While it may cause you to worry if you find a lump on your beloved pup, it's important to know that not all lumps are cancerous. Fatty tumors, also known as lipomas, are common among older dogs. Here our Thornton vets share some information about fatty tumors or lipomas in dogs such as the types, causes and how they can be treated.
Fatty Tumor (Lipomas) in Dogs
Frequently seen in middle-aged and senior dogs, simple lipomas are painless, soft, and mobile lumps made up of fat cells. Although most often found on the on the abdomen and chest these lumpy masses can develop anywhere, just under the skin, on your dog's body.
There are a number of breeds that seem to be more susceptible to developing lipomas including Weimaraners, Labs, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Beagles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Dobermans. Female dogs that are overweight are also more prone to lipomas.
There are 3 types of lipomas seen in dogs:
Simple Fatty Tumors in Dogs
Simple lipomas develop in the fatty tissue layer found under your dog's skin, and tend to grow slowly. These tumors can be moved and will not create any pain or discomfort for your dog. This type of lipoma is typically found on the dog's tummy, chest or abdomen.
Infiltrative Lipomas in Dogs
This type of lipomas can be firm and fixed in place, or soft and mobile, and tends to be 'locally aggressive' meaning that it may spread to surrounding tissues. In some cases, these lipomas grow between muscle layers which can lead to discomfort.
Myelolipomas That Dogs Can Experience
Myelolipomas are also benign, but these tumors are made up of fat cells and hematopoietic cells and typically develop on the dog's adrenal glands, liver, or spleen.
Way To Tell That My Dog Has a Fatty Tumor
IF you discover any form of lump or bump on your dog then it is best to have the lump examined by the vet. While your dog's lump may be a harmless lipoma, if the lump does turn out to be a form of cancer early detection and treatment are essential for good treatment outcomes.
Lipomas are characterized as small, hemispherical lumps that can be felt just under your dog's skin. The lump will likely feel somewhat soft and you will be able to move it a little, although it's important to keep in mind that firmer, stationary lipomas are also fairly common.
Your vet will perform a fine needle aspiration, to suction out a sample of cells which will be examined under a microscope by a veterinary pathologist. If your pup's results are unclear, your vet may recommend a biopsy or histopathology in order to determine a more clear diagnosis of your pet's condition.
What Are The Common Causes of Fatty Tumors in Dogs?
Lipomas are thought to occur due to a number of factors including diet, genetics, chemicals in the environment, drug interactions and more. Although it may not be possible for your vet to determine the cause of your dog's lipoma, maintaining your dog's weight at a healthy level may help to prevent lipomas from occurring.
Do Fatty Tumors in Dogs Continue to Grow?
While these fatty tumors are not malignant and will not metastasize (spread to other parts of your dog's body), they may continue to grow and start to cause discomfort depending on their location.
Each dog is unique and lipomas can grow at varying rates. While many grow very slowly, and may never become a real concern, others will grow rapidly and may become problematic.
How Are Fatty Tumors in Dogs Treated?
The typical treatment plan for fatty tumors in dogs is to keep an eye on them and watch for any potential growth. If it suddenly begins to grow, becomes painful for your dog, or changes texture let your vet know right away.
If your dog's lipoma is in an uncomfortable location, such as near a joint, your vet may recommend having the lump surgically removed.
Infiltrative lipomas can prove more challenging to remove since they typically grow quickly and surround nearby tissues leading to discomfort for your pup. Your vet may recommend surgery to remove as much of the lipoma as possible followed by radiation therapy to deal with the remaining lipoma tissue.
In some cases lipomas can be treated by injecting the lump with a steroid in order to help shrink the tumor, however many lipomas return in as little as 6 months when this treatment is used.
Your vet will be able to recommend the best treatment plan for your dog and their unique situation.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.