Lumps and Bumps
Finding a lump on your dog can be terrifying, but it isn’t always cause for alarm.
When Mauja was only a year old, we found a small lump on her chest. My mind immediately went to the “c word”. After a mild panic attack and a visit to the vet, we found out it was nothing to worry about. Thankfully, the vet determined it was simply a lipoma.
What is a Lipoma?
A lipoma is one of the most commonly found lumps on a dog’s body. These masses are usually soft, rounded, and not painful for your dog. They typically appear just under the skin and are generally benign.
Most of the time, lipomas do not have to be removed. This has been the case for Mauja – her bump has stayed the same size and not caused her any problems, so we haven’t had it removed. Occasionally, lipomas can grow into very large fat deposits that are uncomfortable for the dog and must be removed.
Other Non-cancerous Lumps and Bumps
Sebaceous cysts typically arise due to clogged oil glands in the skin. These cysts are composed of dead cells and can contain a clear fluid. Oftentimes, these rupture without medical intervention and heal on their own. If the cyst becomes irritated or infected, your vet will help to determine the best course of action.
While sebaceous adenomas are not the most common type of lump found on dogs, they are the most commonly biopsied. Like the cysts, these growths are rarely problematic once surgically removed.
Warts, infected hair follicles, and blood blisters are other common, non-cancerous bumps. These bumps often cause discomfort to your dog, but they have less of a health impact than cancerous growths.
These lumps can be malignant or benign and include mammary gland tumors, mast cell tumors, cutaneous lymphosarcoma, malignant melanoma, fibrosarcoma, and many other types of tumors.
Diagnosing Cancerous Lumps
There are four main methods for determining the type of lump that has been found on your dog.
- Impression Smears – Some masses are easier to collect cells than others. If the mass can be examined through an impression smear, your vet will collect cells by pressing a microscope slide to the raw surface of the mass. Sometimes, your vet will be able to diagnose the smear immediately, but most likely the sample will be sent to a pathologist for diagnosis.
- Needle Biopsy – In some cases, the lump can be analyzed through a simple needle biopsy rather than by complete removal. Your vet will insert a sterile needle into the lump and vacuum out cells for examination. As yucky as this procedure sounds, it is usually a painless one.
- CT Scans – If analysis of internal organs is needed, a CT Scan will be performed to help determine if the lump has gone deeper into the body.
- Radiography – Similarly to CT Scans, radiography will be used to determine the state of internal masses.
Treatment will vary based on the age/health of the dog and the severity of the tumor.
- Surgery – Surgery will be completed in order to remove a lump that causes pain or discomfort or one that has been deemed dangerous.
- Chemotherapy – Typically, chemotherapy is done in conjunction with surgery to ensure the mass has been totally removed. It allows the vet to stay ahead of the tumor to hopefully achieve a cure.
- Radiation – If the tumor does not have well-defined borders or is spreading rapidly, radiation will be done to help save your pet’s life. As with chemotherapy, surgery typically accompanies radiation.
Most importantly, each lump must be treated individually to ensure the best course of action for your dog.
In cases where vigilance for tumors is part of the animal’s care, such as in animals where a malignant tumor has been removed and the veterinarian wishes to keep abreast of the stage of disease, then every lump should be submitted for histopathology. In other cases where the clinician is sure of a benign diagnosis such as lipoma or a wart-like skin mass then it might be understandable to use discretion. The clinician also has to take into consideration the risk of surgery compared to the risk of health problems from a particular lump or bump. – Dr. Dubielzig in PetMD
Have you ever dealt with lumps and bumps on your dog? What was your course of action?