Lipomas are fatty, skin tumors that are very common in dogs. Although there is a very rare cancerous form, called liposarcoma, lipomas are usually benign (non-cancerous). They can be found anywhere on the body, and every breed can get them. They are soft and movable and be anywhere from very small to very large. Unfortunately, the exact cause of these tumors isn’t known, and some dogs never get them while other dogs have many. It is possible that these tumors are caused by the dog’s inability to metabolize fat, but more study needs to be done to prove this theory.
How a Lipoma is Diagnosed
Most veterinarians will be reasonably confident that a particular lump is a lipoma just by how it feels. They will also base their diagnosis on how fast the lump is growing and whether or not it bothers the dog. In addition, a fine needle aspirate can be done to remove some cells from the mass to be examined a microscope. If there are only fat cells in the sample, the lump is determined to be a lipoma.
Not all soft, movable lumps on a dog’s body are lipomas. Sometimes, enlarged lymph nodes and certain types of skin cancer can feel similar to a lipoma, but they are much more serious. If you find a lump on your dog, it should always be checked out by your vet to confirm the diagnosis.
How Lipomas Are Treated
The good news is, lipomas generally don’t require any treatment at all. However, they should be carefully monitored for fast growth or a change in consistency. If the lump is located in a place that is uncomfortable for the dog, or it interferes with the dog’s movement, the tumor can be surgically removed.
Other Causes of Lumps in Dogs and What to Do When You Find One
There are a variety of causes of lumps and bumps on a dog’s skin. The most common are wounds or abscesses, cancerous tumors, warts, skin tags, and enlarged lymph node, or quite commonly, a lipoma. It can be a scary thing to find a lump on your dog that you hadn’t noticed before. But, not all lumps are cause for panic.
When you find a lump, start by parting the fur to get a closer look at the lump, and that may tell you if the lump is a wound, abscess, or even a tick. Also, assess how your dog seems to be feeling. Is he eating ok? How is his energy level? Does the lump seem to be sore or warm to the touch? Any of these issues are cause for concern and warrant an immediate trip to the vet.
On the other hand, if your dog seems fine otherwise, you can schedule an appointment at a time that’s convenient, but you should keep a close eye for signs of discomfort or rapid growth. Once you do see the vet, he or she will be able to tell you if the lump is harmless or if further treatment is required.