Dog Articles - Canine Breast Cancer

Canine Breast Cancer

One of the great tragedies in life is the loss of a beloved family dog. 50% of dogs will contract cancer within their lifetimes. Canine cancer is the leading cause of non-accidental death in dogs. Canine breast cancer is extremely common--according to a study in Norway, canine breast cancer makes up approximately 53% of malignant cancers in female dogs… and it is highly preventable.

Canine breast cancer occurs in the mammary glands, usually of the female dog. Male dogs can develop canine breast cancer, but it is extremely uncommon. Dogs have between 3 and 5 pairs of mammary glands. A tumor most commonly occurs when a cell mutates and then multiplies, forming a mass of the mutated cells. Not all mammary tumors are life threatening; approximately 50% are benign and 50% are malignant. A benign tumor is little more than an internal growth and will not spread to surrounding tissue. A malignant tumor can spread to the surrounding tissues and often requires aggressive treatment to protect the health of your dog. The cause of canine breast cancer is not completely understood, however, it is believed that progesterone and estrogen (reproductive hormones) play a major part. This believed to be the reason that spaying drastically decreases the risk of canine breast cancer.

At Risk
Canine breast cancer usually occurs in unspayed female dogs. This is one of many, many reasons that it is so beneficial to spay your dog if you do not intend to breed her. Spaying your dog almost completely eliminates the risk of breast cancer. Many vets believe that spaying before her first heat is the most effective way to prevent this cancer. Read more about Why You Should Spay or Neuter Your Dog.

Adult dogs are significantly more at risk for canine breast cancer than other age groups. This cancer’s onset tends to occur between 5 and 10 years of age. As a dog ages, her risk of developing breast cancer increases.

It appears that dachshunds, cocker spaniels, poodles and terriers are more prone to canine breast cancer than other breeds. Some vets believe to have determined that Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, and Nordic breed dogs (including the shar-pei, the Eskimo dog, the sptiz, and the ainu) have a lower survival rate.

-Masses or lumps felt in the mammary glands.
-Swelling in the mammary area.
-Bruising of the skin in the mammary area.
-Change in Odor.
-Bleeding or discharge from the mammary area.
-Difficulty breathing.
-Lack of appetite.
-Weight loss.
-Inability to exercise.

Upon finding a lump, the vet will most likely biopsy growth to find out if it is mammary cancer, they will also perform a physical exam and chest x-ray. The diagnosis of canine breast cancer can also be determined through urinalysis, abdominal ultrasound, blood tests, and abdominal x-rays.

Surgery is the most common treatment for canine breast cancer. The extent of surgery and the amount of tissue that must be removed depends on number of tumors and how far they have spread. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy may also be used as a follow-up to ensure that no microscopic cells continue to spread. Natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathic formulations and other supplements are also used. They cannot remove or halt the growth of cancerous tumors, but they are believed to strengthen the immune system to help the dog stay healthy through treatment and improve the chances of survival.

Read more about Canine Cancer Prevention.

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