DENVER (KDVR) — Cancer is the leading cause of death in adult dogs. A new pet cancer registry developed by a vet in Fort Collins hopes to help owners be more informed on which breeds are most at risk.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 1 in 4 dogs will develop a tumor at some stage in their life and almost 50% of dogs over age 10 will develop cancer.

First-of-its-kind pet cancer registry

A Fort Collins vet at the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center helped develop the first-of-its-kind pet cancer registry.

It’s called the Take C.H.A.R.G.E. Registry and it launched in May 2022. It combines artificial intelligence and language recognition to gather information on what kind of tumors are being seen in vet offices.

The Take C.H.A.R.G.E. Registry and Index began with a retrospective review of more than anonymous canine patient records uploaded into a secure customized database and more than confirmed cancer diagnoses. The database continues to grow as veterinary clinics and pet owners upload medical records of dogs with cancer, which are de-identified and anonymized, at no cost to the clinic or pet owner.

Before this registry, most dog cancer diagnosis data came from specialty situations. They said this technology would more accurately depict the likelihood of different tumors being found in dogs.

Gathering the data can help researchers analyze how common different cancers are seen in the ages, the breeds, the sexes of different animals, and potentially even about location.

“So, if we learn for example, that a certain breed of dog gets a certain type of tumor, there might be more specific recommendations for what to watch for that we can make for that particular pet. Maybe further down the line, there could be specific individual early detection kinds of tests developed for that particular cancer and then we’ll have a much better understanding about which breeds to potentially really strongly recommend those tests for,” said Dr. Doug Thamm with the CSU Flint Animal Cancer Center.

This registry gets permission from the companies that hold vet medical data and gather it in an anonymous way nationwide.

Because it’s so new, it’s still unclear how long it will be until the data can provide that useful information, but they are hopeful it will be soon.

Dog cancer data can help human cancer research

According to Thamm, almost every kind of cancer that dogs can get is also seen in people, but the difference is how common the cases are.

Thamm said that dogs get a lot of cancers that start from blood cells and connective tissue, whereas people get a lot of tumors that tend to start from glands. The most common human cancer diagnosis are breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer, those are all glandular tumors, but vets see those types of cancers in dogs as well.

Why does this matter? As research on cures for cancers develops, our best friends can help a lot. It’s called comparative oncology.

“When they do get sort of the similar sorts of cancers, they’re surprisingly remarkably similar between dogs and humans, both in the way they manifest what they look like under the microscope and even some of the molecular changes that are present,” Thamm said. “It’s actually very interesting because some of these tumor types are actually so rare in people that they’re very, very hard to study, but they’re quite common in dogs. As a result, it’s potentially easier for us to look at risk factors, novel diagnostics, new treatments in our dog patients and potentially learn things about those treatments in dogs that might benefit people in the future.”

This is especially important to Thamm because his wife had thyroid cancer while she was an undergrad and during vet school, he had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Signs of cancer in dogs

Thamm said the following list shows some signs and symptoms dog owners should look out for:

  • Abnormal swellings
  • lumps and bumps under the skin
  • Blood or other discharge in the food or water bowl
  • Change in behavior and odor