Breast Cancer Awareness For Our Four Legged Friends

While breast cancer awareness month for people has just kicked off this month, it’s important to realize that we humans aren’t the only ones affected by the disease.  Here are some great facts about breast cancer in dogs and cats.


Many people don’t realize that pets can also suffer from breast cancer. Mammary gland tumors are common in dogs and cats, especially those that aren’t spayed or were spayed late in age.

Mammary exams for pets are important and early detection is key. Once your dog or cat is five years old, perform a mammary exam monthly. Gently feel the tissue under and around each nipple, “rolling” the tissue between your fingers. If you feel even a tiny lump, bring your pet to the veterinarian.

Dogs are particularly prone to breast cancers. Their bodies are not designed to cycle continuously without nursing pups. With every heat cycle their bodies go through a sixty day hormonal pregnancy regardless of whether they breed or not. This hormonal cycle continuously stimulates the mammary tissue for at least four months of each year. The constant stimulation leads to very high rates of cancer. Fortunately, 99% of  canine breast cancer can be prevented by spaying young dogs.

• 25% (1 in 4) of un-spayed female dogs will get mammary cancer
• Most common in older female dogs
• Less than 50 percent of canine mammary tumors are malignant
• Spaying a dog before their first heat will reduce the chance of breast cancer to almost zero.
• Most “at-risk” breeds: poodle, Brittany spaniel, English setter, pointer, fox terrier, cocker spaniel, Boston terrier
• Diagnosis: affected area will be red, swollen, feverish, and painful to the touch
• Early detection/prompt treatment can successfully treat even serious tumors. Look for small, firm pea-sized lumps in the breast tissue.
• Surgical removal is the first treatment method and chemo is sometimes a secondary treatment, depending on the severity of the tumor

While breast cancer is less common in cats, it does occur. Like in dogs, the risk is also drastically reduced when cats are spayed. Just like in people, reproduction and nursing reduces the risk of breast cancer in intact dogs and cats.

• Less common in cats than dogs, 1/4000 will have mammary cancer
• Early spaying is the best prevention and also if a cat has had kittens they’re less likely to get it
• Around 90 percent of feline mammary tumors are malignant
• Siamese cats and cats over the age of 10 are the most prone to mammary cancer
• Diagnosis: affected area will be painful to the touch, swollen, infected, and the cat may have a fever
• Surgical removal of the tumor and aggressive chemo is the recommended treatment, however mammary cancer is usually fatal in cats

Great strides have been made in the treatment of cancer in pets. Many pets can be cured completely. All pets should see their veterinarian twice a year for a thorough physical examination and any new lump should be checked as soon as it is noticed. A simple needle aspirate can frequently differentiate between harmless masses and those that should be removed. Just like in people, cancers that are detected and removed early have the best chance of being cured.

Raising money for cancer research has the potential to benefit both pets and people. Many types of cancers occur in multiple species. Frequently, promising treatments and medications are used to treat cancer in animals long before they get formal approval for use in people. Treatment of pets in a clinical setting allows veterinary oncologists to report adjustments that improve outcomes or quality of life. The adjusted protocols can be used by human oncologists to benefit people with cancer.

So throughout all the marathons this month make sure you’re marching for all survivors and patients whether they have two legs or one. Happy Breast Awareness Month!

~ Special Thanks to PurinaCare &


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