Akita Cancer Types And Remedies

"Akita cancer diagnosis feels like a death sentence, but it is the first step in a race against time. Here are Akita cancer types, risk factors, and remedies."

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Akita cancer types and remedies

Cancer has so many variants that it’s a disease in its own category. The branch of medicine dealing with cancer is called oncology. The premise of oncology is that cumulative damage to the DNA causes cell mutations that can turn malignant and take over the body. In Akitas, 95% of this damage is through exposure to outside factors, such as chemicals and radiation; 5% is from parents’ genes.

Where does Akita cancer not appear?

Cancer can appear in so many places that it’s easier to examine the places where it hardly ever appears. The heart and the eye seem to be immune to cancer.

The heart is made out of a special cell called “cardiac myocyte”. It differs from all other cell types — it does not divide, which makes it unusually resistant to cancer.

Heart tumors are benign; if malignant, they are metastases from primary tumors somewhere else in the body. In the latter case, the prognosis is poor.

The eye has a tightly controlled system of blood vessels. A tumor implanted in the eye tissue will fail to grow but will start growing blood vessels if given the blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) chemicals.

Where does Akita cancer appear?

Akita cancer requires three conditions:

  • Damage to the DNA
  • Rapidly developing cells
  • Abundant blood supply

Soft tissues fulfill all three and represent the breeding ground for cancer in Akitas. Indeed, almost all Akita cancers appear in soft tissues, some of which are:

  • Skin cells
  • Fat cells
  • Nerves
  • Connective tissue, such as tendons

Soft tissues are designed to be replaceable. They get quickly damaged and can easily replicate to repair the damage. They are well supplied with blood and integrated with other tissues. Cancer that appears in soft tissues has a much greater chance of escaping the immune system, but cancer can appear in any tissue and spread to any other tissue in the body.

Cancer types by structure

The two structural cancer types are carcinomas and adenomas.

Carcinomas appear out of epithelial tissue that covers all body surfaces. Adenomas appear out of epithelial tissue where no such tissue is expected and look like a gland, bulb, or lump.

Cancer is often named by the tissues it appears in. Angiomyolipoma is a blood vessel tumor (angio) that affects smooth muscle cells (myo) and fat cells (lipo).

Cancers in Akitas most often appear in these tissues:

  • Breast
  • Lymph nodes (lymphoma)
  • Bones (osteosarcoma)
  • Blood vessels (hemangiosarcoma)
  • Skin (mast cell tumors)
  • Skin pigment (melanoma)
  • Bladder and urethra (transitional cell carcinoma)


Primarily found in the anal sacs just inside the anus. If it manifests there, the prognosis is negative compared to other sites. Also found on mucous membranes and inside kidneys.

Risk factors

Exposure to fumigants and pesticides, such as acetaldehyde, is confirmed to cause adenocarcinomas. Older dogs are the ones at most risk of this cancer.


Abnormal blood calcium levels are an indication of this tumor type. Other organs may fail due to hypercalcemia, which also causes thirst, urination, weight loss, vomiting, and low heart rate.

Symptoms involve painful bowel evacuation, ribbon-like stools, and swelling of the anal area. Diagnosis is set by the vet touching the anal area.


If localized, total surgical removal of abnormal tissue is warranted. If it has spread, chemotherapy and radiation may also be needed.


Cancer of lymph nodes that may appear on the spleen as well. Lymphoma aggressively takes over the body, appearing in several spots at once. Most often occurs in aging and weakened dogs.

Risk factors

Chemical use by the Akita owner is a significant risk factor for lymphoma, as is life in industrial areas. Nitrate is a fertilizer compound that is found in drinking water in agriculture-intense areas, representing a lymphoma risk factor.


Loss of appetite is an early symptom. Lymph nodes that get large enough to be felt by hand are a strong indication of lymphoma. A biopsy confirms the diagnosis.


Treated with weekly chemotherapy for two months, after which the therapy is every two weeks for six months. If started early, the prognosis is very good; 90% of dogs recover fully within two years. One study found polyunsaturated fatty acids added to the diet during a doxorubicin chemotherapy significantly improve recovery.


A malignant bone tumor, often appearing in Akitas 7–8 years old. Develops deep inside the bone, which is most commonly in or near front weight-bearing limbs. May be related to the body’s failure to repair bone damage.

