How do you know if your Dog has a Mammary Tumor?, By Deborah Shores.

flickr image by Bahman Farzad

Canine mammary tumors are most frequently found in unspayed females and may be benign or malignant. Although mammary tumors can sometimes affect male dogs, it is far less common and often a more serious condition. There are some genetic predispositions found with mammary cancer patients. These breeds include Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, English Setters, German Shepherds, English Springer Spaniels, Maltese, and Yorkshire Terriers.

There are multiple types of mammary tumors. Some may arise from the epithelium that produces milk (simple mammary carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, or secretory carcinoma). Others may arise from the ducts (ductal carcinoma).Some tumors develop in the connective tissue between glands as well. 

What are the symptoms of Canine Mammary Tumors?

Symptoms of mammary tumors include one or more masses in the mammary gland region — many dogs develop multiple tumors. Some dogs may have loss of tissue on the surface of the skin above the tumor. This skin may also be inflamed. The tumor may be movable, as typically found with benign tumors, or fixed to the skin or body, often implying malignancy.  

With malignant cancer, some dogs may lose weight and muscle mass in the later stages. Some tumors may metastasize to the lungs, causing difficulty breathing, while others may affect the skin and cause skin issues.

What is the cause of Canine Mammary Tumors?

The cause of mammary tumors is unknown. Cancer is thought to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and overall health factors. Research shows that spaying your female dog greatly reduces the risk of developing mammary cancer, especially if the dog is spayed before her first heat cycle. However, spaying after the diagnosis of mammary tumors generally has no effect on the tumors.(1)

What is the typical treatment for Canine Mammary Tumors?

The most common treatment is surgical removal of the tumor. This may include a single lump or multiple lumps. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often used with other types of canine cancers, however they have not been proven to be effective with mammary tumors. Although some malignant tumors are fatal, most are treatable with surgical intervention. 

After treatment, dogs are discharged with a restrictive collar to prevent licking and biting of the wound, allowing it ample time to heal. Limiting and restricting activity and exercise is recommended. 

Are there Alternative Health treatments for mammary tumors?

There are several different ways to treat mammary tumors. Some may include incorporating mushrooms or herbs into your dog’s diet. Holistic veterinarians also have some success with using acupuncture or nosode therapy.  What is nosode therapy?  Nosodes are a form of homeopathy which incorporates pieces of the patient’s body (such as a piece of the tumor) into the remedy.(2)  If you live in North America, you can use the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s website to locate a holistic vet near you. 

Regardless of treatment option, if your dog suffered from a mammary tumor, it’s best to have your veterinarian check for reoccurrence every few months. 

  • Sorenmo, K., Shofer, F., and Goldschmidt, M. "Effect of spaying and timing of spaying on survival of dogs with mammary carcinoma." Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 14.3 (2000): 266-270.
  • Broadfoot, P. “Functional Foods and Regenerative Supplements.” Holistic Veterinary Medicine Club Symposium Proceedings. 2013. 

Dr. Deborah Shores is a graduate of Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has many years of experience working in animal hospitals and clinics from Virginia to South Carolina, treating mainly dogs and cats. She has a special interest in nutrition and holistic veterinary medicine and plans to pursue an acupuncture certificate at the Chi Institute in Florida. 

Leave a comment