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Date:   09 June, 2013  
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles & rabbits
A Yorkshsire Terrier has 5 breast tumours
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
Date:   09 June, 2013 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129

Thursday, May 16, 2013

1422. Yorkshire is too light-weight for breast cancer surgery

"The big one grew very large only in the last 2 months," the lady owner had not wanted the 5 small breast nodules removed in July 2012 fearing that the dog might die on the operating table. The dog is now 13 years old.  

"Did my associate vet advise removal?" I asked.
"Yes, but since the dog is old and light weight, being 2.5 kg, I did not want the surgery done. What to do now?"

"Since the 5 nodules have now become large, with the biggest one growing so fast, it is likely that the nodules have had become breast cancers. Most likely the tumours may have spread to the lungs and an X-ray will be needed to find out  You have two choices. To operate or not to."

"What happens if I don't?" she asked.
"The biggest one will keep growing. The dog is licking it now as you can see a shiny bald spot. Soon there will be skin ulcers and bacteria infection comes in. The tumour grows bigger and smelly. The dog will stop eating as she is in pain."

"Spaying the dog when she is young will have reduced the chances of her getting breast cancer. It is not guaranteed but dogs spayed early seldom get breast cancers." I explained.

"What is your advice?"
"If you take the anaesthetic risk of the dog dying on the op table, surgery is advised. Short surgeries rather than a long one will minimise but not prevent anaesthetic deaths."

The owner wants to think about it for a day. Surgery to remove the largest breast lumps first and then another surgery to spay the dog to deprive the tumours of the hormones and to remove the 3 small ones further forward. However, if the lungs have cancers, that will be a separate matter."

The dog is now active and eating. If only the owner had agreed to removal of the small nodules 7 months ago and to spay the dog, this emotional situation will not happen.

"It is not a matter of whether the dog is 2.15 kg or 10 kg that is important in anaesthetic risks," I said. "It is the health of the dog and the use of safe anaesthetics and the duration of surgery. If a vet takes a longer time to operate as he or she wants to remove all 5 tumours at one surgery, it will take a much longer time and this is when the dog's heart may fail. Short surgeries minimise but do not eliminate the risk."   

The dog came for stitch removal 10 days after surgery. The owner was very happy as the dog was active and normal.

I noted that the left MG 5 tumour is consolidated and can easily be removed with excessive loss of skin and the need of a skin flap to close the wound.

The left tumour between MG 1 & 2 can be excised easily. Then spaying ought to be done at the same time.

However, I advised the owner that the dog might die on the operating table as she is old and took some time to recover from anaesthesia unlike young dogs. The owner decided not to operate. After all, the dog is 13 years old and towards the end of her life span.

I advised that should the left MG 5 grows fast and large, she would have to make a decision to operate or wait for the tumour to rot and ulcerate, leading to pain and infections.

TIPS:  Spaying the female dog when she is young will most likely not result in breast cancers during old age. It is definitely much cheaper to spay a dog than to operate on large breast tumours.

Recently there was publicity of actress Angelina Jolie having mastectomy and removal of her ovaries to reduce her chances of developing breast cancers later in life.  
tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)6181. Video: Breast tumours in old dogs - dilemmas


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