The tumor consumes the bone from the inside out, spreading throughout the body. The area around the tumor swells as the healthy bone growth is replaced by the tumor. This kind of bone is fragile and may break with stress or any injury.

Risk factors

The direct cause of Akita bone cancer is unknown. Areas of the bone where there is an increased repair activity are more prone to osteosarcoma, making fractures and chronic damage major risk factors.

Early sterilization increases the chance of osteosarcoma by 65% in males and 33% in females. Sterilization before one year of age increases the risk of bone cancer even more. Sex hormones appear to be protective. Weight and height are correlated with this cancer.

Studies on rodents showed fluoride in water causes cancer, including osteosarcoma. Human osteosarcoma patients typically have low blood levels of zinc and selenium.


Symptoms become apparent when the tumor is in the advanced stage. Sudden onsets of lameness or swelling around the joints or on limbs are common symptoms.

The veterinarian will do an X-ray scan to confirm the diagnosis. The lesions can be conclusively tested with a bone biopsy. In 90% of cases, osteosarcoma metastasizes to the lungs, making a preventative chest scan a good idea.


This cancer causes a lot of pain and the prognosis is poor. On average, the Akita will survive for 9 months after diagnosis. Amputation of the affected limb followed by aggressive chemotherapy can prolong that by up to 2 years.

Some Akitas may not be healthy enough for limb amputation. If they have arthritis or other joint problems their bones can be spared through a bone graft. Surgery removes the diseased part of the bone, replacing it with bone parts from a donor and other parts of the sick Akita’s body. Even if the procedure works, the limb’s range of motion is decreased and activity is limited for life.

Limb sparing is done with chemotherapy and sometimes with radiation therapy too. Ankle (distal radius joint) tumors are the best candidates for this procedure, with 75% of Akitas regaining normal function. 


Cancer appearing out of the cells lining the inside of blood vessels. 50% chance to originate from the spleen. May invade the skin as well.

Risk factors

Wood preservatives, gasoline, and plastics additives have been found to increase the risk of these cancers. Ionizing radiation is also known to lead to soft-tissue cancers.


Has no readily apparent symptoms besides occasional weakness, tummy swelling, and irregular heart rate; Akitas affected by it often die suddenly. Physical examination of the spleen can reveal the tumor after it’s grown enough. Unusual blood clotting patterns are also a symptom.


The chances of survival are minimal, no matter the therapy. If appearing in the heart, it causes fluid buildup. This hemangiosarcoma variant is inoperable.


This type of cancer starts in the cells that produce melanin, which is what gives skin its color. Melanoma can occur anywhere on a dog’s body, but is most commonly found on the nose, ears, or eyes.

Risk factors

There are a few risk factors associated with melanoma in Akitas Inus. These include:

  • Unprotected sun exposure – Dogs with light-colored skin or short fur may be at an increased risk of getting melanoma if they spend extended periods of time in the sun without protection.
  • Age – Older dogs are more likely to get melanoma than younger ones.
  • Gender – Female Akitas Inus may have an increased risk of getting melanoma compared to males, although this is not yet proven.


The symptoms of melanoma in Akita Inu dogs can include:

  • Dark or discolored patches on the skin
  • Swelling or lumps on the skin
  • Hair loss in affected areas
  • Itching or discomfort around the area


If your Akita Inu is diagnosed with melanoma, there are several treatment options available. The goal of these treatments is to reduce any pain and discomfort from the cancer, while also stopping it from spreading. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissues
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells in the affected area
  • Immunotherapy, which uses drugs to stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells

In some cases, Akita Inu melanoma may not respond to treatment and can spread quickly. If this happens, the prognosis may become more serious. It is important to get your Akita Inu checked out by a vet as soon as possible if you notice any of the above symptoms. This will allow your vet to diagnose the cancer early and start treatment right away, giving your pet the best chance at a healthy future.

No matter the situation, it is important to remain positive and provide your Akita Inu with love and support throughout the treatment process. With proper care and treatment, many Akitas Inus are able to live long, happy lives despite their diagnosis.

Breast cancer

The most common type of cancer for female Akitas, though 50% of the time it is a benign growth. These benign tumors are also called fibroma, adenoma, and fibroadenoma. They can appear alongside malignant cancers.

