It's October again and as we all know breast cancer awareness is widely supported. However, we tend to forget that our beloved pets can also be affected by this disease. Breast tumors in dogs, or more commonly known as mammary tumors, affect more than a quarter of unspayed female dogs. Of those dogs that have mammary tumors about 50% of them will prove to be cancerous. Although male dogs can get mammary cancer too, it is not nearly as common.
Knowing the signs of mammary tumors in your dog, male or female, is extremely important. This type of cancer, as well as with many other cancers, has a higher chance of being treated effectively when it is caught early or within the first year. If you’re petting your dog and you feel a lump or lumps along their mammary chain, then you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. If a tumor is found by the vet, then surgery will need to happen to perform a biopsy to determine whether the tumor is cancerous or not. Other symptoms can include discharge from a mammary gland, ulceration or bleeding in the skin and swollen breasts. Other common symptoms that are associated with mammary cancer, as well as other cancers, include weakness, loss of appetite and weight loss.
There are some ways to try and prevent mammary cancer in your dog. The first is taking your dog for regular checkups at the vet. Spaying your dog within the first year or before their first heat cycle greatly reduces the chance of them getting mammary tumors in the future. The risk of developing a mammary tumor when spayed before the first heat cycle is .05%. It then increases to 8% after their first heat cycle and 26% after the second heat cycle. Obesity in puppies 1 year and under increases their chance of getting mammary tumors. And of course, feeding your dog properly and making sure they get exercise will help keep them healthier.
If you have any questions about mammary cancer in dogs or you’re worried about the health of your dog, you should speak to your veterinarian. Remember to know the signs of mammary cancer in your dog and to support breast cancer awareness.