Breast Cancer Awareness
Dr. Chip Cooney
While we typically think of Breast Cancer as something for human women, we need to remember that this affects our female dogs and cats too! In animals, it is called Mammary Gland Tumors, which doesn’t sound as scary, but in fact, is the same issue that faces women. In reality, it can be much worse as dogs and cats can have 10 mammary glands or more. We are reaching out to you this month to spread the awareness of what Mammary Gland Tumors are, what the symptoms are, the treatment options, and how to prevent it.
Mammary Gland Tumors affect intact female dogs and cats, that is to say, dogs and cats that have not been spayed. They also occur in pets who are spayed later in life. These tumors can affect any of the mammary glands, or breasts, in our pets. There are several kinds of mammary gland tumors. What causes them is unknown, though hormones are believed to play a role in their development.
Signs of mammary gland tumors include firm lumps in the tissue around the nipples, open sores on the skin, swelling and inflammation as well as discharge in some cases. We are recommending the same thing as human health professionals: perform a simple exam on your pet once a month. Turn your pet’s favorite belly rub into a health check!
The treatment is “simple”: surgically remove the tumor. There are no widely accepted chemotherapy or radiation therapy programs available for the treatment of mammary gland tumors at this time. It is also recommended to have a biopsy done on the tumor to see if it is cancerous. Not all of them are.
Here is what most of you are probably asking: How I can prevent my beloved pet from getting them? The answer to that is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is to spay your pet. The complicated part is the question of when to spay. New studies suggest spaying large and giant breeds too early can lead to bone and joint issues later in life. However, mammary tumors in dogs are nearly 100-percent preventable if owners spay their pets prior to their first heat cycle. We also know that each heat cycle your pet goes through makes it more likely that your pet will develop breast cancer.
We can help you in making this critical decision about your pet’s health and wellbeing. Please call us with any questions or if you desire more information about our recommendations for your particular pet.
Please join us in celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month by spreading the word about our animal companions, too!