Breast cancer, also referred to as mammary gland tumors, is relatively common in female dogs that haven't been spayed. Having your dog spayed before their first heat cycle significantly lowers their risk of developing breast cancer. It's not clear why some dogs develop the condition, but hormonal and genetic factors may play a part. Breast cancer can occur in any breed, but certain breeds, such as German shepherds, Yorkshire terriers, and pointers, seem to be more prone to developing the condition. Breast cancer cells can metastasize, meaning they can spread to other areas of the body, and the condition can be fatal without early diagnosis. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment approach for breast cancer in dogs.
Symptoms of breast cancer in dogs include the development of one or more palpable masses around the mammary glands and localized inflammation. Tissue around the mammary glands may degrade and clear or cloudy discharge may be present. Your dog may also be lethargic and lose their appetite, and they may become withdrawn and irritable.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet will diagnose your dog with breast cancer by taking details of their symptoms and conducting a thorough physical exam. Blood and urine samples will be taken to check for the presence of infection, organ health, and raised inflammatory markers. A biopsy of the mass will be taken and analyzed for the presence of cancerous cells, and this involves the vet inserting a needle into the mass and drawing out fluid. Your dog can have a biopsy carried out under local or general anesthetic. Diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or CT scan, will also be necessary to check the depth of the mass and determine if metastasis has occurred.
Your dog will require inpatient treatment initially, and the tumors will be surgically removed. If there's evidence of the cancer spreading to other areas, your dog may also require chemotherapy or radiation therapy. These treatments can lead to the development of some troublesome temporary symptoms, such as gastric upset, weight loss, and low mood, and your vet will support you and your dog during treatment by offering dietary advice and prescribing medication to ease treatment symptoms where possible. After treatment, your dog will require regular follow-up appointments to ensure there's no new growth of cancer cells, and they may undergo blood tests and diagnostic imaging during these appointments.
If your dog has any of the symptoms associated with breast cancer, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary suffering.
For more information, reach out to a local animal hospital.