In 75% of all benign and malignant mammary gland tumors, they arise out of the epithelial cells inside the breast ducts. Breasts closer to hind legs are more likely to develop a tumor.

Risk factors

Hormonal imbalance appears to be the main cause of breast cancer, especially exposure to estrogen during the first few years of life. Early sterilization of female Akitas before the first estrus (heat) has been conclusively linked to lower breast cancer risk.

Each successive estrus drastically increases the chances of breast cancer in an intact female Akita.


The vet will touch the breasts to feel for any abnormalities. The only treatment is surgery to remove all odd-looking tissue but the healthy tissue should be spared as much as possible. Completely removing the healthy breast tissue does not improve survival chances.


If breast cancer takes hold, sterilization can still help. Surgical removal of the tumor in addition to sterilization can increase the dog’s lifespan by 200% compared to surgery alone.

Tumor size shows the chance of reappearance — a tumor larger than 3 centimeters in diameter has an 80% chance to come back. Post-operation chemotherapy should be a strong consideration for all breast cancer cases.


White blood cell cancer. May originate in bone marrow or lymph nodes. The rarest form of cancer in Akitas.

Risk factors

There are several factors that can increase a dog’s risk of developing leukemia. These include:

  • Age: Dogs over the age of 10 are more likely to develop the disease.
  • Breed: Certain breeds are predisposed to developing the disease, and certain types of dogs may be at higher risk. The Akita Inu breed is especially susceptible to some forms of leukemia such as lymphocytic leukemia. This breed is at a higher risk due to its genetic makeup and can be affected by the disease even at a younger age than other breeds.
  • Environment: Dogs that live in urban environments or have been exposed to radiation are more likely to develop the disease than those who live in rural areas.
  • Genetics: The presence of certain genes can increase a dog’s risk of developing leukemia.


Persistent infections and weight loss are the two most common symptoms.


Removal of the spleen, blood transfusions, and chemotherapy are the most common remedies.

Benzene is a chemical known to cause leukemia, just like ionizing radiation. Poisoning by heavy metals, such as arsenic and chromium, as well as exposure to electromagnetic radiation, solvents, and paints. Cats can get leukemia from viral infections.

Mast cell tumors

These are nodules appearing on the perianal area, trunk, and extremities in Akitas aged 7–9. Life-threatening, locally invasive, hard to remove with surgery. Come in three categories:

  • Grade 1 — Surgery
  • Grade 2 — Surgery, radiation, prednisone
  • Grade 3 — Surgery, chemotherapy, prednisone

Risk factors

Anecdotal evidence shows that long-term history of allergies contributes to mast cell cancers.


Mast cell tumors release chemicals, such as histamine. They cause ulcers and itching at the site but also vomiting and stomach troubles. Tagamet helps against these symptoms. Early detection and diagnosis is good news.


Glucocorticoids inhibit mast cell tumor growth in Akitas. Prednisone is a glucocorticoid. If it doesn’t work, other chemotherapy drugs may be needed. 50% of the time, this tumor returns after surgery. Radiation treatments slow down tumor growth but only delay the inevitable.

Squamous cell carcinoma

A malignant, invasive tumor that starts in the epidermis. Most often develops in older Akitas on the face or parts of the skin that easily burn. Can develop in the mouth as well, which makes it hard to detect until it grows large.

Risk factors

Risk factors are exposure to viruses, solar radiation, and toxic chemicals.


Excessive salivation, bad breath, loose teeth, and lack of appetite are common symptoms.


Treatment depends on the size, shape, and location. The more accessible the tumor, the better the chances of recovery.

Akita cancer treatment

The cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence but only the first step in a race against time. All treatments must start as soon as possible and work towards curbing cancer to restore the quality of life of the Akita.

Choosing a vet

Look for a veterinary oncologist but don’t cling to any given one; if the advice is ineffective, move on to other vets and look for an empathetic, experienced one.

Choosing a treatment

Research until you find treatments that synergize with one another. Surgery is the default treatment for cancer.

Always ask if the tumor is operable, which localized tumors most often are. Even in non-localized tumors, surgery can reduce their size. Surgery provides the best chance of removing the tumor and recovery, boosting the efficiency of other treatments. During surgery, the vet may take a sample of the tumor to send for analysis and determine the type of cancer cells present.

