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.