Do you have a female poodle, terrier, Cocker Spaniel, or German Shepherd dog? Is she ten to twelve years old? If you answered yes to either of these questions, your canine companion may be at higher risk for developing a mammary tumor. If your dog was not spayed before her first heat, her risk of mammary cancer increases with each succeeding heat cycle. Just as women are at higher risk of developing breast cancer than men, female dogs are at more risk of developing mammary cancer.
Factors involved in mammary cancer development
Some experts believe that our pets may be a good indicator of the cancer risks around us. Since they live in the same environments as we do, they come into contact with the toxins and pollutants that find their way into the air, water and households where they live. In fact, our pets may even be more susceptible to certain cancers than we are.
“The age-adjusted rate of cancer is actually higher in dogs and cats than in people,” said Greg Ogilvie , director of the California Veterinary Specialist’s Angel Care Cancer Center. “Pets have genetic factors, but they also live in a more polluted environment, and they have passive smoke exposure.”
So how can we limit their risk of developing mammary tumors?
Since mammary tumors are typically discovered later in dogs than breast tumors are in women, they are often in a more advanced stage of cancer. The prognosis for late stage cancer in dogs does not look good. This is why it is best to treat them right away – or to take measures to avoid the development of tumors, if possible.
If your dog is one of the high risk breeds – poodle, terrier, Cocker Spaniel or German Shepherd dog – it is important to have her spayed as soon as possible. Six months to one year old is the ideal age, although some dogs may experience their first heats before one year. With every heat cycle your dog goes through, she will be at greater risk to develop mammary cancer than a dog that was spayed before her first. Besides spaying, you can help reduce your dog’s risk of cancer by helping her lead a healthy life and feeding her good quality food.
Unfortunately, dogs are no more immune to cancer than we are. In fact, they may even be at higher risk. However, there are steps we can take to help reduce that risk in our pets so that they are able to live a long, full life.