The Role of Pollution in Canine Cancer

02/07/2022
Author: Sharon M. Albright, DVM, CCRT

Cancer is a multi-factorial disease influenced by genetic and environmental elements. With funding from the AKC Canine Health Foundation, Dr. Lauren Trepanier and her team at the University of Wisconsin, Madison are examining how these factors affect the development of various cancers in dogs. So far, their research has demonstrated that canine bladder cancer (specifically, urothelial carcinoma) is associated with household use of insecticides and herbicides as well as living in areas of higher industrial activity. Similarly, canine lymphoma is associated with household pesticide and herbicide use and proximity to industrial areas. Since these cancers are known to result from environmental influences in humans, the research team analyzed data to see if dogs affected by these cancers would be found living in areas with higher levels of air and water pollution.

Data suggest that air and water pollution influence the development of bladder cancer and lymphoma in dogs.

photo of a Boxer lying on the floor indoors

Investigators collected pollution data for the home addresses of two groups of dogs recruited for previous studies – a multi-breed group of dogs with bladder cancer and a group of Boxers with lymphoma – and compared it with home address pollution data for older dogs without these cancers.1 (Pollution data was obtained from various databases such as the EPA National Air Toxics Assessment Program.) They found that water disinfection by-products were three times higher in counties where dogs with bladder cancer lived. Also, more dogs with bladder cancer and more Boxers with lymphoma lived in counties exceeding the EPA’s ozone limits.

These results further support the role of environmental exposures such as air and water pollution in the development of bladder cancer and lymphoma in dogs. The ultimate goal of this research is to identify the combinations of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to various cancers in dogs. This will allow us to develop better prevention strategies such as improved water filtration and efforts to decrease air pollution.

Learn more about this work from Dr. Trepanier’s presentation at the 2021 AKC Canine Health Foundation National Parent Club Canine Health Conference available here.


1. Smith, N., Luethcke, K. R., Craun, K., & Trepanier, L. (2021). Risk of bladder cancer and lymphoma in dogs is associated with pollution indices by county of residence. Veterinary and Comparative Oncology. https://doi.org/10.1111/vco.12771

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