skip to main content

Taking Charge of Canine Cancer

by Benedicte Clouet and Ellyn Maese

Story Highlights

  • 30 million Americans have had a dog experience cancer in the past 10 years
  • Canine cancer has a considerable impact on dog owners' wellbeing
  • Consistent data are needed on canine cancer treatment and care

Cancer in humans is taken very seriously. Numerous well-funded campaigns raise awareness, hundreds of thousands of dedicated professionals develop and administer treatments, and ensuring the relative comfort of cancer patients is a top priority.

But cancer is also a common affliction affecting many animals, including the pets many Americans hold dear. In fact, canine cancer -- cancer affecting dogs -- is a common experience that a substantial number of Americans face.

According to recent research, as many as 67% of Americans currently own or have owned a pet dog in the past 10 years. Of these dog owners, nearly one in five -- equating to approximately 30 million Americans -- report that at least one of their dogs has experienced cancer, confirming that canine cancer is affecting a lot of dogs -- and a lot of people.

Gallup and Jaguar Health Bring the Problem Into Focus

Gallup recently partnered with Jaguar Health and the Take C.H.A.R.G.E. (Canine Health and Registry Exchange) coalition to contribute to the much-needed effort to address the impacts of canine cancer. As part of this effort, Gallup conducted the first large-scale nationally representative study to understand Americans' experiences with canine cancer -- the Take C.H.A.R.G.E. Canine Cancer Survey.

Giving a voice to this underresearched experience is a critical step in helping to take charge of canine cancer by shedding light on:

  • the extent of canine cancer and its effects on both dogs and their owners
  • the decisions dog owners make about their dog's health and cancer treatment
  • potential areas of opportunity for improving care and support

Canine Cancer Compromises Owner Wellbeing

For many people, their dogs are not simply "pets"; they are beloved companions. The Take C.H.A.R.G.E. survey revealed that an overwhelming 95% of dog owners agree or strongly agree that they have a strong emotional connection with their dog, that their dog is an important part of their life and that their dog is treated like part of the family.

It's no surprise that dog owners' physical and emotional wellbeing is highly affected by their dogs. More than 90% of dog owners indicate that their dog contributes substantially to their wellbeing and that they feel happier or more relaxed when their dog is around.

But when their dog is suffering from the effects of cancer, it takes a toll on people's wellbeing too. Majorities of dog owners who report having had a dog with cancer say they felt depressed (58%) or stressed (63%) "a lot" during the experience, and nearly one in three report a heavily negative impact on their own quality of life.

Addressing canine cancer is not just about helping dogs. It's about helping people too. And much remains to be done on both charges.

What's Next

Develop consistent sources of data. There is a great need for ongoing sources of data that can guide pet owners, pharmaceutical companies and the veterinary community. In addition to large-scale surveys like Gallup's, one of the most promising sources is the development of a canine cancer registry that tracks cases and outcomes. Many countries already have such a system, and the vast majority of dog owners (84%) support its creation in the U.S. The Take C.H.A.R.G.E. coalition has undertaken its development.

Preliminary evidence from the Take C.H.A.R.G.E. survey regarding the rates of canine cancer has been surprising: While the prevalence of cancer for dogs in 2021 (number of total cases) might be slightly lower than for humans (3.4% vs. approximately 5%, respectively), the incidence (number of new cases that year) might actually be higher (2.8% vs. 0.6%). A registry is needed to develop ongoing reliable estimates that can be tracked by type of cancer and dog breed as well.

Measuring the solution is just as important as measuring the problem. That's why Gallup and Jaguar Health created the Take C.H.A.R.G.E. Canine Cancer Care Index to help track Americans' canine cancer treatment experiences. The index measures three key dimensions of the experience -- knowledge, quality of care, and canine comfort -- and will be used to track progress over time.

According to the index, canine cancer care currently sits at a respectable 80.5 out of 100, but there is considerable room for improvement. Only 18% of dog owners who have been through such an ordeal give a perfect score to their overall treatment experience.

And there can be improvement. While only 39% of treated dogs are reported as cured or in remission, 75% of respondents who chose to have their dog treated report being satisfied or very satisfied with their treatment experience. This means people can and do have a good care experience even when the outcome is not ideal, and it is important that sufficient attention is given to improving care itself alongside treatment efficacy.

Improve treatment experience. Although most dog owners report being satisfied with their experience to some degree, this still leaves one in four owners who express being dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their care. When it comes to improving canine cancer care, the study indicates some critical insights for focusing on new initiatives:

  1. Knowledge and awareness. While veterinarians may try to avoid "information overload," the survey reveals that treatment experiences could be substantially improved by sharing more information. Only 30% of dog owners who have sought care strongly agree that they knew what to expect during their dog's treatment. Most also report missing critical information about treatment options and potential side effects.
  2. Canine comfort. Dog owners worry about their pet's ability to handle pain and discomfort. In fact, it is a major factor in the decisions they make about whether to pursue treatment for their dog. People's ability to manage their dog's cancer treatment side effects is the biggest predictor of dog owners' wellbeing during the treatment process. Dog owners do, by and large, feel confident that their veterinarian cares about their dog's comfort and quality of life. Even so, it remains a challenge. Dog owners report many difficult symptoms of cancer as well as uncomfortable side effects from treatment -- and only 22% strongly agree that they were able to effectively manage those side effects experienced by their dog during treatment.
  3. Emotional support. Thousands of Americans are facing canine cancer right now. They may have difficult decisions to make. They may be having to watch their dog struggle, and they may be struggling themselves. More than 80% of dog owners report having no knowledge at all of the mental help support available to people confronted with canine cancer; even among those who had previously experienced canine cancer, more than 70% say they knew nothing at all about this important resource. Although spreading the word about these types of options is imperative, many dog owners may choose to seek support from family members or friends instead. This means that everyone can be part of the effort to take charge of canine cancer. Simply by building awareness and compassion, we can all offer our support to the people -- and dogs -- in our lives who face canine cancer.

Get the data that support your mission and purpose.


Benedicte Clouet is a Senior Consultant at Gallup.

Ellyn Maese, M.A., is a Research Associate at Gallup.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030