Canine Lung Cancer, by Deborah Shores, DVM

Flickr Photo by: GIANTsqurl
What is Canine Lung Cancer?

Canine Lung Cancer is a malignant form of cancer that affects the lungs. There are generally two types of lung cancer in dogs: primary and secondary. Primary lung cancer appears first in the lungs and can metastasizes (spreads) aggressively to other parts of the body. With metastasis, it invades other organs, lymph nodes, and bones. This form of lung cancer is most common in older dogs, typically over the age of ten. Although any breed can be affected by it, Boxers seem to be more prone to developing primary lung cancer. 

Secondary lung cancer is more common than primary. It is caused by the metastasis of cancer from another part of the body.  Liver, brain and bone cancers commonly   spread to the lungs.

What is the Cause of Canine Lung Cancer?

 Although the cause of any type of cancer is unknown, veterinarians have determined a few things that seem to be large factors of canine cancer. For more information on the causes of canine cancers, please refer to our previous article: Cancer in Dogs

Specifically with primary lung cancer, cigarette smoke inhalation is a risk factor, particularly for short-nosed dogs. Exposure to cigarette smoke has also been shown to increase risk of nasal cancer in long-nosed dogs.(1)

What are the Symptoms of Canine Lung Cancer?

The symptoms of canine lung cancer mainly affect the respiratory system. However, if the cancer is caused by metastasis or has metastasized, then symptoms may show in other areas. Approximately 25% of dogs with lung cancer may not show any signs of it until it has progressed. 

Common symptoms include:
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite 

What are the Treatment Options for Canine Lung Cancer?
Depending on the size and location of the tumor, surgery may be recommended. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also used, sometimes following surgical removal of tumor. 

Steroid therapy and bronchodilators may help to open up the airways, slow the growth of lung tumors and improve quality of life. Unfortunately, the prognosis for lung cancer patients is not very good, typically less than one year if the cancer has metastasized. This is why it is most important to keep your dog comfortable and support his immune system with alternative treatments. 

What are the Alternative Treatment Options for Canine Lung Cancer?

Acupuncture, homeopathic and herbal remedies can help to alleviate pain and support your dog’s immune system. Also, as with all cancer types, minimizing your dog’s intake of carbohydrates can be very beneficial.(2)  It is important to consult with a holistic veterinarian to determine what therapies and supplements are best for your dog.

IP6, or inositol hexaphosphate, is a special type of carbohydrate that is abundant in legumes and cereals. It has recently been shown to have anticancer properties and is used by holistic veterinarians in the treatment of lung, liver, and splenic cancers.(3,4)  

There are also a variety of quality supplements that can help your dog. If your dog has undergone chemotherapy, detoxification supplements can support cleansing and elimination of toxins. The herb Amla, commonly known as Indiana Gooseberry, is a strong natural antioxidant that strengthens the immune system. Also, the herb Guduchi is helpful in protecting your dog’s body against the effects of chemotherapy by increasing effectiveness of white blood cells, and supporting the liver’s natural detoxifying abilities. 

The herbs Artemisinin and Golden Seal Root can also be beneficial. Artemisinin is an herbal drug that has been shown to kill human and canine cancer cells in the laboratory. Golden Seal Root acts as an immunity enhancer, as well as soothing the respiratory tract which is great for lung cancer patients. 


(1)  Yin, S. 2007 Sep/Oct. Do Environmental Pollutants Cause Cancer in Dogs? The Bark. Issue 44.

(2)  Silver, R. 2013. Integrative Oncology: Blending the Best of Conventional with Evidence-Based and Supportive Complementary Therapies. Holistic Veterinary Medicine Club Symposium. Veterinary Information Network.

(3)  Deliliers, GL, et al., 2002 June. Effect of Inositol Hexaphosphate (IP(6)) on Human Normal and Leukaemic Haematopoietic Cells. Br J Haematol. 117(3):577-87.

(4)  Bacić, I, et al., 2010 January, Efficacy of IP6+ Inositol in the Treatment of Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy: Prospective, Randomized, Pilot Clinical Study. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 29(0):12.X

Leave a comment