Breast Cancer for Pets?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

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.  Every October the team at Veterinary Village helps to spread the awareness of what Mammary Gland Tumors are, what the symptoms are, the treatment options, and how to prevent them.


What Are Mammary Gland Tumors?

Mammary Gland Tumors affect intact female dogs and cats, that is to say, dogs and cats that have not been spayed.  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. Cats are not immune to mammary gland cancer, though statistics of incidence vary depending on the study. Generally speaking, mammary gland cancer occurs less often in cats than in dogs. However, studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the mammary tumors in cats are malignant. The malignancy rate for mammary tumors in dogs is 50 percent.


What Symptoms Should I Look For?Pink Paw

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!


What is the Treatment for Mammary Gland Tumors?

The treatment is simple: surgically remove the tumor.  There are no widely accepted chemotherapy and 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 since not all of them are.


How Can I Help Prevent Mammary Gland Tumors in My Pet?

Here is what most of you are probably asking: how I can prevent my beloved pet from getting Mammary Gland Tumors?  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.  There are health benefits to leaving pets intact, for example, spaying a dog that's less than a year old is believed to increase its risk for developing several cancers as well as hypothyroidism, obesity, urinary incontinence, hip dysplasia, and cruciate rupture.  However, in contrast to humans, mammary tumors in dogs are nearly 100-percent preventable if owners spay their dogs before age 2. At Veterinary Village we think spaying needs to be discussed with all clients, both the risks and benefits. For more information on why we like to discuss the proper age to spay your pet please see our page The Spay and Neuter Controversy.


If you are ever concerned that your pet may be developing a mammary gland tumor please contact us and schedule an appointment!