Are Boston Terriers Prone to Cancer? 7 Signs to Watch For

Boston Terriers are at risk of developing cancer. They may be more at risk for developing certain types of cancers compared to other dog breeds.

Because of this risk factor within your Boston, it is vital to become aware of cancer symptoms. Typically, earlier detection of cancer leads to better outcomes and prognosis.

Are Boston Terriers Prone to Cancer? 7 Signs to Watch For

This article will review if Bostons are prone to getting cancer, discuss 7 of the most common signs of cancer in Bostons, and offer recommendations to reduce cancer risk.

Is My Boston at Risk for Cancer? 7 Signs of Cancer in Boston Terriers

Boston Terriers, like most dogs, are prone to getting cancer. There are many different types of cancers that Bostons may get. 

These Are Some Of The Most Common Types Of Cancers Seen In Boston Terriers: 

  • Skin Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Bone Cancer (Osteosarcoma)
  • Mammary Cancer
  • Brain Cancer
  • Splenic Cancer (Hemangiosarcoma)

Read: Love Boston Terrier Puppies? Dog Breed Facts, Features, and Traits!

Signs & Symptoms Of Cancer Within Your Boston Terrier

Signs & Symptoms Of Cancer Within Your Boston Terrier

The symptoms of cancer in Boston Terriers vary depending on the type of cancer present. These are seven symptoms that should alert you to speak with a veterinarian.

1. Lumps Or Bumps On Your Boston Terrier

Any lump or bump on a Boston could potentially be a cancerous mass.

I typically recommend that you let your veterinarian know if you detect any new lump or bump. 

Informing Your Vet Of A New Lump Is Especially Important If The Lump Is:

  • Growing Rapidly
  • Fluctuating In Size
  • Bleeding
  • Hard
  • Black Or Red In Color
  • Deeply Attached
  • Persisting Longer Than 1-2 Weeks

Read: 10 Common Boston Terrier Health Issues

Signs & Symptoms Of Cancer Within Your Boston Terrier

2. Your Boston Is Losing Weight

Many internal cancers can cause unintentional weight loss. 

If you notice that your Boston Terrier has been losing weight, but there is no obvious explanation, it is crucial to alert your veterinarian of this change.

3. Your Boston Is Not Eating Much

A decreased appetite can be another sign of cancer. Many cancers, including lymphoma and splenic cancers, will cause your pet to feel bad and not want to eat as much as usual.

4. Coughing Or Difficulty Breathing In Your Boston Terrier

Lung cancer can cause coughing and difficulty breathing. Some cancers can also spread into the lungs from other places (metastasize) and cause your dog to cough.

If you notice a new cough in your Boston, you should ask your veterinarian to perform an x-ray of your dog’s chest. Conducting an x-ray will help to rule out cancer as a possible cause of the cough.

If your Boston Terrier is having a hard time breathing, you seek emergency veterinary care.

Signs & Symptoms Of Cancer Within Your Boston Terrier

5. Your Boston Is Lethargic And Tired

Just like in people, cancers in dogs can cause lethargy or tiredness. Brain cancer and some internal cancers will decrease the energy level of your dog.

6. Your Boston Terrier Is Vomiting 

Certain cancers may cause vomiting. Vomiting is especially common in intestinal cancers like stomach cancer or pancreatic cancer.

7. Your Boston Terrier Is Limping

Cancer of the bones can cause dogs to limp. 

While bone cancers like osteosarcoma are more common in large breed dogs, all dogs, including Boston Terriers, are at risk for developing bone cancer.

Read: 3 Common Causes Of Death In Boston Terriers!

What Types Of Cancers Are Bostons More Prone To Getting?

While Boston Terriers are at risk of getting any type of canine cancer. Mast Cell and Brain Tumors are two cancer types that Bostons seem to be more predisposed to than other dog breeds.

1. Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cell tumors are one of the most common skin tumors that I see in the veterinary clinic. I have had to remove several mast cell tumors on my Boston Terrier patients.

Mast cell tumors can vary in appearance and can only be diagnosed with a test performed by your veterinarian.

Mast Cell Tumor Symptoms

If you notice any of these signs, I recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian so they can determine if the lump is a mast cell tumor. 