Always ask for chemotherapy because Akitas don’t suffer many side effects from it. Unlike humans, they don’t lose fur or suffer stomach problems from it.


Radiation treatment is painless but healthy tissue may react poorly. Best done in a series, which is the most expensive option.

If the fur is exposed to radiation, it can turn white. The exposed skin may suffer radiation burns 2–3 weeks after the treatment; it typically heals in 4–6 weeks.

Sometimes, it is used prior to surgery.


Chemotherapy floods Akita’s body with powerful anti-cancer drugs. This area of treatment is constantly developing, with new drugs rotated into the roster and coupled with reliable ones. If your Akita has an unusual kind of tumor, the vet may decide on a novel combination of chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy is not fast or strong enough to stop cancer by itself.

Angiogenesis inhibitors

Tumors can grow their own blood supply; without it, they are limited to 2 millimeters in diameter. They hack into the body’s ability to grow new blood vessels — angiogenesis. The body keeps this process under tight control but cancer can hijack it and boost the supply of angiogenesis activators.

In experiments where the cancer cells were treated with angiogenesis inhibitors, they nearly vanished. Mast cells were found to be a major supplier of angiogenesis activators. They play an important role in inflammatory and allergic reactions. It appears the cancer cells can hack into mast cells and make them produce angiogenesis activators to make their own network of blood vessels.

One drug that suppresses the cancer cells’ ability to create new blood vessels is Peroxicam. This anti-inflammatory drug is used in humans to treat arthritis but may have a beneficial effect in some forms of cancer in dogs, such as bladder and squamous cell cancer.

Experimental treatments

Current anti-tumor treatments weaken the immune system. The goal of future cancer treatments, such as gene therapy, is to activate the immune system to curb the cancer cells without side effects.

Unconventional treatments are par for the course when it comes to cancer. Holistic treatments use a combination of traditional and modern medicine to heal the immune system and diminish the symptoms. However, there are grifters who have made a business selling sham cures.

Gene therapy

Gene therapy injections involve combining a gene or its fragment with a fatty acid molecule and injecting it into the Akita. The theory is that the body has trouble mounting an immune response to the cancer cells due to DNA lesions; the injected gene represents a fresh copy the body can use. Injections are given on a schedule, with lung tumors shrinking where the therapy has been tried.


Wormwood extract, a remedy in traditional Chinese medicine, is another promising cancer treatment. Anecdotal evidence shows the active compound, artemisinin, selectively destroys cancer cells without harming the healthy ones.

Samarium 153

Samarium 153 is a radioactive element with a 48-hour half-life. Injected inside the cancerous bone, it destroys the rapidly growing cells. Dog’s urine is radioactive after the treatment, requiring supervision by trained personnel.

Three weeks after the treatment, Akita’s white blood cell count falls dangerously low due to radiation exposure. Chemotherapy begins when the white blood cell count recovers. At week six, samarium 153 has dissipated. The treatment is repeated in six months and then annually.

Samarium 153 treatment prolongs the survival time by 150% but can cause sepsis or anemia. All dogs undergoing it experienced pain relief.

Distilled water injections

One veterinary experiment done in Iowa showed injections of distilled water destroy the tumor through osmosis. For small tumors, distilled water removed them completely, without any surgery. In all cases of distilled water injections, 26% of dogs had a tumor recur, compared to 50% after surgery.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

Experimental therapy for squamous cell carcinoma. A light-sensitive chemical is injected into Akita’s body. It dissipates from healthy cells but lingers in cancer cells. The dog is exposed to laser light, which triggers the chemical to release a form of oxygen that destroys cancer cells from within. In a small study where it was tested on 11 dogs, the treatment resulted in full recovery for 8.

Nutrition against Akita cancer

Obesity in the first year of life is a risk factor for all forms of cancer in Akitas. This makes diet the first line of defense against cancer in Akitas.

Macro ratio

Tumor cells use carbohydrates for rapid growth but can’t use fats (ketones). An extra fatty diet makes the body create ketones, which deprive the tumor cells of their energy. The ideal macro ratio is (how many calories from each):

  • 10% carbs
  • 20% protein
  • 70% fat

Omega-3 fatty acids, mostly found in fish, stabilize cell membranes and the DNA, also coenzyme Q-10.

