Dogs and Cats Not Immune to Breast Cancer

Our Animal Companions Can Develop Mammary Cancer,
Too. Veterinary experts say dogs and cats are not immune
to breast cancer.  With all the grooming, feeding and
playtime considerations that come part and parcel with
caring for a dog or cat, breast cancer concerns may be far
from the minds of their owners.

In fact, cancer is the No. 1 natural cause of death in older
pets. But with a little know-how, animal owners can help
catch tumors before they become deadly. It's a fairly
common cancer, especially in unspayed female dogs and
cats. Some researchers feel that it's important for owners
to spay female animals before the animal first goes into
heat, because each following heat cycle increases the risk
of developing the cancer.

Pets with mammary cancer follow basically a similar type of
treatment and recovery as humans with breast cancer.
However, pet tumors are often not discovered until later,
when the cancer has reached a more advanced stage.
About half the mammary tumors that dogs develop are
noncancerous. In cats, however, 90 percent of mammary
tumors are cancerous. Vets say that these types of tumors
closely follow the model of more aggressive forms of
human breast cancer.

And cancer in a pet, in some cases, may provide owners
with an "early warning system" of sorts. The age-adjusted
rate of cancer is actually higher in dogs and cats than in
people. Pets have genetic factors, but they also live in a
more polluted environment, and they have passive smoke
exposure.
Part of the problem may be the toxins that find their way
into the air, water, and human households, where pets
also live. Because humans and animals share the same
environment, some animal cancer experts say that our
pets may provide a good indicator of the risks of cancer
around us.

We should really be monitoring pets with tumors
closely.Environmental problems are the same for animals
and people. We can find cancer in our pets sooner due to
their shorter life spans, so we may be able to use them as
models.

The most important message from vets is to spay female
animals before they go into heat. In addition to this,
however, there are other ways you can help your pet.

Pet owners should also take their animals to a veterinarian
for an annual physical exam, but in the meantime, they can
also check their pets manually.

Careful inspection, with both eyes and hands, of an
animal's mammary glands can mean earlier detection and
more successful treatment of mammary cancer.
If any firm mass or red areas are present, then the pet
should be evaluated by a veterinarian. The average age
that these tumors are found is about 10 years in both the
dog and cat.

The most common signs of cancer in small animals include
abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow, sores
that do not heal, weight loss, loss of appetite and bleeding
or discharge from any body opening.
Pets with cancer may also give off an offensive odor, have
difficulty eating or swallowing, show a hesitation to exercise
or a loss of stamina, display persistent lameness or
stiffness and have difficulty breathing, urinating or
defecating. An owner should take an animal to a clinic if
they notice any of these signs.

                                                                                       Courtesy: ABC News
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