Tumors that develop in the mammaries of cats and dogs can be either benign or malignant. When malignant, the condition is called Mammary Carcinoma, or breast cancer. This disease is found predominantly in the female sex of the species, but it can develop in males in rare instances.
While surgical resection of a tumor in the breast of a canine tends to produce favorable results, the prognosis is not as positive for felines that develop this type of cancer.
Mammary Carcinoma and Canines
A canine’s risk of mammary carcinoma is significantly linked to whether or not the dog is spayed and when the spaying occurs. If the dog is spayed before her first heat (typically six months of age), then her chances of developing this type of cancer is just 0.5%. If the dog isn’t spayed until after her first heat, then her risk rises to 8%. But if the dog isn’t spayed until after her second heat, then her risk jumps to 26%. If the dog is not spayed, then she has a one in four chance of developing mammary carcinoma in her lifetime.
Although this type of cancer can develop in any breed of dog, some breeds are more predisposed to it than others. English Springer Spaniels, English Setters, Cocker Spaniels, Pointers, German Shepherds, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, and toy and miniature Poodles tend to be among the highest risk breeds. The most common sign of mammary carcinoma includes a palpable mass underneath the skin of the dog’s abdomen near the breast. In some cases, the mass may become ulcerated and painful. The pet may also suffer from weakness, weight loss, and a loss of appetite.
Mammary Carcinoma and Felines
Like in canines, spaying also plays a pivotal role in the risk level of felines. Cats that are spayed before they reach six months of age are seven times less likely to develop mammary cancer. In fact, spaying at any age can reduce the risk of mammary tumors by as much as 60% in cats. Although cats are less likely than dogs to develop mammary carcinoma, those that do usually suffer from the malignant version of the disease, and as such, it often has a fatal prognosis.
About one in 4,000 cats are affected by breast cancer, with the most common breeds being Domestic Shorthairs and Siamese. The mean age at the point of diagnosis is about 11 years. When a feline has mammary carcinoma, the mass will usually be firm and moveable, although in some cases, it may be fixed to the muscle. The cat’s first set of mammary glands tend to be the most at risk, and in half of the cases, more than one gland is affected. In addition to the physical mass, a feline may also exhibit a fever, lethargy, and swelling and pain.
What to Do if You Detect Symptoms of Mammary Carcinoma in Your Pet
If you notice a palpable or firm mass on the abdomen of your cat or dog, then you should take them to their veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian will perform a variety of tests, such as blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays, CT scans, and a biopsy to rule out any other potential causes, and to determine whether or not the cancer has metastasized.
How Is Mammary Carcinoma Treated?
In most cases, surgical removal of the tumor is the recommended course of treatment. Depending on several factors, the veterinarian may only choose to remove the tumor, or the tumor along with the surrounding tissue, lymph nodes, and mammary glands. Sometimes, chemotherapy treatments may be administered, but it is not a commonly used option.
After surgery, the pet will usually be in discomfort, so the veterinarian may prescribe pain medications. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s prescribed directions for administering the pain medication, in order to avoid any risk of overdose.
Diamondback Drugs offers a variety of pet-friendly formulations for treating mammary carcinoma and post-surgical discomfort.
How to Prevent Mammary Carcinoma in Your Pet
The most effective way to protect your pet from developing mammary carcinoma is to have her spayed before her first heat. Doing so will significantly reduce her chances of suffering from this painful cancer.
Author: Giano Panzarella