Vet Confidential


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2 posts from November 2009


Darlington Holiday Fundathon!

Protect Your Pet's Health & Help Shelter Animals!


Recently, I learned about the plight of animals in Darlington, South Carolina. Overwhelmed by the numbers of dogs and cats in their care, the Darlington County Humane Society is battling food shortages for the shelter animals, inadequate space, difficulty providing proper medical care, and other critical challenges. 

Darlington Matilda 

Matilda, a Darlington resident

Barbara Tilton, a volunteer who is doing amazing work to aid the animals of Darlington, shared some heartbreaking truths with me. She explained that the shelter has no budget for pet food, relying entirely on donated food; dogs at the shelter became emaciated due to being fed only one cup of food a day no matter their size or breed. When cat food runs out, the cats are given dog food, which most reject and go hungry. She showed me photos of the dogs with heartworm and other diseases waiting patiently for treatment. Barbara and the other heroes of Darlington K-911 and the Darlington Rescue Team are working heroically to help these animals, but they need our help.


Mulling over what could be done, I decided to put Vet Confidential to work and the Darlington Holiday Fundathon was born. I figured, people need holiday gifts, and the Darlington animals need funding, so for every copy of Vet Confidential: An Insider's Guide to Protecting Your Pet's Health sold between November 15 and December 15, a donation in the amount of author royalties will be made (and if you click on the book title above to purchase, Amazon will make a donation to Darlington as well). A consumer’s guide to health care for pets, the book makes a great present for animal lovers and when giving it as a  gift to friends and family (or yourself!), you’ll give a gift to the animals of Darlington as well. 

A donor has also offered a bonus to make sure we really work our tails off: if we can sell 2,000 books in the first week, he'll make a $500 donation to Darlington!! So we really need to rock between November 15 and 22 - please help spread the word on your websites and Twitter!

Darlington Marco
  Marco has extensive burns that need treatment

The Darlington shelter will take in approximately 5,000 unwanted pets this year alone. The greatest need in their community is to teach about the importance of spay/neuter and to offer low cost spay/neuter. Sadly, in this disadvantaged rural area, many still believe all pets should have at least one litter and that the county shelter is an appropriate depository for these offspring. It is not uncommon for smiling, proud families to surrender whole boxloads of puppies or kittens; many times these same families have surrendered litters the year before. Education is critical but necessary funds are lacking. The shelter’s immediate needs include pet food, medication for the animals, funding to treat heartworm infected dogs (common in their Southern climate), and means to safely transport pets to out-of-state rescues. To read more about the animals of Darlington or make a donation, visit .

Darlington George
George lost his eye to infection


Breast Cancer in Pets (yes, they get it too!)

Many pet owners don't realize that pets also suffer from breast cancer. In veterinary medicine, the term that is used is mammary gland tumors. These tumors are common in dogs and cats who are not spayed or who were spayed at a later age.

Cats generally have 8 mammary glands, arranged in 4 pairs. Dogs usually have 10 glands arranged in 5 pairs, though the number varies with the size of the dog. Mammary gland tumors in dogs and cats can be benign (non-spreading, and cured by surgical removal), or malignant (having the potential to metastasize to other areas of the body and cause death). Cats and dogs differ in the proportion of benign versus malignant mammary gland tumors. In cats, around 90% of mammary gland tumors are malignant. In dogs, less than 50% are malignant.

How can mammary gland tumors be prevented in dogs and cats?

The best way to prevent mammary gland cancer in dogs and cats is through spaying at a young age. To prevent breast cancer, it is important that a pet is spayed before she ever goes into heat. There is an old myth that animals should have one heat cycle (or give birth to one litter) before they are spayed. This is not true! In fact, dogs who are spayed before their first heat cycle are 2,000 times less likely to develop breast cancer! After just one heat cycle, the risk becomes 16 times higher. Cats spayed before their first heat have 91% less chance of developing breast cancer than unspayed cats. After just one heat cycle, the risk rises in cats as well.

To be sure your pet is spayed before she goes into heat, it's best to have the surgery performed before a dog or cat is 6 months old. Around 4-5 months of age is a good time to have your pet spayed, as vaccinations are generally completed by 4 months (animal shelters often spay animals even younger than this, to be sure they are spayed before adoption).

Detecting mammary gland tumors

Just like in people, performing mammary exams in dogs and cats is very important. Early detection is key. For example, cats with mammary tumors that are removed when the tumor is less than 2 centimeters in size have a median survival time of 4 1/2 years, while cats with tumors removed that are bigger than 3 centimeters in size only have a median survival time of 6 months.

Once your dog or cat is 5 years old, perform a mammary exam on her once a month. Gently feel the tissue under and around each nipple, "rolling" the tissue between your fingers. Very small mammary tumors often feel like a little BB pellet under the skin. If you feel even a tiny lump or firm area, bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

Mammary exam cat

Treatment of mammary gland tumors in pets

The main treatment at this time is surgical removal. Depending on the situation, your pet may have only the affected mammary gland removed, several glands in the area, or all the glands on that side of her body. The tumor that is removed will be sent to the lab for a biopsy to tell you if it is benign or malignant. If the tumor is malignant, you may want to ask your veterinarian for referral to a veterinary oncologist for further advice and treatment.

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