Finding any unusual lump or bump on your dog is bound to set off alarm bells, however, not all lumps are cancerous. Simple lipomas are benign fat tumors that are commonly seen in dogs middle-aged and older. Here our Tucson vets explain more about lipomas in dogs.
What are lipomas?
Frequently seen in middle-aged and senior dogs, simple lipomas are painless, soft, and mobile lumps made up of fat cells. Although most often found on the on the abdomen and chest these lumpy masses can develop anywhere, just under the skin, on your dog's body.
There are a number of breeds that seem to be more susceptible to developing lipomas including Weimaraners, Labs, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Beagles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Dobermans. Female dogs that are overweight are also more prone to lipomas.
There are 3 types of lipomas seen in dogs:
Simple lipomas develop in the fatty tissue layer found under your dog's skin, and tend to grow slowly. They are movable and do not cause your dog any discomfort or pain. This type of lipoma is typically found on the dog's tummy, chest or abdomen.
This type of lipomas can be firm and fixed in place, or soft and mobile, and tends to be 'locally aggressive' meaning that it may spread to surrounding tissues. In some cases, these lipomas grow between muscle layers which can lead to discomfort.
Myelolipomas are also benign, but these tumors are made up of fat cells and hematopoietic cells and typically develop on the dog's adrenal glands, liver, or spleen.
How can I tell if my dog's lump is a lipoma?
If your dog develops a lump or bump it is extremely important to book an appointment with your vet to have it investigated. While your dog's lump may be a harmless lipoma, if the lump does turn out to be a form of cancer early detection and treatment are essential for good treatment outcomes.
Lipomas are characterized as small, hemispherical lumps that can be felt just under your dog's skin. The lump will likely feel somewhat soft and you will be able to move it a little, although it's important to keep in mind that firmer, stationary lipomas are also fairly common.
Your vet will perform a fine needle aspiration, to suction out a sample of cells which will be examined under a microscope by a veterinary pathologist. If your pup's results are unclear, your vet may recommend a biopsy or histopathology in order to determine a more clear diagnosis of your pet's condition.
What causes lipomas in dogs?
Lipomas are thought to occur due to a number of factors including diet, genetics, chemicals in the environment, drug interactions and more. Although it may not be possible for your vet to determine the cause of your dog's lipoma, maintaining your dog's weight at a healthy level may help to prevent lipomas from occurring.
Will my dog's lipoma continue to grow?
While these fatty tumors are not malignant and will not metastasize (spread to other parts of your dog's body), they may continue to grow and start to cause discomfort depending on their location.
Each dog is unique and lipomas can grow at varying rates. While many grow very slowly, and may never become a real concern, others will grow rapidly and may become problematic.
What is the treatment for lipomas in dogs?
The need for treatment will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Since most lipomas grow slowly your vet may suggest simply monitoring the lump for changes. If it suddenly begins to grow, becomes painful for your dog, or changes texture let your vet know right away.
If your dog's lipoma is in an uncomfortable location, such as near a joint, your vet may recommend having the lump surgically removed.
Infiltrative lipomas can prove more challenging to remove since they typically grow quickly and surround nearby tissues leading to discomfort for your pup. Your vet may recommend surgery to remove as much of the lipoma as possible followed by radiation therapy to deal with the remaining lipoma tissue.
In some cases lipomas can be treated by injecting the lump with a steroid in order to help shrink the tumor, however many lipomas return in as little as 6 months when this treatment is used.
Speak to your vet in order to determine the best treatment for your canine companion.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.