Approximately half of mammary tumors are malignant, says Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM, an integrative veterinarian in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and half have metastasized by the time they are initially diagnosed. But she adds that prevention of mammary tumors is possible in many cases. Therefore, keep an eye (or better yet, a hand) out for a lump on your dog. If you come across something that seems suspicious, play it safe and do not wait to go to your vet. Once examined, a licensed veterinarian can perform a biopsy if she deems it necessary.
The prognosis — the likely outcome of the disease — depends on factors such as tumor size, how far the cancer has spread in the body, tumor type and grade, and other pathologic changes seen in the tumor tissue. According to Dr. Osborne, dogs can live several years after the complete removal of some malignant mammary tumors.
Female dogs who have not been spayed have a seven-fold increased risk of developing mammary cancer compared to neutered females. Dr. Osborne says that there is data that demonstrates the preventative benefits of spaying prior to the second heat cycle. As with so many other canine and human ailments, obesity also plays a role. Studies show that obesity at one year of age tripled the incidence of mammary cancer in non-spayed dogs.
Treatment: Treatment of a malignant tumor usually involves surgery. Similar to breast cancer in humans, dogs will either have just the tumor removed or the entire mammary tissue, along with lymph nodes. Dogs’ mammary glands are different from humans in that they are outside of the muscle, so the surgery is not as radical. Unfortunately, unlike humans, chemotherapy and radiation in dogs are not successful, says Dr. Osborne. So once a mass is found, having surgery to remove it should happen as soon as possible. A healthy diet and supplements to boost the immune system have also proven to be very helpful.
Dr. Osborne is an author and a pioneer in anti-aging medicine and longevity research for pets. She created the original PAAWS: Pet Anti-Aging Wellness System. In addition to her private practice, she is founder and director of the American Pet Institute. Dr. Osborne’s approach highlights the importance of nutrition and utilizing holistic avenues in combination with traditional veterinary care and treatments.
She has appeared on Fox & Friends, The Today Show, and Discovery’s Animal Planet and has been featured in USA Today, The L.A. Times, InStyle, and the New York Daily News.