It’s October! For many of us that means leaves are turning, the lattes are getting pumpkin spiced, and Halloween decorations are going up. For animal rescue folks, October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month – but that’s not what we’re here for today.
Today we talk about October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Many of us have been touched by breast cancer, even if only tangentially. Everyone is familiar with the fight women (and men) go through after being diagnosed, but very few people are aware that our canine and feline friends can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. So, here at Karma Cat + Zen Dog Rescue Society, October is Pet Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
Fast Facts About Pet Breast Cancer
- Let’s begin with the basics. Dogs and cats have eight breasts, or mammary glands, lined up in two sets of four, one each side of their bellies. Each mammary gland is connected to lymph nodes, corresponds to a nipple, and produces its own milk supply.
- Sex hormones are the biggest risk factor – breast cancer risk is reduced by 91% for cats spayed before six months and by 85% for cats spayed before one year. Spaying after two years of age has no effect on risk reduction. For dogs, risk is reduced by 99.5% when spayed before the first heat cycle, and by 92% after the first heat cycle. Yet another great reason to get that puppy or kitten spayed! Obesity at a young age is also a risk factor for dogs to develop breast cancer.
- Generally 85% of feline mammary tumors are malignant (bad!). Canine mammary tumors are malignant 50% of the time. This means early diagnosis and treatment is key.
- The most common treatment is surgery, with radical unilateral or bilateral mastectomy the most successful.
- Prognosis for recovery depends mainly on tumor size and type of surgery performed. Even with conservative surgery, 66% of cats have tumor recurrence. For dogs, even malignant tumors are rarely invasive and fatal.
- As with humans, males of both species can get breast cancer too, but it is much rarer.
- Symptoms to watch out for include lumps, discharge from the nipple, sores that won’t heal, and weight loss.
- Siamese breeds represent 34% of affected cats while Persians represent 16% of the affected population. Poodles, dachshunds and spaniels are breeds most commonly affected.
- The mean age that feline breast cancer presents is 10-12 years, however Siamese breeds have a mean age of 9 years. Dogs most often develop cancer between 10-11 years of age.