Check Your Cat For Breast Cancer During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

During Breast Cancer Awareness month, I want to remind people to check their cats for breast cancer.  Unfortunately, ninety percent of breast tumors found in cats are malignant.  It spreads rapidly to the regional lymph nodes so it is vitally important to perform regular breast exams on your cat.  Early detection is your cat’s only hope.

Cats have eight sets of mammary glands, two thoracic glands between the front legs, two cranial abdominal found just behind the thoracic glands where the ribs end, two caudal abdonimal glands found on the abdomen and two inguinal glands found between the hind legs.  In my experience, the thoracic and inguinal glands are the most prone to cancer.  I also tend to see more of it in Siamese and related breeds. 

When performing an exam, pick a time when your cat is napping and relaxed.  Gently, move your finger tips from one gland to another feeling for any kind of irregularity.  While breast tumors often feel like little BB’s in dogs, tumors in cats range from thickenings of the skin to discrete lumps.  If any abnormalities are found contact your veterinarian immediately.  This is not a wait and see situation.

To prevent breast cancer in cats, have them spayed before their first heat cycle.  As in dogs, each heat cycle increases their chances of developing this disease. 

Check Your Dog For Breast Cancer During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Humans aren’t the only species to develop breast cancer.  During October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is important to check your dog for this invasive disease that may occur in females of all kinds.  Dogs have 10 sets of mammary glands starting high up in the chest with the final pair in the inguinal area (groin).  To check, gently feel each gland with your finger tips, searching for nodules, thickening or abnormal textures.  Pay special attention to the area under each nipple as I find many tumors in this area.  They often feel like BB’s or peas, usually firm to the touch.

Breast cancer in dogs includes firbroadenomas, mixed mammary gland tumors, adenocarcinomas and inflammatory carncinomas.  These inflammatory carncinomas are especially aggressive.  They often rupture right through the skin leaving a nasty, infected wound.  Most of the owners notice the blood and think their dog was bitten.  It is not until I palpate that we discover the true cause.  Thank goodness, only a small percentage of the tumors I see are of this type.    

To prevent breast cancer in dogs, I recommend spaying them before their first heat cycle (if there is no history of vaginitis).  Every heat cycle increases the chances of cancer because the tumor cells have progesterone and estrogen receptors on them.  One cycle increases the risk a little, but after that the odds go up quickly.  My professors taught me in school that twenty five percent of dogs that have had more than one heat cycle will get cancer.  It’s important to consider this fact when deciding to breed a female. 

The good news is that fifty percent of breast cancers in dogs are benign.  This is much better than cats who suffer with a ninety percent malignancy rate.  Early detection and removal is the best treatment, just like in humans.  So let’s use October to spread the word about breast cancer in all species.  Check, check and check again.  Early treatment for all of us is the key! 

Bed Bugs And Pets

With bed bugs sweeping across the nation, humans aren’t the only ones suffering  from these creepy little bugs.  Bed bugs bite pets as well as humans causing discomfort and skin irritation.  I want to emphasize that pets do not carry bed bugs so do not blame your dog, cat or other pet for infestations!  Bed bugs live their lives in dark secluded crevices.  When they get hungry, they crawl out from their protective lairs in search of a warm body for dinner.  They bite their victim for blood because it is high in protein.  After the meal, they crawl back to their home to let the food digest.

Since bed bugs do not live on humans or animals, you must look for them in the environment.  One telltale sign is blood spots on sheets or pillowcases.  Look at your pet’s bed as well.  Another sign is bed bug dirt (feces) which is similar to flea dirt.  The digested blood looks like small specs of pepper.  To differentiate between dirt and bed bug feces, place the dirt on a white paper towel and moisten with water.  Feces from bed bugs or fleas will turn red while dirt remains unchanged. 

If you suspect a bed bug infestation, I recommend using a professional pest control company to get rid of them.  Remember to tell them about pets so precautions are taken to protect your animals.  Birds with their air sac system used in respiration are extremely sensitive to pesticides.  To be safe, I recommend moving pets to a safe place for the treatment plus a few days afterwards while you air out the house.  Consider it “camp” for your pets while you deal with the bed bugs. 

For more information on bed bugs and pets click here  to go to an article discussing frequently asked questions regarding bed bugs and pets from the American Veterinary Medical Association .