  • New Lump
  • Lump That Fluctuates In Size
  • Bleeding Lump
  • Lump That Is Growing Quickly

Mast Cell Tumor Treatment

Once your dog is diagnosed with a mast cell tumor, the treatment is early removal. The prognosis is typically better with early diagnosis and prompt removal of the mass.

brain tumors in boston terriers

2. Brain Tumors

Bostons seem to be more prone to getting certain types of brain tumors.

Brain Tumor Symptoms

Signs that your Boston might have a brain tumor include:

  • Circling In One Direction
  • Pacing And Panting Excessively
  • Head Pressing
  • Vision Changes
  • Strange Eye Movements
  • Seizures
  • Behavior Changes

Brain Tumor Treatments

The treatment of a brain tumor depends on the type of brain tumor present. 

Sometimes, brain tumors can be surgically removed by a veterinary neurologist. Other options include radiation therapy or medications to ease the symptoms of the brain tumor.

Is Cancer in Dogs Genetic, Or Is It Related to Lifestyle Factors?

Is Cancer in Dogs Genetic, Or Is It Related to Lifestyle Factors?

The development of cancer is both genetic and influenced by lifestyle factors. Similar to people, dogs might have a genetic predisposition to certain types of cancer. 

Certain types of cancer seem to be more common in specific dog breeds. For example, large breed dogs like Great Danes seem to be more genetically predisposed to osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

Other types of cancer may be affected by lifestyle factors. Studies have shown that dogs exposed to secondhand smoke may be at a slightly higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Also, there is evidence that shows that spaying before the first heat cycle can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer in dogs.

How to Keep Your Boston Healthy to Help Avoid Getting Cancer

You can take a few steps to make sure that your Boston stays healthy to avoid cancer or detect cancer before it becomes out of control.

1. Maintain A Healthy Diet

It is important to make sure that your dog stays on a well-balanced and healthy diet. By maintaining good health, this may decrease your Boston’s risk of cancer.

Read: Choosing The Right Dog Food For Your Boston Terrier – A Vets Perspective!

2. Maintain A Healthy Weight

Obesity may increase the risk of certain types of cancers in dogs. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure that your Boston stays within a healthy weight range.

One way to determine the ideal weight of your Boston is to ask a veterinarian.

If you feel your Boston is overweight, I typically recommend decreasing the amount of high-calorie treats and substituting for low calorie treats like Henry Schein Lean Treats.

Also, decreasing the amount of food you give to your Boston can help them lose weight

Consult with a veterinarian about an ideal diet plan for your Boston.

cancer in boston terriers

3. Monitor Closely For Any Lumps Or Bumps

If you notice any new lumps or bumps on your Boston Terrier, you should quickly get them evaluated by your veterinarian.

Veterinarians can perform a fine needle aspirate test where they take a small needle sample of a lump and determine if the lump is cancerous. The fine needle aspirate test can help determine if the lump needs to be removed or if it can just be monitored.

Because there is no way to diagnose lumps without taking a sample, it is important to have your Boston evaluated quickly if you notice a new lump. 

Many cancerous lumps can be removed and even cured with quick detection before they spread to other locations.

4. Visit Your Veterinarian If You Notice Any New Symptoms In Your Boston

Because cancer can cause many different symptoms, it is important to alert your veterinarian if you notice any new symptoms in your Boston.

A simple cough could be anything from allergies to something more serious like lung cancer. A veterinarian will be able to run special tests to differentiate the causes of the symptoms.

Again, early detection is key to ensuring the best prognosis.

spay your boston terrier early

5. Spay Your Boston Terrier Early

Evidence has shown that spaying before the first heat cycle drastically reduces breast cancer risk in dogs

If you spay your Boston, this also eliminates ovarian cancer risk because the ovaries are removed during the spay procedure.

I usually recommend spaying Boston Terriers around six months of age.


Boston Terriers can get cancer and are more prone than other dog breeds to certain types of cancers.

Mast cell tumors are among the most common types of cancers seen in Boston Terriers. Still, with early detection and removal, the prognosis of this type of cancer may improve. 

It is crucial to have any new symptom or new lump promptly examined by a veterinarian.


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Addie Reinhard, DVM

Addie Reinhard, DVM- Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced small animal veterinarian. She is a Boston Terrier lover and always enjoys caring for her Boston patients at the veterinary clinic. She is passionate about providing helpful educational resources to pet parents regarding animal diseases and preventative care. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats.

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