Dog Lipoma! A Visual Guide for Concerned Pet Parents

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By: Cassie Moorhead Updated: October 5, 2020

Discovering lumps and bumps on your dog can cause immediate panic.  Dog parents always assume the worst-case scenario: cancer. But many lumps are often benign fatty tumors called: dog lipoma.

The word “tumor” sounds scary, but lipomas are just fatty tissue buildup, which is typically harmless unless they limit mobility.

A veterinarian should evaluate any new lumps that do not go away on their own, like a bug bite. Infiltrative lipomas are noncancerous but can grow attached to muscles, causing mobility problems and pain, and may need to be removed.

Fatty Skin Tumors in Dogs: Lipoma Dog Tissue

Dog lipomas are soft masses that grow under the skin.  The fatty tumors are often movable, not painful to the touch, and seem unattached to the muscle underneath or skin above.

Lipomas are often harmless, but if infiltrative they can connect to muscle tissue.

Causes of Fatty Tumors: Lipoma Dog

According to VetInfo, the exact cause of fatty tumors is unknown, but there are some common factors in dogs that are prone to them.

Lipomas are more common in overweight and senior dogs, which suggests diet and hormones may be factors. Lipomas may be simply caused from overproduction fat cells, and fatty tumors are more common in certain breeds, so the problem could also be hereditary.

Does Your Dog Have It? Dog Lipomas Pictures

Lumps and Bumps

dog lipoma pictures

Lumps and bumps can be caused by allergies and bug bites.  A food or environmental allergy can cause hives under the skin.  These bumps can be itchy and often go away (if the allergen is removed) in a day or two.  

Bug bites can be red and will sometimes have a mark that from the stinger that can indicate it was a bug bite.  If the lump goes away quickly, it is not lipoma.

Benign Tumors

dog benin tumor

Benign skin tumors are more common in older and overweight dogs.

They can be on the skin, like a mole, or under the skin, like a lipoma tumor.

Canine lipomas are soft to the touch and made of harmless fatty tissue. Dogs can develop sebaceous adenomas, which are plugged oil glands that develop into cysts and often heal (or sometimes rupture) on their own.

Dog breeds like Cocker Spaniels are prone to these cysts. Sebaceous cysts can occur in the eyes (meibomian gland adenoma) and do not require removal unless they cause pain or impair sight.

 Malignant Tumors

mast cell tumor dog

Mast cell tumors are the most common type of malignant tumor in canines.  

They can vary in appearance, which is why a veterinarian should always examine any new lumps.  These malignant tumors can occur nearly anywhere on the body.  

Malignant tumors spread and grow; the sooner they are detected and removed, the better the outlook.

Soft tissue sarcomas are cancerous tumors that occur in the connective tissues of dogs according to the Veterinary Cancer Center. The tumors can be difficult to remove and can require radiation therapy as treatment.

Some malignant tumors that grow on the bone or internally can be difficult to detect. The symptoms may include swelling or lameness of a limb.

Are Certain Dog Breeds/Older Dogs More Prone to Dog Lipoma Lumps?

Certain dog breeds like Golden Retrievers, Mini Schnauzers, Doberman Pinchers, Labrador Retrievers, and some mixed-breed dogs are more prone to lipoma lumps.

Overweight and older dogs are also more prone to lipomas, though the exact cause of these fatty tumors is unknown.  They may have one lipoma or multiple lipomas.

Help! Do I Need A Veterinarian? When Dog Lipoma Burst

Dog lipomas rarely burst and do not typically attach to the skin.  Lipomas in dogs can be confused with cysts, which do rupture and can ooze liquid or bleed.

If a cyst ruptures and the dog seems to be in pain or the bleeding does not stop, you should see a veterinarian.  Make sure the cyst is cleaned and does not get infected.

Surgery? Medicine? Or Nothing At All? Dog Lipoma Treatment

Lipoma in dogs cannot be typically diagnosed by visual examination.

The veterinarian will typically perform fine-needle aspiration, which inserts a small needle into the mass and then cells or fluid are collected and then tested.

The veterinarian may perform infiltration (injection) with calcium chloride or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help shrink the fatty tumor.

Dog Lipoma Removal Cost

According to Embrace Pet Insurance, diagnosis with fine needle aspirate costs between $20 to $100 dollars.  

Having a lipoma surgically removed is more expensive.  Each mass will cost between $200 to $500 for removal.  

If the mass is in a difficult spot or connected to tissue, the removal can cost closer to $1000+. 

Some vets may want to do blood work before surgical removal and the masses may require another trip to the vet afterwards if there are any post-op issues.

Your pet may have to wear an Elizabethan collar after surgery to make sure that they cannot chew out their stitches.  You should follow your veterinarians’ recommendations on how long to keep the cone on. 

Some vets will recommend having the lipoma removed just because of the size of location.  Some of these can grow very quickly and there have been reports of lipomas weighing over 20 pounds.

Dog Lipoma Natural Treatment

Since there is no specific cause of lipomatous tumors, it can be hard to naturally treat or prevent fatty tumors.

Overweight dogs with poor diets can be more prone to lipomas, so proper diet and exercise can help.

Dogs Naturally Magazine recommends removing as many toxins from food, water, and the environment as possible to treat lipomas.

5 Things You Need To Know About Dog Lipoma

  1. The only way to be 100 percent sure a fatty tumor is benign is by removing it and having it fully tested.
  2. Lipoma is more common in dogs over 8 years old.
  3. Overweight dogs may be more likely to get lipomas.
  4. Some malignant masses may look like lipomas, so a veterinarian should individually check each mass.
  5. There may be only one lipoma or multiple, which are called familial multiple lipomatosis.

A Lumpy Fatty Tissue That Should Be Monitored

If the vet feels confident the tumor is benign, they will often not recommend surgery unless the tumor is very large or bothering the dog.

Since lipomas are more common in older dogs, surgery can be riskier.  The vet will likely recommend the lump be monitored, to make sure there are no changes.

A lump can be measured and monitored at home by laying a piece of wax paper over the lump and tracing the edges with a marker and write the date.  This should be done regularly to make sure there is no change in size or shape.

Many lumps are benign, caused from fatty tissue called lipomas.  It can be nearly impossible to tell from looking at a lump whether or not it is malignant and cancerous.

Malignant tumors may need to be removed or treated with radiation therapy. Lipomas are often benign and not removed unless it causes pain or mobility problems.  Lumps can be temporary, caused by allergies or bug bites.

If a lump doesn’t go away in a few days, a trip to the vet is recommended.

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  • My 9 yr old German Shepherd also recently developed, what my father assured me is, a fatty tumor in that same tail/rear end area but is not currently on any supplements although she is overweight which I read can be a contributing factor. I have not yet ventured her to the vet & am not sure if she’s even able to get up into my truck since she’s only ever been in our car which is currently in California w/my husband who’s working out there. I’ve been afraid to try and touch the growth as it seems like it may be causing her some pain so looks like my 1st call today is the vet & my 2nd is to try & borrow a car! Wish me luck & I hope everyone & their furry soulmates are doing well!

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