Many pet parents don't realize that pets can also suffer from breast cancer. In veterinary medicine, these tumors are referred to as mammary gland tumors, and are unfortunately one of the most common kinds of cancer in pets.
Cats generally have eight mammary glands, arranged in four pairs. Dogs usually have 10 glands arranged in five pairs, though the number varies with the size of the dog. Mammary gland tumors in dogs and cats can be benign or malignant. In cats, around 90% of mammary gland tumors are malignant. In dogs, approximately 50% are malignant.
How can mammary gland tumors be prevented in dogs and cats?
The most effective way to prevent mammary gland tumors is to have your pet spayed before she ever goes into heat. There is a myth that animals should have one heat cycle (or give birth to one litter) before they are spayed. In fact, dogs who are spayed before their first heat cycle are 2,000 times less likely to develop breast cancer! Cats spayed before their first heat are 91% less likely to develop breast cancer than unspayed cats. After just one heat cycle, the risk rises in both dogs and cats.
Detecting mammary gland tumors
Just like in people, performing mammary exams in dogs and cats is very important. Early detection is key. If your dog or cat allows, perform a mammary exam on her once a month. Gently feel the tissue under and around each nipple, "rolling" the tissue between your fingers. Very small mammary tumors often feel like a little BB pellet under the skin. If you feel even a tiny lump or firm area, bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately.
There is evidence that canine mammary tumors can become malignant over time, so prompt removal is essential.
Treatment of mammary gland tumors in pets
The main treatment at this time is surgical removal. Depending on the situation, your pet may need to have the affected mammary gland, several mammary glands, or all the glands on that side of her body removed. The tumor that is removed will be sent to the lab for a biopsy to tell you if it is benign or malignant. If the tumor is malignant, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary oncologist for consultation.
Though we humans are often told to watch our waistlines during this season of holiday cookies and pie, it’s also important to keep our pets’ weight in mind. While it may be tempting for you or your party guests to share some extra treats from the table with your dogs and cats, those extra calories can really add up.
Pet obesity is a serious health concern. According to Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital, obese dogs may develop respiratory distress and are more susceptible to heat stroke. Obese dogs are more prone to pancreatitis and diabetes, have more orthopedic problems and arthritis, and their immune systems often are compromised. Overweight cats have an increased risk of diabetes, liver problems and joint pain.
To ensure your pet’s weight remains on the healthy end of the spectrum during the holiday season, consider following these simple tips:
Remove the pet from the room during family mealtimes.
Feed your pet several small meals throughout the day.
Feed all meals and treats in the pet's bowl only.
Reduce snacks or treats.
Provide them with non-food related attention.
Check out our Pet Care section for more information about maintaining a healthy weight for your cat or dog.
As you gather around the table this Thanksgiving and give thanks for good food and good friends, don't forget the furry members of the family. Check out these easy-to-make, festive treats for your pets.
Pumpkin Pie Stuffing 1/2 cup canned or freshly cooked pureed pumpkin 1/2 cup yogurt or cottage cheese (only use plain) 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal 2 tablespoons low-fat graham cracker
• Put a spoonful of cooked oatmeal at the bottom of a Kong or other toy to seal the small hole. • Put two spoonfuls of pumpkin into the toy. Follow with a spoonful of yogurt or cottage cheese. • Repeat, layering the pumpkin and yogurt or cottage cheese until the toy is almost full. Then cram a few pieces of graham cracker into the end of the toy. Serve warm or frozen.
Pumpkin Pie Cookies (for cats and dogs!) 2 cups rice flour 1/2 cup oatmeal 1 cup canned pumpkin 1 cup grated carrots 1/2 cup unsweetened plain applesauce 1/4 flour for rolling
• In a food processor blend carrots, applesauce and pumpkin until smooth. • Mix rice flour and oatmeal in a bowl. • Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently until dough forms. • On a floured breadboard place dough and roll out to about 1/4 inch in thickness. • Use cookie cutter to cut out little cookies. • Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for seven minutes. • Flip treats over and cook for five more minutes. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly.
