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The Mission of the Health and Wellness Committee is to develop plans to protect and improve the health of our Breed through education, screening tools and working with other Regional PWD Clubs and the PWDCA.  As stated on the PWDCA's official website, "Responsible breeding practices are encouraged to reduce or eliminate hereditary health problems which can lead to increased veterinary costs, decreased quality of life, and/or premature death."  We will bring many important health and wellness related topics to our members on our Health and Wellness web page and in our News Buoy, on our social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram, and email, just to name a few.


UC Davis has recently updated their CDDY page to include more recent allele frequencies for various breeds. They have tested over 450 Portuguese Water dogs to date and the allele frequency of CDDY in this population is 14.3% (95% confidence interval of 12.2% to 16.8%). Closely related individuals (such as owner-reported siblings or half-siblings) were removed from this calculation in an effort to more accurately represent the frequency of CDDY in the PWD population.

Canine Cancer

The term “cancer” refers to disease resulting from abnormal cells dividing, invading normal tissue, bone, and blood, and spreading throughout the body. One in four dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime, and nearly half of all dogs over the age of 10 will be diagnosed with cancer. 

Common Types of Cancer - not a definitive list

  • Hemangiosarcoma: a highly aggressive cancer arising from the lining of blood vessels and affecting the spleen, liver, right atrium of the heart, and skin. This cancer is often not detected until in advanced stages making it extremely difficult to treat.  Compared with other breeds, Portuguese Water Dogs have a much higher incidence of contracting hemangiosarcoma.

  • Lymphoma:involves the lymph nodes and lymphatic system

  • Osteosarcoma:  surfaces from bone cells 

  • Mammary Tumors: more common in older, intact females

  • Mast Cell Tumors: develops from cells in the immune system which normally treat inflammation and allergic reactions in the body

  • Melanoma tumor of pigmented cells in the body and can be aggressive

  • Soft-tissue Sarcoma: stemsfrom the connective, muscle, or nervous tissue

  • Hepatocellular Carcinoma: liver canceroriginating from the liver cells

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: type of skin canceroften appearing in the mouth or nailbeds

  • Brain Tumors: common types aremeningiomas and gliomas 

  • Malignant Histiocytosis: produces multiple tumors in the skin and vital organs 

  • Prostate Cancer: aggressive tumor of unclear etiology affecting both neutered and unneutered males

  • Testicular: occurs more commonly in unneutered males with testes in abnormal location

  • Transitional Cell Carcinoma: a cancer of the epithelial cells lining the urinary tract 

Warning Signs of Cancer

Monitoring for signs of cancer is the important first step towards finding a diagnosis and treatment options. Warning signs include: unusual lumps, bumps or swellings, sores that do not fully heal, difficulty eating and swallowing, loss of appetite and weight, offensive odor, bleeding or discharge from orifices, persistent lameness or stiffness, fatigue, and difficulties with breathing, urinating or stooling. Stay attuned to changes in your dog’s body, appetite, elimination, weight, movement, activity level, or mood. Mark your calendar every month to check your dog for lumps, bumps, and swellings. Ask your groomer to notify you of any unusual findings during grooming appointments.

Diagnostic Work-up 

If cancer is suspected in your dog, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. The work-up will include a comprehensive exam and possibly bloodwork and urinalysis. Your vet may refer your dog to a veterinary oncologist to further investigate with x-rays, scans, and biopsy. Treatment may involve a combination of therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, cryosurgery, or immunotherapy. 

Some types of cancers can be cured, while others can only be managed to decrease spread, promote comfort, and improve quality of life. Factors improving success of treatment depends on the (1) staging (where in the body, how large, and how extensive the spread) and (2) type of cancer.  Once a dog is diagnosed with type and staging of the cancer, the veterinarian will discuss best treatment approaches, potential risks, and side effects associated with each option

Risk Factors for Developing Cancer

  • Age: cancer occurs more frequently in older dogs

  • Size of Dog: larger breeds have higher incidence of cancers

  • Breed/genetic factors: many cancers have a genetic origin 

  • Gender: incidence of cancer is generally higher in females than males 

  • Diet: there are no definitive studies to date proving certain diets or supplements cause or prevent cancer

  • Chronic inflammation: linked to an increased incidence of cancer 

  • Obesity: obese dogs are more prone to developing mammary (breast) and mast cell cancers 

  • Environmental factors: exposure to sun, pesticides, herbicides, and smoke have been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer

Treatment Approaches

Treatment depends on your dog’s staging, type of cancer, and health condition. Options may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of therapies. 

