Cancer is the focus of the Cancer Committee. Current Chair: Martha Ruskai

Cancer is a condition common to all dogs, including Portuguese Water Dogs. If detected early some cancers respond well to treatment with both increased longevity and extension of quality of life.  However, because our PWDS are stoic, it can be difficult to tell that something is wrong in the early stages of many cancers and so the signs are easy to miss. As a result, cancers are often discovered in the advanced stage.  It is important to regularly check your dog’s skin, mouth, and body. Notify your veterinarian of any new growths, small changes in movement, eating, sleeping, exercise, or elimination patterns.  If you take your dog to a groomer, ask them to let you know if they notice anything different. While many times the diagnosis is something benign or minor, if it is cancer and caught early, there are more options for positive treatment outcomes. Treatment consists of a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, nutritional support and homeopathies. 

Why the PWDCA is addressing this:

Cancer is currently the number one cause of death of Portuguese Water Dogs, based on the 2014 Health Survey. That survey found that 42% of the 357 deaths reported in the survey were caused by cancer with a little over 50% of these deaths caused by hemangiosarcoma (HSA). In the Health and Litter Log, Hemangiosarcoma is reported more than any other type of cancer.  Lymphoma / Lymphosarcoma is the next highest specified type of cancer. However, this data is very incomplete. It is important for all PWD health information to be reported if we are to make faster strides in treatment. Please review update your HLL information.

How the PWDCA is responding:

The PWDCA will continue to support ongoing cancer research in the hope it will someday lead to completely successful treatments for canine cancers. Many canine cancers are similar to human cancers and so this research benefits all of us. The PWDCA, regional PWD Clubs and the Cancer Committee will continue to raise funds for and awareness about canine cancer research.

Your options:

Start with your local veterinarian.  They are usually aware of the closest oncologist in your region.

If you want to locate oncology specialists on your own:

Cancer treatment options are evolving. Research is ongoing and creating new options. Discuss all options with your veterinarian and an oncologist.  Treatment options may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, diet, supplementation, or a combination.  In some cases, the cancer is too advanced for significant treatment.  In these cases, palliative treatment to ensure your dog is as comfortable for as long as possible may be the best option.  Whatever you decide, it is a decision only you and your veterinary team can make. 

Sometimes research and treatment studies maybe able to use blood samples, tissues samples or their lab and funding may have reached capacity.  A few experimental treatment research studies may be interested in seeing your PWD in person and you may be eligible for experimental treatment if you live in the area.  It is best to check the research links for the most current information.  Please note research studies do change protocols and procedures, so a study may be full or complete when you contact them.

Most of the top Veterinary Universities have research projects.  Always ask your veterinarian or check the research options at the Veterinary Universities closest to you.

Cancer Studies:

*Be aware that most clinical studies have extremely specific criteria and not all dogs will qualify even if residing in close proximity.

To find the most up to date list of clinical trials go to:   AKC CHF

Some of the current cancer studies of interest are funded in part by the PWDCA, PWD Foundation, Inc., and donations from members and regional PWD clubs:

Dr. Jaime Modiano VMP, PhD. is working on a project that is looking at treatment and a test for the early detection of hemangiosarcoma. For more information, please check the Modiano Lab website and the Shine ON study website.

An update on the current state of knowledge about hemangiosarcoma is also available on the Modiano Lab website


Veterinary Cancer References

Here are some of the many books, blogs, podcasts and vlogs for additional information:

Dressler & Ettinger also have online options if you prefer to learn thru video or pull up relevant articles by topics on cell or computer:

Funding Research:

The PWDCA and its members continue to help fund important research projects with the hope of helping to finding some answers to the treatment and/or prevention of cancer in our dogs.

  • The Portuguese Water Dog Foundation, Inc. is involved in providing funds for cancer and other health research. Contributions to the Foundation are needed to help fund this research. To view the research grants that have been funded, go to the Foundation's website.
  • Tax-deductible donations to the AKC Canine Health Foundation Please use the two pull down menus–first, Donor Advised Funds and second, Portuguese Water Dog DAF. This allows the PWDCA to prioritize the research grant support on an annual basis.
  • Non tax-deductible donations may be made via the PWDCA Treasurer at any time to the Cancer Restricted Health Fund.