Did you know that your dog could be a risk of getting breast cancer? The bad news is that breast (mammary) cancer in dogs is common, but the good news is that the disease can be treated successfully if caught early – the same as with humans. According to Pet Education, the most common type of tumor in female dogs is the mammary tumor – especially in (unspayed) dogs between the ages of five to 10 years-old. There are male dogs that do develop breast cancer and sadly, their prognosis is not good because this type of breast cancer is very aggressive.
Signs of Breast Cancer in Dogs
Similar to human breast cancer, mammary tumors in dogs can range in size. Per Pet Education, breast tumors in dogs often grow quickly with an irregular shape. These malignant tumors can also cause bleeding and ulceration. But just because your dog’s tumor does not exhibit these signs, it does not mean your dog is free from breast cancer as small tumors that have been present for a while can suddenly grow aggressively as well. As with most other types of cancer, once malignant tumors in dogs start to grow, the cancerous cells can spread to other parts of the body.
If you find a lump on your dog, do not wait to go to the veterinarian. It is always best to play it safe and have your dog examined by a licensed veterinarian who will perform a biopsy. Half of all mammary tumors in dogs are benign but do you really want to play guessing games when it comes to your dog’s health?
How Can I Treat Breast Cancer in my Dog?
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. The good news is that dogs’ mammary glands are different than humans in that they are outside of the muscle so the surgery is not as radical. Pet Education suggests that unlike humans, chemotherapy and radiation in dogs is not successful.
How can I Prevent Breast Cancer in my Dog?
The best way to prevent breast cancer in female dogs (bitches) is to spay them before they go into heat for the first time – just another benefit of spaying. By doing this, dog owners can practically eliminate the chances of their dog developing mammary cancer.
If you cannot afford to get your dog spayed, don’t worry; Houston’s Spay and Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) provides a free service for those that quality.
*This article was previously published by Bobbi Leder on the Houston Dogs Examiner web site.