Pet Health: Raising Breast Cancer Awareness for Pets
October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month is not only for people, but also for pets. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), cancer is the number one natural cause of death in pets. One cancer often disregarded is mammary gland cancer, or breast cancer.
The most important thing a pet owner can do to prevent this potentially terminal disease is to get their pet spayed and do it early. The likelihood of getting mammary (breast) cancer increases with the more heat cycles a pet goes through and the typical mammary cancer patient is an older pet who was spayed later in life. Spaying a dog before her first heat or a cat before one year of age will help decrease the potential for mammary cancer by nearly 100 percent.
Pet owners should do breast exams on their female dogs much like they would on themselves by checking for signs of firm lumps in the tissue around the nipples, ulcerated (raw) skin, swelling on or around the nipples and/or discharge from the nipples. This is especially important for people who have acquired older pets who have not been spayed or who were spayed later in life.
Diagnosis will typically include a surgical tissue biopsy, blood CBC/chemistry and urine testing as well as a chest X-ray to determine whether the disease has spread.
The cornerstone of treatment is the removal of the tumor(s), and referral to an oncologist.
Prognosis is dependent on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and lungs. However, breast cancer in pets is highly preventable by spaying one’s pet before the first heat cycle.
Learn more information about AHS’ low-cost spay/neuter and wellness public clinics.