Dogs and Breast Cancer: 4 Tips for Making it Through

By Karin Krisher

While humans are the only species that put pink ribbon magnets on our cars to show support for breast cancer research and survivors, we are not the only species that experiences the disease. Mammary cancer in dogs is actually a fairly common occurrence; among unspayed female dogs the risk is 26 percent—three times the risk in women. (Canine Cancer Awareness) What can we, as animal lovers, do to help?

The most common tumor in canines is a mammary tumor, and the chances of a dog developing a second tumor are three times greater if it has had a first. The statistics are staggering and slightly off-putting. We know all about fundraising efforts and promoting awareness for human breast cancer, but less about canine cancer overall. Here are our four best tips for veterinarians and dog owners to take their own sort of action against canine breast cancer.

1.    Mark Your Calendars.

Early detection is key to survival. Cera Reusser, founder of Chase Away K9 Cancer, has designated the 14th of every month as “Check Your Dog Day.” To do a thorough check, writes Cera for Pet’s Best, do a “complete nose to tail exam. Go over them thoroughly, look in their mouths and their ears, feel all over their bodies for any lumps and bumps.” If you find even the slightest concerning abnormality, your pup should see a vet. It’s worth every second and penny.

2.    Know Your Facts.

As a vet, you have to do your research when something abnormal comes your way. But knowing your facts ahead of time can really speed the process along. For example, if you know that lung metastases are present in about 30 percent of mammary cancers, you’ll immediately know to fire up the x-ray machine and get a good picture of the dog’s chest. Doing some preliminary research on mammary cancer is a great way to get your head in the right place for these types of appointments.

3.    Tap Your Resources.

Both pet owners and vets should reach out to others when their pets or patients are faced with canine breast cancer. Chase Away K9 Cancer can help you find or organize great events to raise awareness, or simply provide you a healthy support network. Veterinarian friends might have seen a similar case and help you with some simple advice. Other animal lovers can be a great source of inspiration in a difficult time.

4.    Cut Your Risks.

According to webmd (with reference to the Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook), prevention is key—and so is starting early. “Spaying a female before the first heat cycle reduces her risk of breast cancer to less than 1 percent. If she is spayed after one heat period, her risk is still only 8 percent. After two heat cycles, however, there is no reduction in risk.”

Has your dog or patient been diagnosed with breast cancer? What tools did you use to help you get through? Tell us your story in a comment!