Recommended food

Other noteworthy dietary choices for the fatty diet are:

  • Olive oil
  • Boiled whole carrots
  • Steamed, chopped bell peppers
  • Tofu
  • Sardines
  • Raw garlic
  • Ground ginger
  • Boiled broccoli spears

There are many natural angiogenesis inhibitors, such as genistein. This nutrient is a flavonoid, found in plants such as red clover, kudzu, and soybean. Fungi, shark liver/cartilage, sea coral, ginseng, garlic, and cumin also have some of these inhibitors. Green tea is a potent source of these inhibitors too.

Glutathione is an antioxidant that protects healthy cells from cancer but works in reverse when the tumor appears. Cancer cells can increase glutathione concentration around themselves, creating a shield against drugs and the body’s immune system.

Whey protein given to human cancer patients was found to erode this shield, lowering glutathione levels in cancer cells while increasing it in healthy ones. No other protein was found to have this effect. Add 30–60g of whey protein a day to Akita’s diet for ten days prior to chemotherapy, during, and for at least 10 days after.


Antioxidants and vitamins protect against the toxicity of chemotherapy drugs, but also slow down the growth rate of cancers. In human breast cancer cells, vitamin E causes them to die off, while vitamin C slows down stomach cancer growth.

Mixtures of vitamins and antioxidants are better than single nutrient mega doses because the nutrients boost the effect of one another. If possible, choose capsules; they are better for delivery than tablets.

Antioxidants may reduce the effect of radiation and chemotherapy. Don’t use them in the 3–4 days prior to and 3–4 days after a radiation or chemotherapy treatment.

Supplements worth trying

These dietary supplements are worth a try:

  • Chamomile (appetite booster)
  • Lycopene (prostate protection)
  • Fennel (pancreas protection)
  • Licorice (adrenal glands and liver protection)
  • Parsley (vitality booster)
  • Milk thistle (liver protection)
  • Dandelion (liver protection)
  • Quercetin (chemotherapy support)
  • Rosehips (kidney protection)

Curcumin is a spice that can correct some DNA damage on genes related to cell self-destruction. 2,000mg a day with meals might help alleviate damage; it certainly won’t hurt.

Supplements for radiation therapy

Beta-carotene is protective against radiation. Supplement Akita’s diet with 25,000 IU of beta-carotene prior to the radiation treatment, maintain it throughout and for at least 6 months after. Kelp and yarrow are also fine supplements that protect the body against radiation.

Radiation exposure depletes one amino acid — taurine, which regulates heartbeat, cell stability, and fat-soluble vitamins. Supplement Akita’s diet with 2,000mg of taurine daily while on the therapy.


There is no cure for cancer, only life expectancy prolongation. The sooner a cancer is detected, the better the chances of survival.

Anything related to cancer is expensive, including testing and treatment so prevention is the golden standard for fighting cancer. Failing that, catching it in its early stages is the best possible scenario.

Further Reading

The Akita Inu — Breed Characteristics

The iconic Akita dog is first recognized by its curled-up tail, pointed ears and fluffy fur. It has an imposing size but also a noble, calm demeanor that can still quickly turn sour if it’s agitated. It’s one of the most impressive dog breeds, carrying in itself the spirit of ancient Japan.

Read More »

Akita health

Akita Joints And Spine Problems

A limping Akita is a sad sight to behold. It seems to need help but suddenly the limp disappears and the Akita acts fine. This is a warning sign that trouble is afoot and the Akita is about to develop an issue with its joints, spine or both. Here is an overview of joint and spine problems in Akita, with probable causes and suggested remedies.

Read More »

Communicable Diseases In Akita

Akitas might not like to mingle but they can still catch communicable diseases just like any dog breed that does. These diseases quickly spread through a litter, especially an unvaccinated one, even without physical contact; all it takes is an infected bowl, toy, or blanket to spread the disease.

Read More »

Eye Health Of The Akita Inu

Akita eye problems always happen because of a nutritional deficiency and a congenital defect. Diet fortified with nutrients and early eye exams are the simplest way to detect and manage eye problems in Akita

Read More »

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