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D2009-04

Dear Daisy Dog

I have two unspayed Schipperkes, a 14-year-old female and her 11-year-old daughter. The mom has mammary cancer, and I recently found a mammary mass on her daughter.

The daughter gets extremely anxious when separated from her mother, and I’ve been wondering: If I have to put the mom down, should I lay the daughter to rest at the same time?

Daisy Responds

I’m sorry your girls weren’t spayed, because unsterilized female dogs are at risk of mammary cancer. In fact, one in four females spayed after the second heat or not spayed at all develops the disease.

If a dog is spayed between her first and second heats, the incidence drops to eight percent. If she’s spayed prior to her first heat, her chance of developing mammary cancer is negligible.

Still, Daughter’s mammary mass might not be cancer. While half of mammary masses are malignant, it’s important to recognize that half are benign.

Benign masses are more likely to grow slowly, move freely and have normal overlying skin. Conversely, malignant masses tend to grow fast and invade -– and adhere to -– underlying body structures and the skin. The overlying skin can become ulcerated and bloody.

If Daughter’s mammary mass appears benign, she may have a normal life expectancy. To be sure, ask your veterinarian to biopsy it.

When our animal family members die, we dogs often are more resilient than you humans think. It wouldn’t surprise me if Daughter grieves the loss of her mother, overcomes her anxiety at being an only child and grows to accept her new status with the self-confidence that marks her breed.

You may be able to help her through the transition with some behavior modification and anti-anxiety medication. Talk with your veterinarian for specific information.

You also might consider adopting another dog to keep Daughter company.

Best wishes during this difficult time.

 

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