Monday, October 19, 2015

Screen Your Pets for Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It's a topic that hits close to home for me losing two loved ones to this disease in just the past couple of years, one of them being my mother this past December. We all hear of people who have had breast cancer and beat it, and it might be easy to think "that could never happen to me or someone I love".


Because it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want to teach pet owners how to be aware of breast cancer in their pets. The other loved one that I lost to breast cancer was my cat, Kitty Kitty Meow Meow back in 2012. Yes - pets get breast cancer too.

Just the other day, I tweeted out something about Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Twitter. Someone replied that they had no idea it could happen to pets too, but it does. Here's how you can help prevent and identify breast cancer in your pets.

Breast Cancer Prevention in Pets

Dogs, cats, rats, and other kinds of pets can get breast cancer, which is more commonly called mammary cancer or a mammary tumor. Most affected are females, but males could certainly get breast cancer too. 


One of the best ways to prevent breast cancer in your female pet is to have them spayed. Spaying a female animal to prevent breast cancer is just one of the benefits to having the procedure done. The younger you spay your pet, the less likely they are to contract breast cancer later on in life. 

For example, a dog who was spayed at 5 years old is far more likely to get breast cancer than a dog who was spayed at 4 months old. 

Screen Your Pets for Breast Cancer

There are no mammograms for pets like there are for people. But, it's still easy to screen your pets for breast cancer on a regular basis. Here's what you can do:
  • Each month, give your dog an exam. All you need to do is feel around their belly and chest for any unusual lumps and bumps. Mark your calendar for special belly rubs each month. 
  • If you find a strange bump, call your vet and schedule an appointment to have it checked out. It's better to be safe than sorry later on. 
  • Your veterinarian will be able to aspirate the lump to get a better idea of what it might be. Aspirate is a fancy word for inserting a needle into the lump and pulling out cells to look at under the microscope. Many lumps are fatty and usually not a cause for concern. 
  • From there, your vet can advise you on what you should do next and if surgery is recommended. If a pet does have a mammary tumor, a full mastectomy may be recommended. This is the full removal of all the mammary glands of the animal. 
  • Mammary tumors in animals are extremely aggressive. If you've missed a lump or bump on your pet, but notice an ulceration on their belly please have it checked. This is what end stage mammary tumors look like and trust me - they are not pretty. 
Taking your pet in to see the veterinarian at least yearly is also a good way to catch any lumps or bumps you might have missed on your own. This is part of the reason why vets recommend an Annual Check-Up. 

Breast Cancer Awareness for pets really is that simple. You just need to be aware! Get out your calendar, mark it for monthly mammary checks, and you'll be good to go. Catching it early on is best. 

If you have any tips to add, please leave them in the comment section below. 

19 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry you lost your mother and your kitty to breast cancer. :-( My human lost a really good friend about ten years ago to breast cancer - she was only 38, and had just gotten married to a fellow cancer survivor. I was spayed at only five months, which has already greatly reduced my chances of getting it.

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    1. Thanks Summer. It's so sad to hear how many others are affected by it. Definitely more than I would have ever thought. Good for you being spayed young!

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  2. I had no clue that this is possible now too... it's a good idea to be on the safe side... I'm so sorry that this kind of big C still takes so much lifes...

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  3. Excellent information to share, Miss Ann. Thank you. Everyone should check their pets as well as themselves. We are sorry you lost some loved ones to breast cancer.
    Oz

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  4. Thank you for the valuable information, Ann. I am so sorry again about your mom and your kitty. A friend of mine also had a kitty who had breast cancer. Thankfully, removing her mammary glands did the trick for her.

    I really should mark my calendar to examine both myself and my kitties - thank you for reminding me. I will

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  5. I am very sorry about your mother. This is an excellent post. I worry about my cats because most didn't get fixed until I rescued them and they were older.

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  6. I'm so sorry for your losses to such a horrible disease. I think about it often as well because my kitties have always been rescues and not spayed until they were adults.

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  7. I remember when you lost you mom, Ann. So very sad! I didn't know pets could get it too! We had a cat when I was growing up and she died of skin cancer. It is always wise to be careful both humans and pets to make sure these things can be caught early if possible Hugs Caro x

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  8. Yep, Mom checks us girls regularly for any odd lumps or stuff. Very important.

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  9. I'm so very sorry, Ann...my heart goes out to you on the loss of your mom and your kitty. :-( Cancer is so horrible. But you are fighting back by spreading the word and educating so many pet parents about mammary cancer in pets, a disease that many people don't even realize their pets can get! Thank you for this great post, hopefully it will save many lives. <3

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  10. Such an important post and breast cancer is scary regardless of the species.

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  11. You're right...people don't expect cats or dogs to get breast cancer but they do. Thanks for posting on this important topic.

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  12. Such an important post. So sorry you lost loved ones to breast cancer. It makes you more aware, but you wish there was more you could do. And sharing this advice may help lives, which is an awesome thing to do.
    --Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

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  13. Better yet, screen your dogs entire body. Breast cancer is not the only one your dog can get.

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  14. Great post! This is something I'm sure many people are unaware of. I don't think my vet really checks the dogs for lumps when they go, unless I ask him about a certain one. So it's something I always try to check the dogs for on my own.

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    1. Thank you, Jan. The vet should kind of feel around at least a bit, but even they miss things. I used to point things out to vets all the time that they missed, like lumps or fleas. Once, even lice on a guinea pig. Definitely good to do it yourself too!

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  15. My sister had a dog develop breast cancer. She was treated, and survived. Until then, i did not know it was possible.

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    1. Well, that's awesome. That she survived, that is. Most of the cases I saw were already in bad shape and the owners could not afford much expensive treatment unfortunately :( They truly are some of the worst tumors I've ever seen.

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  16. I learned valuable information today, thanks so much for sharing.

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Thank you for your comments!

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