Things can go awry in any species. Although goats don’t get breast cancer in exactly the same way that humans do, there can still be disorders that result in surgical removal of their mammary glands. Recently, I had a goat patient that arrived for evaluation of an enlarged, painful udder. The goat was not currently pregnant, nor had she ever been bred, and yet one side of her udder was producing a milky liquid.
This goat was suffering from a precocious udder, an inappropriately enlarged mammary gland in a non-lactating animal. Without proper management of the underlying cause, the udder will continue to fill with milk and could become infected, causing pain and discomfort.
During our physical exam, we confirmed that she did not have an infection and conducted a California Mastitis Test on fluid from her affected mammary gland. We then checked her uterus by ultrasound, as some uterine cancers result in hormone production that causes the udder to become enlarged. When we performed the ultrasound, we saw that her uterus was enlarged and fluid-filled. It is likely that her uterus was producing progesterone, which was unnecessarily signaling to her udder that it needed to produce milk even though she was not pregnant.
Because her enlarged udder was causing her pain and getting in her way, we determined that it was best if it was surgically removed by performing a mastectomy, aka a mammary gland removal. Once she recovered from surgery, we would administer hormones to drain the fluid collected in her uterus so that we could see it better on ultrasound and then determine if she would require removal of her uterus as well.
The mastectomy went well and she recovered extremely quickly! Hopefully, the hormones and analysis of her udder via biopsy will help us to decide the best steps to take as we continue to help her feel as comfortable as possible!