Steps Toward a Cure

With advances in research and early diagnosis, dogs today have a better chance of being successfully treated for cancer than ever before. Researchers continue to make strides in immunologic therapies and treatments which are helping dogs with cancer live longer and with improved quality of life. For instance, recent research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania documented that dogs with hemangiosarcoma who were treated with Turkey Tail mushroom extract experienced extended survival time and improved quality of life.

Role of the Breeder

Responsible breeders understand the health issues in the breed, carry out all recommended health testing, and support research to improve the breed. Breeders of Portuguese Water Dogs should receive health updates for the life of the dog and keep information in the PWDCA Health and Litter Database (HLD) current. Before puppies are released to homes, the breeder should educate puppy families on common health concerns in the breed, the importance of maintaining regular veterinary exams, and importance of keeping a dog fit and of a healthy weight.

Lower Risks at Home

To help lower risk of your dog developing canine cancer schedule routine vet exams and care for your dog, keep your dog fit and maintain a healthy weight, provide a nutritious, well-balanced diet, spay or neuter at an appropriate age, and minimize exposure to carcinogens like second hand smoke, excessive sunlight, fertilizers, pesticides.  

Helpful Resources


Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc. (PWDCA). (n.d.). 

Gibeault, S. (2022, June 9). Cancer in senior dogs: Signs and symptoms to watch for. American Kennel Club. 

Cancer in the Dog. AKC Canine Health Foundation. (2015, May 7). 

Is My dog At Risk for Cancer? AAHA. (n.d.). 

Estaff. (2016, July 6). If the dog is fat, is the cancer prognosis worse?. TuftsYourDog.,friends%20—%20and%20also%20bladder%20cancer. 

10 Early Warning Signs of Cancer in Dogs. The National Canine Cancer Foundation. (n.d.). 

Cancer in Pets. American Veterinary Medical Association. (n.d.). 

Robins, M. (2020, March 2). How to help your dog avoid cancer: Tips to help prevent canine cancer. American Kennel Club. 

Marchi, P. H., Vendramini, T. H. A., Perini, M. P., Zafalon, R. V. A., Amaral, A. R., Ochamotto, V. A., Da Silveira, J. C., Dagli, M. L. Z., & Brunetto, M. A. (2022, October 3). Obesity, inflammation, and cancer in dogs: Review and Perspectives. Frontiers in veterinary science.,is%20genomic%20instability%20(139). 

Summer & Fall Tips

Bees Stings

If your dog is stung by a bee or wasp, the AKC recommends following these steps:
  1. Carefully remove the stinger with tweezers.
  2. Apply a paste of baking soda and water to the site of the sting
  3. Apply aice pack to relieve swelling and pain.
  4. Ask your vet about giving your dog a dose of oral antihistamine.
  5. Give your dog fresh water and watch them carefully.

Find more details about how to manage a sting on the head, mouth, or nose, and anaphylactic reactions in dogs here!

Sharing Water

Hot summer days call for keeping our dogs hydrated BUT there are dangers sharing communal dog bowls! 

Communal water bowls can spread disease and parasites so it is important to bring water and a water bowl for your dog(s) when attending public events or walking in the local park. 

See what the AKC has to say here.

Air Conditioning in the Car with a Wet Dog

Our water dogs love a nice swim to cool off in the summer! But remember that even though the temperature outside is hot and humid, our dogs don't dry as quickly as we do. They can get very cold in the car with a wet coat and the air conditioning blasting. 

If you have multiple zones in your car, consider keeping it warmer in the dog's area of the car or riding with the windows down until the dogs are dry. Alternatively, dry your dogs before getting back in the car.

Canine Influenza

With fall right around the corner, canine influenza season is too. Brush up on Canine Influenza here!

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