This post is the Winner of the 2020 Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Award, via the Dog Writers Association of America! This award is for the best online blog post written by a dog blogger that exemplifies good health and wellness for dogs.
It is common for dogs especially as they mature to develop a wide range of lumps and bumps on their bodies. Common lumps and bumps include warts, tumors, cysts and lipomas. In this article I will talk about cysts and lipomas, which are very common and usually benign lumps and bumps!
The following is a pet owner’s experience. It is meant to be a primer for other dog lovers and is not a replacement for veterinary care. I hope this article helps others be less fearful of having their dog’s lumps and bumps checked out!
If your veterinarian wants to test your dog’s lump or bump, it is worthwhile to do so. The majority of lumps and bumps are not cancerous or dangerous, but it always helps to know what sort of lump or bump you are dealing with, and to rule out any concerns early on.
So your dog’s lump/bump has been deemed benign, meaning it is not an immediate concern to your pet’s health. Your vet says it is a cyst or lipoma. The next question we all usually ask our veterinarians is, “should it be removed?”
Many owners are fearful of this question, and it can delay them getting their dog’s lumps and bumps checked out. I hope that after you read this, you won’t feel so worried, and you will understand why it is important to think about lumps and bumps.
Pet Owner Considerations
Here are some great things to think about, and to write down so you can share your observations with your dog’s veterinarian:
- The general location of the lipoma/cyst: is it in an area that causes your dog discomfort? If it gets bigger, could it begin to cause discomfort?
- Is the lump very small, and has it stayed small for a long time? Most lumps and bumps fit into this category, and won’t need removal.
- Has the lump grown over time? Did it suddenly appear “out of nowhere?” Has it grown quickly?
- Have you witnessed your dog scratching, licking, or showing signs of discomfort towards the area?
- Does the cyst/lipoma float around a bit under the skin, or does it seem to be firmly attached to your dog’s body?
- Your dog’s age/health: is your dog is young and/or healthy? If the lump might cause a problem for your pet’s comfort in the future, sometimes your vet will suggest removal when your dog will bounce back quickly, instead of waiting until they are older and more delicate.
Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian
If there are any concerns brought up based on the above observations, here are some questions you can ask your veterinarian:
- “Do you feel the location or attachment of the lipoma/cyst could be a problem for my dog if it gets bigger?”
- “Is my dog a candidate for removal?”
- “How extensive would my dog’s recovery be?”
- “Do you feel this lump would be safe to remove?”
When Miles’ shoulder lipoma suddenly grew bigger, he began growling when he tried to rest on that side.
Miles’ First Lumpectomy Procedure
When Miles was around 3 years old, he had a benign sebaceous cyst removed from his back. My veterinarian and I opted to have it removed because it was pressing against Miles’ spine and it was growing rapidly. Miles healed quickly from the surgery.
Miles’ Second Procedure – Multiple Lumpectomies
Miles gets massages from a canine massage professional regularly, and about a year ago, she mentioned that Miles had two new lumps: one in his shoulder wedged between his muscles, and another which was floating in his armpit.
In the spring, both lumps had quadruped in size over the course of about a month. I also noticed that Miles’ fur began thinning in the area on his shoulder, and he would wake up growling if he slept on that side of his body. I sent my vet the following video:
It was the beginning of the pandemic and Miles’ veterinarian was hesitant to suggest surgery. When Miles broke a tooth and needed an immediate extraction two weeks later, I asked if he’d consider removing some of Miles’ lumps and bumps at the same time — with the shoulder lipoma being the most important. We mutually decided that I would send a chart of the lumps & bumps with Miles when he went in for surgery, and my vet could determine whichever ones he felt were safe to remove. If you are in a similar situation where you can’t go into the clinic with your dog, I recommend making a chart for your vet: see my chart here (note: I had stripped the areas bare in case of surgery).
My vet ended up removing everything. The itchy warts were very simple to remove (note that for most dogs, this is not nessesary). He commented that a swollen little cyst on Miles’ chest was “abnormal,” and the two lipomas had grown quickly and were in concerning locations. He said that he hadn’t been convinced about Miles’ shoulder lipoma until he went under the skin. The part that could be felt on the surface had been just the edge of the lipoma. The vet had to cut through a bit of muscle to get to the majority of it. The lipoma was pushing Miles’ shoulder muscles apart and had clearly been causing significant pain. My vet said that if we had waited, Miles would be in much worse pain, and it would be nearly impossible to remove.
I was worried about Miles’ recovery from having so many lumps and bumps removed. Miles is very active and healthy but he isn’t exactly 3 years old anymore. Not including his tooth, he had a total of 20 stitches and 6 incision sites! What amazed me was how relaxed he was during his recovery, and how he did not once try to lick or scratch the incision sites. The only challenge of Miles’ recovery was keeping him on “best rest” for a week! Even the muscles that had been cut healed quickly.
After 9 days, Miles’ stitches were removed, and within 2.5 weeks, his fur had grown completely back, including over the area that had previously become bald due to the lipoma. My family joked that I had a brand-new, refurbished Miles! It brought me so much joy to see Miles feeling so much more comfortable. Dogs are so stoic; if you notice any mild discomfort, it might actually be significant.
