Lumps and Bumps on your pet, What do they mean?

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Lumps and Bumps on your pet, What do they mean?

Here at your Vail Valley Veterinarian, Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center, we so often find lumps on our pets. Dr. Foster has some good insight into those lumps!

There you are, loving on your dog after a long day at work when all of a sudden you feel an odd bump that you’ve never felt before.  What in the world is it?  How long has it been there?  Is it serious?  Before you get too nervous, take a deep breath.  As dogs age, they can get lumpy.  There are a number of different reasons a lump may show up so when one does, it’s time to visit your veterinarian.

When an owner presents their pet for and exam regarding a lump, I commonly ask these types of questions: How long has it been there, has it grown or changed in color since you noticed it and does it seem to be bothering your pet?  In order further evaluate the lump, I usually recommend performing a “fine needle aspirate” which means I’d like to poke the lump with a needle and look at it on a slide.  This isn’t a perfect way to determine exactly what it is but it’s a very good, non-invasive place to start.  Once we do this and get an idea of what we are dealing with, we can make additional recommendations such as does it need to come off?  Do we need to send the mass in for additional testing, also known as a “histopathology”?

Not all lumps are dangerous but it’s important to remember that there are some that are.  One of the most common types of lumps you will see are fatty tumors or “lipomas”.  These are typically benign tumors that do not spread to other places in the body but can grow larger with time.  Depending on the location or size, your veterinarian may recommend that it be removed. 

Other types of benign tumors include warts and sebaceous cysts.  We do not worry about these spreading to other places but it’s possible that over time, many can show up on your dog.  A sebaceous cyst is a clogged sebaceous gland in your dog’s skin.  Your veterinarian can express or remove these if necessary but may not recommend doing anything.  A wart is usually not bothersome to your dog but if it is, it’s also possible that it be removed. 

Now that we’ve covered the most common benign lumps, let’s talk about the scarier ones.  Soft tissue sarcomas and mast cell tumors are common types of malignant tumors (think: skin cancer).  The reason why we don’t like these tumors is that they can be very invasive locally as well as to the rest of the body.  They can spread to other organs such as the liver, spleen and lungs and release chemicals that can cause systemic reactions in the rest of the body.  It’s possible to remove these tumors but when veterinarians do this, we try to remove a large amount of tissue surrounding them to ensure we got it all.  It’s also possible that your veterinarian will recommend additional testing to be sure there isn’t evidence of them spreading disease to the rest of the body. 

All in all, it’s important to remember that no lump is too small to warrant a visit to the veterinarian to have it checked.  We are always willing to check it out so that you pet can remain as healthy as possible!

We look forward to seeing you!