If you read my post: Canine Hemangiosarcoma – AKA How Jet Kicked Cancer’s Butt then you know that Jet has survived canine cancer.
When you have a dog that has survived canine cancer, it can make you extremely watchful of any lumps and bumps that crop up in the future. When your dog is a senior dog, this is something that happens quite often.
Not all lumps and bumps on your dog are going to be cancer…in fact, most won’t be.
So, today I want to talk about three different types of non-cancerous growths that you may experience with your dog.
There are a good many types of lumps and bumps that occur in our dogs. These can be the result of aging, disease, injury, and illness.
The only sure fire way to know what the cause of your dog’s lump or bump is, is to go to your vet and have it checked out.
When you get to your vet, they will assess the size and appearance of the lump as well as your dog’s medical history. After this, they will likely aspirate the lump – this involves using a needle to take a small sample of the cells from the lump. The vet will then look at those cells under a microscope to get a better idea of what is going on.
In many cases, an aspiration will reveal that the lump is just a fatty lump that poses no risk. If, however, an aspiration reveals abnormal looking cells or anything inconclusive, your vet may recommend a biopsy.
When a biopsy is necessary, your dog will need to be sedated so that the vet can take a tissue sample of the lump. In some instances, local anesthesia will be used, but this is not as common as using general anesthesia. Depending upon the lump, your vet may recommend removing it while your dog is under sedation. In this case, the lump will be removed and then sent off for
Depending upon the appearance of the lump, your vet may recommend removing it while your dog is under sedation. In this case, the lump will be removed and then sent off for analysis. This analysis will determine what the lump is and this will determine the course of treatment for your dog.
The three types of non-cancerous lumps I’m going to talk about today, however, generally require little more than a needle aspiration and in some cases, removal.
Lipomas, Histiocytomas, and Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs
A lipoma is a non-cancerous (benign) tumor composed of fatty tissue.
Lipomas are usually located just under the skin and can vary dramatically in size. Removal is usually not recommended unless the tumor grows large enough or is located in a place where it becomes uncomfortable or impedes everyday function.
Lipomas are usually quite soft and do not appear to have an attachment (they can be pulled away from the body.) In some cases, however, lipomas can grow around, against, or close to bones or organs causing complications and requiring removal.
Lipomas are more common in older dogs and some breeds are more prone to them than others (Labradors, miniature schnauzers, mixed breeds, and Dobermans.) Dogs with one lipoma will usually develop others.
A histiocytoma is a non-cancerous tumor that is the result of abnormal growth of histiocyte cells.
Histiocyte cells are cells that are found on the skin’s surface and their function is to provide immunity to tissues in the body that are exposed to the environment.
When these cells grow abnormally they create a rapidly growing tumor that is usually found on the arms, legs, head, and ears. Very rarely will more than one histiocytoma be found in one location.
Histiocytomas are almost always “angry” looking with a red or ulcerated appearance and they tend to pop up “overnight.”
These growths can shrink and disappear on their own, but if this has not happened within a couple of months, or if the tumor poses complications, removal is recommended.
A sebaceous cyst is a non-cancerous growth that results from a sac-like growth that grows under the skin.
The sebaceous glands are responsible for producing oil that helps to maintain skin and hair health. When these glands become blocked, a sac-like growth grows under the skin which contains the sebum (oil) that would otherwise have been expressed on the skin.
Sebaceous cysts can vary in appearance, but are usually clear, skin colored, or dark in color. Regardless, these cysts are smooth to the touch and appear to be located underneath the skin.
Sebaceous cysts can resolve on their own, but if they burst they do require intervention to prevent infection. Sometimes these cysts also just remain as is without eruption but with no need to be removed. These cysts should NEVER be squeezed.
Regular grooming and maintenance of skin health can help to prevent these growths by keeping skin free of potential blockages to the sebaceous glands such as dead skin.
What to Do
If you find a lump or bump on your dog, regardless of whether or not you *think* you know what it is, it is always best to get it checked out by your vet. It is better to catch a potentially cancerous lump ahead of time than it is to catch it too late.