Veterinarian: Breast Cancer common in dogs; spaying nearly eliminates risk

EL PASO, Texas - October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and while the goal is to convince men and women to get screened, a veterinarian is raising awareness about breast cancer in dogs, which she said is more common than you might think.

Veterinarian Amy Starr owns Paws 'n Hooves Mobile Vet Clinic, and she says she sees it a lot.  Oftentimes, owners are surprised by the diagnosis, which is almost always in dogs that haven't been spayed.

"The comment we get a lot is, 'Oh, I've had dogs my whole life and I've never seen this,' but we see hundreds of dogs a week, and unfortunately, it's very common."

Breast cancer is scary, but in dogs, it's preventable.  Studies show dogs spayed before their "first heat" have a only .05 percent risk of developing mammary cancer, when compared to intact female dogs. This means the risk is almost completely eliminated by the surgery.

ABC-7 met up with Mindy Kline, who works at the clinic and recently adopted a dog named Lina. Lina's original owner brought her in with mammary cancer, but couldn't afford the surgery.  Rather than put Lina down, Mindy adopted her, paid for her surgery, and has given her a forever home.

"The moment I saw her, I fell in love with her," she said, holding her poodle/dachshund mix.  "She had little bows on and I couldn't say no.  I couldn't let anything happen to her."

Lina's surgery was rough. All of the mammary glands and nipples on one side of her little body were removed to get rid of cancerous tumors.  Recovery was intense and slow, but she's doing great now.

Dr. Starr says some people opt out of spaying to save money, or because they think it's invasive.  Starr reminds pet owners spaying not only helps control the pet population, but can also be life-saving.

"Even if they (the dogs) already have tumors, we can spay them and that, hopefully, will prevent them from coming back, especiall,  if they're benign," says Dr. Starr.

Just like people, dogs need monthly exams.  You can run your hand along their underside, and feel for lumps and bumps.  Most start out about the size of a pea, according to Starr.

Paws and Hooves Mobile Vet clinic is offering free breast cancer screenings for dogs through the month of October, and discounted spays and tumor removal.  

For more information, call  915-490-4849 or click here to visit its website.