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Mammary Tumors in Dogs

Updated on April 20, 2009

The Importance of Early Detection of Breast Cancer in Dogs

Humans are not the only ones suffering from breast cancer on this planet. Dogs as well, can be victims of this potentially fatal disease. Just as in humans, prevention is the key to avoiding the disease or at least catching it in time for a better prognosis. While dogs are unable to check for lumps and look at their breasts in the mirror, it is ultimately, the owner's responsibility to pay attention to abnormalities or warning signs.

How to Prevent Breast Cancer

In dogs, spaying before their first heat drastically diminishes to almost 0% in dogs the chances of getting breast cancer. This is because the estrogen and progesterone hormones play a major role in making pets prone to breast cancer. The chances of getting mammary tumors significantly increases with the more heat cycles allowed.

Signs of Breast Cancer in Dogs

Mammary tumors in pets can be detected by an attentive pet owner. The key is to learn to tell the difference between what is normal from what is abnormal. Routinely palpating the mammary glands of a dog may help identify abnormalities. A gravel size lump under the skin may be felt at first, and if left to grow, it may enlarge very quickly and many times double in a matter of a month.

Malignant tumors tend to metastasize to the lymph nodes and ultimately to the lungs. Of particular concern are dogs exhibiting mammary tumors along with coughing and weight loss.

Dogs have 10 mammary glands. Each of these glands have given the opportunity, the potential to develop breast cancer. The condition is mostly seen in unspayed females (in males the disease is pretty rare) over the age of 5. Prognosis depends on how early the cancer is caught.

Dogs have 10 mammary glands

Diagnosis of Breast Cancer in Dogs

Just as humans, any suspected lumps in pets should be reported to a veterinarian. A biopsy of the tissue via fine needle aspirate would be necessary to individualize the nature of the growth. Of particular concern are large,fast growing lumps that may also have a tendency to ulcerate and bleed. Because, suspicious, fast growing large mammary lumps tend to metastasize, physical examination of the surrounding lymph nodes and a chest x-ray to rule out lung cancer, may be recommended.

Treatment of Breast Cancer in Dogs

The first step is usually a lumpectomy. This is a surgery to remove the malignant tissue. Often, the pet is spayed as well, during the surgery to further prevent hormonal swings. If the cancer has metastasized, chemotherapy may be used. The good news is that dogs do not have severe side effects from chemotherapy as humans do.


In dogs, only a biopsy may determine the nature of the tumor and how invasive the tumor is. Large tumors, fast growing tumors (usually larger than 1.5 inches), bleeding tumors and ulcerating tumors generally have a worse prognosis because of their tendency to metastatize.


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