Have you ever experienced finding a skin lump on your dog? While you want to have all lumps checked, there is a good chance that the lump is benign. One of the most common bumps found on a dog is a lipoma, which is a benign growth of subcutaneous fatty tissue. Lipomas are very common in older and overweight dogs, and many dog owners have found a lump on their dog that turned out to be one of these benign growths. Many veterinarians will avoid calling these growths tumors because they are not cancerous.
In most cases, if your veterinarian suspects a lipoma, he or she may recommend testing it by removing a few cells from the growth, placing the cells on a microscope slide, staining the slide and then viewing the cells under a microscope. If the test proves that the growth is a lipoma, your veterinarian will most likely elect to watch it. It is always important to have your dog checked as soon as possible when you notice a new lump. Even though the lumps will come back testing benign, it is important to not assume that all growths are benign, as some are malignant and require immediate removal.
Most veterinarians do not recommend removing a lipoma unless it is causing the dog to be uncomfortable. Lipomas that are growing in an armpit or on the side of the dog can become uncomfortable when the dog is walking or laying down. Some lipomas can grow to become very large: in these cases, your veterinarian will recommend surgical removal.
If your dog has a lipoma and you really want it removed, consider having it done at the same time as a dental cleaning and polishing. That way, if the pet is going to be anesthetized, you can have the lipoma removed at the same time. This saves both time, money, and reduces the amount of anesthesia your dog needs to undergo.
While most lipomas are considered benign, ocassionally a lipoma can be infiltrative. What that means is that the lipoma invades surrounding tissue, making it more likely to regrow after removal. These types of lipomas, unless they are causing the dog discomfort, are usually left alone by veterinarians because they are more difficult to remove.
Sarah J. Wooten, DVM
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