While most people are aware that breast cancer is a serious disease among women, some may not be aware that it can be diagnosed in female dogs as well. “Mammary gland tumors are the most common tumors in female dogs,” says Pets webmd. “In fact, among unspayed females the risk is 26 percent… three times the risk of breast tumors in women.
” Mammary gland tumors have about equal chances of being either malignant or benign. Multiple tumors are common. Several sporting breeds, including Poodles, Boston Terriers and Dachshunds, are more likely to develop a mammary tumor. Fortunately, this is one of the most preventable types of cancer in dogs, since it rarely occurs in female dogs that were spayed before their first heat.
What are the Symptoms of Mammary Gland Tumors?
The most common sign of a mammary gland tumor in your dog is visible lumps in that area. These are some additional symptoms, according to VCA Animal Hospitals:
- Secretion of clear, milky or blood-stained fluid from the teat
- Inflammation and/or secondary infection
- Loss of weight, body fat and muscle
- Weakened immune system
- Shortness of breath
How are Mammary Gland Tumors Diagnosed?
If you notice a mass or lump on your dog’s mammary glands, immediately take her to your vet. Your vet will perform a chest X-ray to determine whether your dog also has lung metastases (tumors have spread to her lungs) before starting any treatments. According to Pets webmd, the next step would be for your vet to perform an ultrasonography to determine whether the pelvic lymph nodes are involved. Your vet will then biopsy your dog’s mammary gland tumor to see whether it is benign or malignant.
How Are Mammary Gland Tumors Treated?
The main treatment for mammary gland tumors is surgical removal of the cancerous tissue. Depending on the severity of the cancer and size of the tumor, it may be just a lump or a whole gland and surrounding lymph node that is removed. “If there are several tumors, your veterinarian may perform a ‘radical mastectomy,’ in which multiple glands and their associated lymph nodes will be removed,” says VCA Animal Hospitals.
While spaying at an early age can decrease the risk of mammary gland tumors, spaying at the time of tumor doesn’t adversely affect the dog’s condition. Additional treatment may be needed, depending on how severely the tumors have progressed. Some dogs may need to undergo therapy, though chemotherapy has not been proven successful with mammary gland cancer.
“New research is focusing on using certain enzymes to destroy tissue, gene therapy and inhibitors of new tumor blood vessel formation,” VCA Animal Hospitals notes. Additionally, you can give your dog a supplement containing reishi mushroom, which has the capability to boost your dog’s immune function, act as an anti-inflammatory and most importantly, fight canine cancer.