As dogs age, it is not uncommon for them to develop lumps below the skin, subcutaneous, that can be soft to firm, free moving to fixed in place.
When these lumps are detected you should ask your pet’s doctor to examine and evaluate them.
The most common of these masses in a benign fatty tumor called a lipoma. They have a distinctive feel to experience fingers, but the best course of action is to use a syringe and needle to collect a small aspiration sample for microscopic evaluation.
Lipomas can vary in size dramatically. They can be as little as a small grape and as large as three pounds, that is my record. They will grow but the speed is highly variable.
I recommend that all growth on a pet’s body be charted and measured each time the pet is examined to monitor growth.
Many dogs can have numerous lipomas making them look and feel very lumpy. Weight loss will not help reduce the number or size of a lipoma -- remember it is a growth.
All lipomas do not need to be removed. Those that are on a leg and not free moving should be removed as they can become invasive lipomas. This can cause lameness in the affected leg.
Lipomas in a place like the arm pit or groin, where if they get large might cause difficulty walking should be removed or reduced in size.
Surgical removal of all but the very small lipoma is a moderately invasive procedure. Taking out a mass that is bigger than a peach creates an open space where the lipoma was. It is usually necessary to place a drain to keep body fluids from building up in the space. A closed system drain called a Jackson-Pratt is the best if the lipoma or any other growth removed is large. Drains are usually kept in a surgical site for 3-5 days.
An alternative to surgical removal of a lipoma is liposuction.
I have done this procedure many times with great success. At the very least, the lipoma size is decreased dramatically, leaving only a small amount of fatty tissue. At best the lipoma is totally removed to never return.
The liposuction requires full anesthesia but is much less invasive, with only a couple sutures at each liposuction site. For liposuction to be effective, the lipoma should be about 2 inches in diameter or larger.
Ask your vet if liposuction is an option for your dog’s lipoma(s).
While we are talking about visible growths on a dog or cat, how about all those bumps we see and feel on the skin?
There are a variety of minor but worrisome skin masses that can affected our animals as they age. Many clients refer to all skin masses as warts.In most cases, this is not a correct diagnosis.
Warts are caused by a virus and are contagious to other dogs. When observed they are frequently in the mouth or on the lips. However, they can occur anywhere. Warts will ultimately self limit as the body fights the virus that caused the growth.
Surgical removal can frequently speed the elimination of all warts as the surgery helps the body develop immunity to the wart virus. Cryosurgery and excision of the wart is how we remove a wart.
If your dog has warts you should not take it to day care or allow it to play with other animals until the wart is gone.
Other skin lumps that we frequently see are cysts from skin glands.
These cysts are oily and can have an irregular surface making them look like a cauliflower. The pet sometimes irritates the K-cyst by scratching or biting. When this happens, it is wise to have the cyst removed.
An effective procedure is cryo surgery which can be done as an exam room procedure with not sedation or anesthesia. Multiple growths can be operated at the same time.
There are many other skin type lumps that need to be evaluated by palpation, fine needle aspiration or surgical biopsy. This can include sebaceous cysts, basal cell tumors, histiocytoma and mast cell tumor.
I encourage you to be sure you schedule an appointment to have any lumps you find on your dog or cat evaluated.
Dr. Robert Esplin, a 1970 graduate of Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, owns SylvaniaVET hospital at 4801 N Holland-Sylvania Rd. He writes a periodic column for ourtownsylvania.com and accepts all pet-related questions for it through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.