Many of us have been there: It is an average day, you reach down to pet your dog, and suddenly you notice a new bump under his fur! Although it can be alarming to find a new, unexplained lump on your dog, many of them turn out to be benign, fatty tumors called lipomas.
What is a Lipoma?
Lipomas are especially common in older dogs. They are an accumulation of fat cells just beneath the skin and tend to occur near the axilla (armpits), inguinal region (crease where the lower belly meets the hind leg), and the body wall. Lipomas usually feel rubbery and soft and can grow at different rates. Some stay very small for years while others can continue to grow until they are quite large. The treatment to get rid of a lipoma, if necessary, is surgical removal.
Should a lipoma be removed?
Although the word "tumor" can be scary, a lipoma generally does not need to be removed unless it:
-Continues to grow at a rapid rate
- Is in an uncomfortable location
- Affects limb movement
- Starts to infiltrate deeper tissues below it, such as muscle, which is very uncommon
Remember that most lipomas are benign. Dogs can develop multiple lipomas in their old age that never affect their health or quality of life . Keep an eye out for:
-Difficulty standing comfortably
- Changes in their gait
- Reluctance to climb stairs
- Hesitation to go for walks or exercise
How do I know if it's a lipoma?
There is no way to know whether any bump is a lipoma until you consult your veterinarian. They will likely perform a test called a fine needle aspirate, or FNA. This test involves sampling some cells from the bump with a needle and looking at them under a microscope. If it is a lipoma, your vet will find only fat cells. Although lipomas have a typical look and feel, other types of masses share similar characteristics.
What other masses could it be?
Many soft tissue sarcomas can look and feel similar to lipomas, which is why it is so important to have your veterinarian check any new lumps you find on your dog.
- Liposarcomas are malignant lipomas that are invasive to deeper tissues in the body.
- Mast cell tumors can seem like lipomas until their cells are examined under a microscope.
- Hemangiopericytomas (a type of tumor related to blood vessel capillaries) can mimic the rubbery texture of a lipoma under the skin. These tumors even contain fat cells, so a biopsy may be used to diagnose this tumor if your vet thinks it is necessary.
- Lymphoma, a highly malignant cancer of the lymph system, can cause rubbery lumps under the skin that can be confused with lipomas.
Pet insurance can help!
Although lipomas are benign and very common, there is still the risk that an undiagnosed bump on your dog could be something more serious. Fortunately, signing up for pet insurance can help ease some of the worry that comes from taking your pup in for a checkup. AKC Pet Insurance offers customizable plans that can be tailored for you and your pet's individual needs. Get a quote!