage and treat. Fast-growing tumors or lumps, especially in lymph node areas, may suggest spreading cancer and need to be treated as soon as possible. 

Mast cell tumors (which are not always cancerous) are one of the fastest-growing tumors in dogs. Hemangiosarcoma is one of the most common cancers in dogs (not Poodles specifically) and it can quickly spread without detection. Osteosarcoma also spreads very quickly from bones to internal organs. Be on the lookout for symptoms and bodily changes in your pet. 

While life expectancy is dependent on the type of cancer, dogs can expect to live around two months after a cancer diagnosis. This is typically a dog who is in a later stage and has worsening symptoms. Chemotherapy can extend that life expectancy to around one year. The treatment method does not guarantee a positive response to some cancers.  

Source: Washington State Veterinary Medicine, Blue Cross 

Caring For Your Poodle and Cancer 

Whether or not your poodle has developed cancer, taking preventative steps to maintain their health will lead to better outcomes for your dog. The prospect of your dog developing cancer is devastating for loving pet owners. Being proactive and intervening early when cancer is detected will ensure your dog has the best quality of life for as long as possible.

Brent Hartman

I'm Brent Hartman. I've been a dog lover my entire life and have owned many animals over the years. When my black lab Angus passed away, I was looking for another friend to share my life with. As a result of my research, I've come to love poodles and wanted to share some of what I've learned with you. Whether you're looking to adopt a poodle, or already own one, I created Poodle report to be the ultimate guide to help you find the answers you need.

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