Sara Canning competed as a figure skater during her childhood in Edmonton, Alberta, but later took an interest in theater during her high school years. From school productions, she made her professional debut during a local production of 1984 at age 18. She then entered the University of Alberta, but later dropped out to pursue an acting career, eventually graduating from Vancouver Film School.
Canning began working in TV movies, making her on-screen debut as Nicky Hilton in Paparazzi Business: The Paris Hilton Story. She snagged a minor recurring role in TV series Smallville in 2008, and the following year made a guest appearance in Kyle XY. She also made her film debut in 2009, appearing in the drama Black Field.
Canning’s first regular television role came in 2009, when she was cast as Jenna Sommers – the aunt of Nina Dobrev and Steven R. McQueen’s characters – in the CW series The Vampire Diaries. Her role is despite the fact that she is almost the same age as her screen niece and nephew.