Dog breast cancer affects one in four unspayed female dogs, which makes it one of the most common canine cancers.

This disease is very much influenced by female reproductive hormones. If you have your female puppy spayed before she comes on heat for the first time, she has an almost zero risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

Diagnosis

It’s usually fairly easy to notice the signs of dog breast cancer.

Dogs love a tummy rub and most will happily roll onto their backs for you to scratch them. This gives you the perfect chance to have a good look at those mammary glands. Dogs usually have two rows of glands, with four or five in each row. They are usually soft and pliable, with no lumps and bumps. Take every opportunity to feel your dog’s mammary glands so you become familiar with what’s normal for her. Most mammary tumors develop in the glands closest to the back legs, so pay particular attention to that area.

Dog breast cancer is usually first detected as a lump or swelling in one or more mammary glands. Half of all mammary lumps in dogs are benign, so there’s no need to panic, but make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. There’s no simple way of telling whether a lump is benign or malignant, so a biopsy will need to be taken and sent to the laboratory for analysis.

Depending on the result of the biopsy, your dog may need to undergo further testing, including x-rays and ultrasounds. This is to check for any spread of the cancer to other parts of her body.

Prognosis

The outcome for dog breast cancer sufferers also varies. Larger tumors, or those that have grown very quickly,  have a poorer outcome than smaller tumors. If a tumor has spread either deeper into nearby tissue, or elsewhere in the body, the prognosis is worse.

It’s difficult to give an exact survival time for dog breast cancer, because individual dogs can respond differently to treatment. It’s possible for dogs to live with breast cancer for up to three years after diagnosis. The one exception is inflammatory mammary carcinoma. This is an extremely aggressive type of cancer, and even with treatment, the average survival time is only a few months.

You can protect your canine companion from dog breast cancer by spaying her before her first season. Unless you are a breeder, book her in for this potentially life saving surgery when she reaches 6 months of age.

By: Ginny Carroll

About the Author:
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