Like humans, female dogs and cats can also develop mammary tumors, especially if they have not been spayed at the proper time, or were spayed after reaching 2 years of age. Spaying and neutering have many benefits for the pet population, and preventing the onset of cancer is just one of them.
Our Pittsburgh animal hospital is dedicated to promoting spays and neuters as proactive treatments that help prevent various diseases and other issues in pets. Take a moment to learn more about pet breast cancer and how to lower your pet’s risks.
How At-Risk is My Pet?
Your pet’s risk of developing breast cancer varies depending on how soon they are spayed. If your pet is:
· Spayed before their first heat cycle (about 6 months old), their risk of developing a tumor is about 0.5%
· Spayed after their first heat cycle, the risk is 8%
· Spayed after their second heat cycle, their risk is 26%
As you can see, the longer a pet goes without being spayed, the more rapidly their risk for breast cancer increases. Having your pet spayed at about 6 months of age (or whenever your veterinarian recommends it with regard for your pet’s health) should drastically lower their breast cancer risks.
Is Pet Breast Cancer Life-Threatening?
According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, more than 25% of unspayed female dogs will end up developing a mammary tumor in their lifetime, and about 50% of these are benign, while the other 50% are malignant. Luckily, few of the malignant mammary tumors found in dogs are fatal.
Unfortunately in cats, more than 85% of mammary tumors are malignant and likely to spread aggressively throughout the body.
What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Pets?
The most common signs of breast cancer in dogs and cats include:
· A noticeable mass felt under the skin of the abdomen is a sure sign of a mammary tumor
· Discharge from the mammary gland
· Broken skin (ulceration) over the mammary gland
· Breasts that are painful and swollen
· Loss of appetite
· Weight loss
· Lethargy and weakness
Can Breast Cancer Be Treated?
Pet breast cancer may be treatable, depending on when it is detected and whether your pet is a dog or cat. Treatment options include:
· Careful removal of the mammary tumor(s)
· Removal of the tumor(s) and the affected mammary gland(s)
· In cats, it is generally recommended to remove one or both sets of mammary glands and the local lymph node
· Chemotherapy is a possible option if it is recommended that you consult with a veterinary oncologist after your pet has had surgery