October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A special time of the year for people to raise awareness about breast cancer issues. However, humans aren't the only ones affected by mammary tumors. Breast cancer in dogs accounts for 50% of canine tumors, with about half of those being malignant. In additon, older dogs have a greater chance for tumors to develop. The cause for breast cancer in dogs is unkown, but is considered to be hormonal or genetic.
Signs of Breast Cancer in Dogs
The signs of breast cancer include malignant tumors that have rapid growth, irregular shape, firm attachment to the skin or underlying tissue, bleeding, and ulceration. Like other types of cancer, once malignant tumors in dogs start to grow, the cancerous cells can spread to other parts of the body.
In order to detect breast cancer in our dogs, pet parents can do an at home exam. Carefully, run your hands along the entire underside checking for any lumps, masses, swellings or sore spots. If you suspect anything, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Treatment of Canine Breast Cancer
Treatment of a malignant tumor usually involves surgery. Similar to breast cancer in humans, dogs will either have just the tumor removed or the entire mammary tissue along with lymph nodes. Dogs’ mammary glands are different than humans in that they are outside of the muscle, so the surgery is not as radical.
Canine Breast Cancer Prevention
The best way to greatly decrease the risk of breast cancer in female dogs is to spay them before their first heat cycle. This is the stage in a female's reproductive cycle which she becomes receptive to mating with males. Spaying can practically eliminate the chances of their dog developing mammary cancer.
Similar to humans, early detection is key to a successful outcome. During breast cancer awareness month, take this reminder as an opportunity to check your pet’s health.