Special Note Remember, these recipes are treats and should not replace your pet’s regular meals. Please check with your veterinarian if your pet has special dietary needs or food allergies.
Selecting a veterinarian can be a daunting process for some. From convenience and price to competency and compassion, there are a number of factors that you may consider when deciding on a doctor for your pet.
Barbara Glover had many reasons to select the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) as her veterinary practice of choice. She has been an ASPCA adopter and a volunteer for more than 10 years. She has been coming to the ASPCA hospital since 2006 because she trusts the doctors and staff to provide the best care for her special-needs animals.
In 2008, Barbara’s cat Leo had already received treatment for hyperthyroidism and was several months into treatment for small cell lymphoma when Barbara learned that Jazz, the love of her life, had cancer. She began a rigorous course of chemotherapy treatments for him, but knew that it was time to say goodbye a few months later when his mass continued to grow. Barbara says that when the time had come for Jazz, everyone at the ASPCA was so wonderful and so compassionate that saying goodbye to Jazz was one of the most memorable and touching experiences she ever had at the hospital.
Dr. Janice Fenichel, who has been treating Barbara’s cats for years, says Barbara is an amazing client. “She is always right on top of things,” Dr. Fenichel notes. “She is very aware and conscientious and follows through.” She also says that Barbara will go the extra mile for her pets, but knows when to make the hard call.
Barbara has had kitties with a wide range of special needs, including socialization issues, neurological conditions, hip laxity, heart conditions and blindness. Her current kitties—Serena (born with no eyes), Creamsicle (heart disease and a neurological disorder) and Pumpernickel (rear-limb weakness)—all receive buckets of attention from AAH’s staff on every visit, and it’s one of the reasons that Barbara keeps coming back.
When all is said and done, your choice of veterinarian simply needs to “feel right.” Whether it’s the way the staff greets you, or the way the nurse carries your pet into the exam room, or even the way the doctor is able to explain something frightening in a reassuring way, your veterinarian should not only be a medical expert, but a trusted partner in the care of your pets.
Looking for a trusted vet? To make an appointment at the ASPCA Animal Hospital, pleasefill out this formor contact us at (646) 259-4080.
Guest blog by Paris Permenter and John Bigley of DogTipper
Is Adopt a Senior Pet Month inspiring you to adopt a senior dog? If so—or if your dog is reaching senior status—you’ll find that many dogs enjoy spending their retirement years just like we humans do: on the road!
We enjoy traveling with our rescue dogs, Irie and Tiki, now six years old, and intend to continue traveling with them as they mature. Healthy senior dogs can enjoy an active lifestyle that includes exploring new destinations.
Regardless of your dog’s age, you’ll want to do plenty of planning to keep your dog comfortable and safe. Preparations we always take include:
Bringing the comforts of home. A cushioned dog bed is especially important for older dogs to keep pressure off of joints as they ride.
Packing for success. Tummy troubles are no fun on the road. We help avoid stomach stress by packing our dogs’ usual food and treats.
Planning, not over-planning. We plan hotel stays and attraction stops, but we don’t try to stick too closely to a timetable. It’s important to leave plenty of time for frequent bathroom breaks, especially for seniors, and for walks to just sniff around and enjoy the new destination.
Preparing for problems. We pack a list of veterinarians along our route and at our destination. We plan for more routine issues including potty accidents. Along with paper towels and waste bags, we carry a urine remover like Rug Doctor Urine Eliminator™. (Rug Doctor also supports the ASPCA!) Thanks to quick cleanups, we’ve never lost a pet deposit on a hotel stay.
Perhaps the best preparation we make is to slow down and anticipate the pleasures of traveling with our canines. After all, taking time to stop and sniff the roses is what travel’s all about—regardless of our age.
Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the publishers of the award-winning DogTipper.com. The authors of 32 pet and travel books explored the Lone Star State with their dogs Irie and Tiki to fetch dog-friendly destinations for their latest book: DogTipper’s Texas with Dogs. Follow Paris and John on Twitter.