Miles Was a Good Candidate for Lumpectomies
Miles is active, fit and healthy
Miles isn’t a young dog, but he is active, fit and healthy. The day he came home from surgery, he slept on his right side comfortably for the first time in weeks! Neither my vet or I knew how bad Miles’ shoulder lipoma had been until the surgery. Even if they are benign, lipomas that are wedged between muscles can become concerning quickly if they grow big.
Miles’ lumps were bothering him; and would’ve affected his comfort & mobility when he got older
Not all lumps and bumps cause pain, in fact, most don’t! However, it is good to be on the lookout. Miles is pain-free after having that intramuscular lipoma removed, and I am very glad I had any concerning lumps and bumps addressed before his “man of leisure” years. For Miles, having lumps and bumps removed was the right choice. As an active and healthy mature guy, Miles’ accumulated lumps and bumps weren’t unusual for a terrier, or overly alarming to my vet on first glance, but there were some warning signs that they were affecting his comfort and that they could significantly affect his mobility later in life.
It is important to consider the location of a lipoma: if it grows bigger, will it affect your dog’s comfort or mobility when they get older?
It is important to pet your dog often and feel for any lumps or bumps. See your veterinarian if you notice any lumps or bumps. Most aren’t concerning, most won’t need removal, and you will feel better knowing. Keep a little diary of their placement and size. Watch for signs that they are growing, especially suddenly. Keep in mind the topics discussed in this article.
It is important to share your observations with your veterinarian. Don’t skimp on the details! In the case of Miles’ shoulder lipoma, Miles’ vet wasn’t overly concerned at first just by looking at it, but he took my observations and concerns seriously (sudden area hair loss, growling when getting up from resting on that area, significant increase in size). After the removal, Miles’ vet told me that my observations had lead to the removal of a very concerning lipoma. Dogs can’t always “tell” the veterinarian if and where it hurts, and problems aren’t always noticeable in the exam room. Don’t think because you aren’t a veterinarian that your observations are not diagnostically important. Your observational skills and your reports to your veterinarian are very helpful for your veterinarian and important to your dog’s health.
I hope this overview helps other pet owners think about their dog’s lumps and bumps. Don’t be afraid to talk to your veterinarian about any concerns you have. Even if your dog’s lumps and bumps are benign, in some cases it can be advantageous to have unusually annoying lumps and bumps removed before your dog is in their “retirement” years of leisure.
Please comment below with your thoughts and questions. Also, be sure to check out the article Before Your Dog has Surgery: 4 Planning Tips to Help Make the Experience as Smooth as Possible.
- This blog post has been reviewed by a veterinarian. This blog post is not a replacement for veterinary consultation or care.
Just out of curiosity, I know you feed raw…is Miles microchipped? Do you use topical “spot on” flea treatments? I am relieved our Miles has recovered so well, due in no small part to you! He is a trooper!
Miles eats raw food (for anyone who is curious: read here), has never had spot-on flea treatments, etc.
A helpful article,thanks
I am glad you think so, Susan. Thanks for commenting!
Whew, what a relief! Now I won’t worry as George ages and maybe develops a lump or bump here or there, and will be diligent about getting such checked by our wonderful veterinarian.. Thank you, so very much, Emma!! Kisses for Miles from us and George❤️
Thanks Denise, Geoff and George!
Great article Emma.. Good advice to feel all over your dog all the time, so you know when there is a new lump, or one that is getting bigger.. Poor sweet Miles with lump pain! And even with stitches he was more comfortable! You always have the best videos to support your articles! I love how you showed the vet the outline of Miles lump..and of course, I’m so glad for the videos showing his speedy recovery.. Well done both of you.. Carry on!! Love you tons… Darcy and Sally
Hi Darcy! Thanks for the complement on the videos! I liked comparing the stitches speed up like that, it was fun.
As usual Emma your observations and comprehensive discussion are extremely helpful. I love your unflinching view of reality and your thorough, courageous way of dealing with necessity. Thank you for your loving, yet unflinching, way of handling every detail .
How wonderful to see Miles’ quick recovery!
Love to you both
Thank you Sue! I think Pippin is the most honest of us all, though! 🙂
Will definitely watch for any problems in the future. You keep us very well informed.
Miles is one lucky dog!
Thank you Marilyn! Sailor is a very lucky pup too — sailing the high seas! 🌊🌊🌊
I’m so glad Miles recovered so quickly from his lumps being removed. Oliver had one removed when he had a dental cleaning a few years back and it’s so scary as an owner asking for a chunk of your dog to be removed, and scary when you pick them up from the vet and see the stitches. But it always amazes me how fast dogs heal and after the fact it’s not that big of a deal. Thank you for sharing your experiences with Miles and those questions for asking your vet are so handy! It’s hard to know what are the right questions to ask to make an informed decision.
Hi Danielle, I completely agree, on all counts! 🙂 I am glad Oliver healed so quickly too!