Sterilisation could save your pet’s life because it’s not just about preventing kittens and puppies; the longer a pet (male or female) remains unsterilised the higher their risk of cancers.
If you have a female dog or cat
Your pet is at high risk of mammary (breast) cancer if she is not sterilised before her first heat. This is the most common type of tumour in unspayed female dogs and in 85% of cases in cats, they’re malignant. Malignant tumours usually grow and metastasize quickly so it’s important to take your pet to the vet should you notice any lump on the abdomen.
Mammary cancer can spread to lymph nodes and even the lungs before the owner realises there are nodules or ulcerated masses in the mammary tissue.
Genetics and hormones play a big role in the occurrence of these tumours. Certain breeds are more predisposed: Miniature Poodles, Maltese Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Springer Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, English Setters, Pointers and German Shepherds.
Although it affects mostly female animals it can also occur in males and the prognosis in males is usually guarded.
Never ignore these lumps as early detection and surgical intervention might be the difference between life or death.
How do I prevent mammary tumours?
The best way to reduce your pet’s chances of contracting this potentially fatal disease is to spay her before her first heat. The risk of mammary tumours developing increases dramatically after each heat (oestrus) cycle that the pet goes through: from virtually zero if she is spayed BEFORE her first heat to 8% if spayed AFTER her first but before her second heat, to 26% AFTER her second and before her 3rd heat.
If only spayed thereafter, her chances are greatly increased.
This is why veterinarians normally recommend sterilisation of female dogs before their first oestrus, which is at about 5-6 months for smaller breeds and 6-8 months for larger breeds.
If your dog has lumps on her abdomen, get her to your vet as soon as possible. Early detection and surgical intervention might be the difference between life or death.
What’s the treatment for mammary cancer?
Treatment usually involves surgical removal of the tumours and if unspayed , sterilisation would be recommended. Your vet might also want to check for metastasis by doing x-rays of your pet’s chest and abdomen before surgery is done. During surgery all the mammary tissue needs to be removed as well as the regional lymph nodes. This will enhance survival and decrease re-occurrence of the tumours.
Your vet will send the tissue to a laboratory for histopathological examination as that is the only way to see if the lump was benign or malignant.
Chemotherapy is also an option but is not commonly used for this type of cancer.
For the 50% of tumour types that are classified as benign, surgery normally has a good outcome as the masses can be removed and if the dog is spayed at the same time, it will reduce further growth and development of more tumours.
If your pet is male
Testicular cancer is something you should worry about if your boy hasn’t been sterilised.
Testicular cancer can be completely avoided by castrating your dog. This is particularly important in cryptorchid dogs (dogs where one or both testes have not descended to the scrotum). The undescended testes are highly likely to become cancerous. Please check that your pup has both testes by 6 months. If not, please book him in for castration before it becomes a problem.
Castration also decreases the risk of prostate disease later in life.
TVT is an infectious disease that causes cancer in male and female dogs and is transmitted via mating. If your dog is castrated it virtually eliminates the risk for this disease.