Lipoma in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment
Lipomas are fatty lumps or masses that often grow underneath the skin of dogs and are thus subcutaneous. They often feel soft to the touch and are slow-growing by nature. Lipomas can increase in size with time and in cases when they are located on the chest or lower legs, might begin to impede healthy movement. Dogs who are prone to Lipoma might develop a number of masses or growths in their lifetime, however, this does not necessarily mean that the growths are cancerous or are spreading. Most fatty lumps are benign and while the cells might multiply in a way that is different to normal cells, they will not impact the whole body and attack healthy tissue.
As a safety measure, every instance of Lipoma should be medically examined to rule out malignancy. Liposarcomas are a cancerous type of growth, and while rare, should always be brought to the attention of your veterinary practitioner. As a rule of thumb, take your pup for a yearly check-up and if every you spot a lump, get them to your vet as soon as possible. Lipomas are pretty common in dogs and tend to be more prominent in older pooches.
More often than not, they shouldn’t be a cause for alarm and won’t cause your beloved pet any harm. Nonetheless, a medical check is important as it can rule out cancer and determine whether the lump is impacting their health or quality of life. If surgery is needed, your vet will need to administer a number of health-related checks to check their eligibility for surgery.
Symptoms of Lipoma
Unfortunately, there aren’t usually any pre-warning signs that your Pup will get a Lipoma. When they do form, you can feel them under their skin, and they are usually mobile and well-formed. They are often oval or round in shape. While most Lipomas are non-cancerous, it is imperative that you get them checked out by a medical professional to ensure that they are benign. They are usually slow-growing fatty lumps, but they can sometimes become rather large. When stroking or cuddling your pooch, check out for:
- Lumps and bumps (always get them checked by a medical professional!)
- Lumps that are oval or round in shape
- Lumps that are pretty mobile and located under the skin
- ALWAYS REMEMBER: Even small lumps need to be checked out. When it comes to any mass, it is always better to be sure
- These lumps are conventionally found on the neck, legs, trunk, or chest. Nonetheless, they can be found in other locations
- In very rare instances they might be found around their head, in the abdomen, or behind the eye.
There are two main types of Lipoma. The first is known as ‘non-infiltrative Lipoma’, these growths can be quickly removed (if your pooch passes all the pre-surgery health checks) and will not often return. The second type of Lipoma growth is known as ‘infiltrative’ and these are trickier to treat. They have usually attached to the tissue and muscle and there is a higher chance of reoccurrence. As always, you will need to chat to your vet about the type of growth that is present and get a check-up to ensure it is not cancerous. While a cancerous Lipoma (known as Liposarcoma) is rare, it can still occur and thus it is always best to get a professional opinion and run a biopsy. The sooner cancer is picked up, the quicker it can be treated and this gives your pup a fighting chance.
Diagnosing Lipoma in Dogs
As a first port of call, your vet will do a physical check-up on your pooch. They will feel all their lumps and bumps and determine what they’re dealing with. While non-veterinary practitioners might not be able to differentiate between cancerous growths and benign ones, vets will often be able to tell from feeling the lump. If they are unsure, they might opt to run some specialized diagnostic tests. Diagnostic tests usually entail:
- A specialized fine-needle aspiration
In this test, your veterinary doctor will use a super-fine needle to analyze growths and masses. The hollow needle is inserted into the lump in order to sample cells and these cells, once stained, will be scrutinized under a microscope. This part of the procedure is called a biopsy and will allow your vet to see the cells clearly and to determine whether or not the mass is harmless, or cancerous. This type of procedure, while surgical, is minor in nature, might require aesthetic. The process will usually begin with ultrasound and often goes as follow.
- The area will be cleaned thoroughly to prevent any infection
- The super-fine needle is inserted into the lump
- A syringe on the needle is pulled so as to collect cells. This part of the process is known as the ‘aspiration.’
- Once enough cells are collected (this might take a few tries), the cells are placed onto a special microscopic slide and will then be sent on to a diagnostic lab for further inspection.
This mode of diagnosis has gleaned great respect within the medical community and is known to be highly effective. If the results are worrying at it is not a Lipoma, your vet will advise you on a treatment plan. If the growth is cancerous, surgery is usually paramount. However, if it isn’t, then you need to decide what is best for your pup and their quality of life. Some dogs can live super happily with their Lipomas, however, others might have impeded mobility and this is when treatment is needed.
Since Lipoma is usually harmless, many masses can be left alone. However, some masses might grow very big and could impede your dog’s mobility or become so irritating that they begin to chew on them. If your vet assesses the situation and believes that the Lipoma is impacting your dog’s quality of life, they might recommend surgery. Nonetheless, surgery requires aesthetic and if your pup is very old, this might pose other health risks on their vital organs. Before surgery vets will run a number of tests to check their eligibility for surgery. These might include:
- A check on sugar levels, and liver, kidney, and pancreas function
- A full blood test count to ensure that your pooch is not dealing with any disorders of the blood
- A specialized thyroid test to check hormone levels and healthy thyroid function
- An ECG to check heart health and to ensure there is no heart disease
- Urine tests to check kidneys ability and for the presence of any infection
Once these results are in, your vet will determine whether surgery is an option or not. If they decide that surgery could be harmful to your pup, they might suggest that you leave the Lipoma for the time being. You will need to monitor its growth and determine whether it is hindering mobility or causing aggravation. If other lumps arise, you will need to get them diagnosed again as new lumps might not be Lipoma. Every lump should be treated as a new case and should be analyzed by a medical professional to rule out cancer or treat it if needed.
Possible Problems if Lipomas are Left Untreated
While most Lipomas are harmless, growths that get very big can begin to hinder mobility. This might be especially true if they are located on the lower legs of your pup, or on their chest. The bigger the Lipoma, the greater discomfort it might end up causing. Some pups might also get frustrated with these growths and begin chewing them. This could lead to infections and cause pain and discomfort.
Thus, whenever you find a lump on your dog, it is of great importance that you go to your vet and get a thorough medical check-up. While many cases will be benign and not cause harm, rare instances could prove cancerous. Other instances of Lipoma could impede mobility and impact your pup’s quality of life. Going to your vet for a check-up ensures that your pup will receive the best treatment and continue to enjoy the best quality of life. When it comes to your darling fur-baby, it is always better to be safe than sorry!