Lipomas – What Are They and What to Do About Them
Finding a lump on your dog’s body can be scary. If you notice any new sort of growth, a veterinarian should check it out immediately. If the lump is soft, rounded, and seemingly just under the skin, chances are it is nothing to worry about. Lipomas, also known as fatty tumors or fatty deposits, are almost always benign and are among the most common types of growths found on dogs.
What Is It And How Did It Get There?
Lipomas are deposits of fatty tissue that grow subcutaneously, which means literally just under the skin. They feel movable and somewhat soft and should not cause any hair loss or pain. They generally form on the abdomen, torso and legs, although they can potentially appear anywhere on your dog’s body. No one yet knows why lipomas form, but they are more common in some dogs. Miniature schnauzers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, and mixed breed dogs are more prone to developing fatty deposits than other breeds. Also, in any breed, older dogs are far more likely to have them than younger dogs. They are considered by veterinarians to be a normal part of the dog aging process.
How Do I Know It Isn’t Malignant?
Never assume that a new lump is perfectly benign on your own. You should always make a visit to your vet to be sure. Your vet will first examine the growth by palpation, which simply means she will feel it with her fingers. From this, most likely, your vet will be able to tell you whether or not it is a harmless lipoma. If you want to be sure, the vet must do a biopsy or needle aspirate. This means using a small needle to remove some of the cells from the growth. They will be examined under a microscope, probably at a lab, and the exact nature of the cells can be determined.
Some lipomas may be infiltrative, meaning that although benign, they are invading the surrounding muscle tissue. If your vet suspects this type of lipoma, she may need to do a CT scan to adequately image it and to determine the extent or its infiltration.
What Should I Do About It?
In most cases, it is perfectly acceptable and indeed recommended that the lipoma be left alone. They generally don’t cause any pain and removing them surgically can be dangerous for the dog and unnecessary. In rare cases, a benign fatty deposit may cause a dog discomfort. This can occur if the lump gets very large or if it grows in a place such as under the legs or another area that causes problems with mobility.
An infiltrative lipoma can often cause discomfort and likely needs to be removed by surgery or a combination of surgery and radiation. Although not malignant, the radiation can help remove parts of the deposit that are difficult to reach with surgery.
What If My Dog Gets More Lumps?
Chances are if your dog has one lipoma, he will develop more. This doesn’t mean however, that you should assume they are likewise benign. Every new lump should be checked by your vet. Furthermore, if you and your vet decide not to remove a lipoma, you should still watch it carefully. It may need to be removed in the future if it grows larger and causes your dog discomfort. Also, there is the rare possibility that it could be a liposarcoma, a malignant tumor that can spread to other areas of the body. For this reason, be sure to monitor and note any changes in your dog’s lipomas.
Although it can be worrisome to find a new lump on your dog, keep in mind that it is most likely harmless. Keep an eye on him and check every new growth with your vet to be sure he will live his longest possible life.