What National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Means for your Pets

PetMD Editorial
Updated: June 14, 2018
Published: October 31, 2011
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This year's Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close today, but for those who are dedicated to the cure, the crusade never ends. The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) organization celebrated "25 years of awareness, education and empowerment" this year, and it seemed that nearly everyone donned their bright pink ribbons in recognition of those who have been affected.

Some wore a ribbon in remembrance of a lost mother, grandmother, sister, or spouse. Some wore it to celebrate the successful treatment of their cancer -- a right to call themselves survivors. Still others, who currently suffer from terminal breast cancer, wore it to increase awareness in the hopes of preventing future generations from suffering the same fate. And there’s yet another reason to rock pink and show support for breast cancer awareness: Pets, too, can be afflicted with the same plague.

Breast cancer -- more commonly referred to as mammary gland cancer by veterinarians -- is the second highest cause of cancer found in cats and dogs. Of mammary tumors found in female dogs, 41-53 percent are found to be malignant, while a whopping 85 percent of mammary tumors are found to be malignant in cats. Cats and dogs -- both male and female -- commonly have five pairs of mammary glands extending from the arms to the groin area. Veterinarians recommend regularly petting your pet on the stomach or chest area and informing them immediately if you happen to discover a lump.

With early detection, around half of dogs treated with surgery will be cured of the cancer. The cost of surgery to remove these tumors can range from $300-700.

Cats are often not as fortunate, however. Even after a successful mastectomy, metastasis has proven to be the grand killer -- though according to many experts, spaying cats and dogs early can largely reduce the risk of developing mammary gland cancer.

Pets also have a special purpose: assisting human cancer patients. They have been proven to relieve stress and help patients cope with the depression that is often accompanied with living with a life-threatening disease such as breast cancer. The simple act of petting or enjoying the company of a pet can help to release the natural stress-relieving hormones serotonin and oxytocin into the brain.

Image: Renee V / via Flickr

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