Over the years my 10 year old, mixed breed dog, Schmiggins started getting many little lumps and bumps. Some of these lumps and bumps got larger. As a veterinarian I know that these can range from benign, slow growing masses to more severe, cancerous invasive growths. These can be very concerning to a pet owner. When I noticed any new ones forming I take her into the clinic and aspirate them, which means I use a needle to take a few cells and place them on a microscope slide and look at them, this is called a cytology. If it is something that is difficult to identify or there is only a very small sample I will send it to the lab so they can tell me what type of growth it is. The pathologist is a specialist who uses specific stains and preparations to identify various cells. Sometimes certain masses cannot be identified using cytology and a small biopsy or complete surgical removal is necessary for a diagnosis. This allows early detection of potentially dangerous growths to be removed early when they are smaller, allowing for a less invasive surgical procedure. Schmiggins has several lipomas and careful monitoring is essential to ensure the best possible health care plan for her.
One of the most common types of masses that I see on dogs and cats are adipose “fatty” tumors, also known as lipomas. Lipomas are more common in overweight dogs, and occur more frequently in females, and even cats. Certain breeds are predisposed like Labradors, Schnauzers, and Cocker Spaniels among others. These are also some of the easiest masses to detect by an aspirate. Most lipomas grow slowly over time and are almost always benign (non-cancerous). They hardly require surgical removal unless inhibit physical movement or become too large and damage the skin.
The vast majority of lipomas will not cause any discomfort or problems for your pet, but a definitive diagnosis as well as careful and consistent monitoring are certainly recommended. Noting any changes in size or appearance to existing masses as well as informing your veterinarian of new masses will ensure that your pet has the best care and treatment possible in order to prevent any uncommon but potentially troubling results.