Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Dog Lump FAQs: Are Lipomas Dangerous?
Dogs get lumps very often. Many owners may suddenly find a lump after their dog's daily grooming session or when checking for ticks. One of the most common lumps found in dogs are lipomas. These are fatty deposits that collect under the skin. They are usually soft, smooth and movable. A lump may very likely be a lipoma, however, as with any lump we humans find in our bodies, it is always advisable to have it checked by a vet.
Have Your Vet Check It Out
The first step after finding a lump on your dog would be having your vet examine it and determine the best course of action. Commonly, the veterinarian may want to examine some cells under a microscope. This is done by collecting the cells with a biopsy needle, a procedure known as a fine needle aspiration. The good news is that lipomas are usually benign, they usually are soft and they seem to not cause any particular pain or problems to the dog. In many cases, the vet will recommend to just keep an eye on it and report if it seems to grow a whole lot and starts interfering with movement.
Is It Malignant or Benign?
Sometimes, lipomas may grow very large and depending on where they are located, they may cause discomfort and therefore, need to be removed. In such a case, it is best then to have the lump checked in order to rule out any possible malignancies such as basal cell tumors, sebaceous adenocarcinoma or mast cell tumors.
Fine needle aspiration and/or removal of the lipoma are often fundamental in the process of ruling out a malignancy. Yet, it's important to note that a fine needle aspirate is not 100% accurate. If no malignancy is detected some vets would recommend keeping an eye on the lump and keeping track of its growth. It is understandable that some owners are concerned about putting a dog through surgery especially if middle-aged or senior. In these cases, owners look for alternative treatments. Here are some alternatives to surgery.
Alternatives to Dog Lipoma Surgery
Monitoring the Lipoma
Sometimes a "wait and see" approach can be taken if your vet approves after having ruled out a malignancy. Sometimes the vet is actually the first person suggesting this approach. In the "wait and see" approach, the owner must carefully monitor the lump and watch for signs of shrinking or increasing in size.
Routine measurements with a ruler are necessary to ensure accurate results. Sizes recorded are then reported to the vet that can, therefore, suggest the best course of action.
The only treatment besides surgery, holistic or otherwise, is weight loss.
Reducing the amount of food she takes in by 1/4 daily, will eventually cause the lipomas to recede as the fat stored there is used by her body.
— Dr. Bob, veterinarian
Diet for Dog Lipoma
Some dog owners report their dog's lipomas shrinking after switching to a raw diet, but this is only anecdotal. What owners of dogs with lipomas can try is putting the dog on a diet. Weight loss can cause the lipoma to decrease in size, explains veterinarian Dr. Peter. However, things can be challenging for the simple fact that lipomas tend to be well encapsulated and they can be difficult to completely disappear or shrink.
Any dog who is overweight in any case benefits from a weight-loss program as this means less weight on the joints and lower risks for contracting certain medical conditions, so there's really nothing to lose.
Supplements for Dog Lipomas
Dog owners often wonder whether they can try some natural remedies or supplements to shrink their dog's lipoma. Truth is, the rate f success with these types of treatment are anecdotal at best. If we think about it, if there were truly any supplements that could magically shrink lipomas in dogs these would have major drug companies rushing for them because they would see a great opportunity for marketing them.
There are several products that have been crafted promising to dissolve fatty deposits in dogs, but often there are mixed reviews and many are quite poor. It's also important to talk to the vet before using any supplements, but most likely the vet will be the first to not recommend them.
Consulting with a holistic vet may be more helpful. Dr. Benedetta, a veterinarian specializing in homeopathy suggests trying with Thuja occidentalis. However, she warns that her expectation for lipomas to disappear is pretty low, but hopefully, it may work to prevent the existing ones from getting bigger or the formation of more.
Surgical Removal With Anesthesia
Lumpectomies (surgical removal of lumps) can be performed safely if your dog undergoes pre-anesthetic bloodwork and gets isoflurane anesthesia. Ask your vet about the pros and cons of a lumpectomy. I have checked many senior dogs after undergoing a lumpectomy, many over the age of 12. Most of them recovered just fine. Fatty lumps can be left alone under the vet's suggestion but they should not be allowed to grow to such an extent that they interfere with movement and your dog's general well being.
A Word of Caution
The above approaches should be taken with a word of caution. They may have worked for some people, but it is highly recommended that you abide by your vet's protocol. If your vet suggests surgery, very likely the lump is invasive and better off. You may want to get a second opinion should you do not agree with your vet.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli
Jerry bell on July 08, 2018:
home remedies for fatty tumor on my golden retrever
Sharon on August 13, 2017:
Can lipomas be injected with phosphatidylcholine since this is done for some people?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 02, 2017:
Libby, I am not a vet,(just worked for as a vet assistant) but last time I talked to my vet about my older dog having 4 lipomas (fatty tumors) she said that surgery is generally necessary when they get too big and they interfere with natural movement. If you are sure they are indeed fatty tumors (meaning your vet has checked them out) and your dog is otherwise happy and healthy and the fatty growths aren't interfering, I don't think they are a major problem that warrants putting a dog down. About the surgery, the best person to ask is your vet as this may vary based on several factors (eg how big the tumors are, if they are in places that bother the dog, how healthy your dog is to go under surgery, etc)
Libby bassett on April 02, 2017:
With a dog being 12 or 13 years old and have many fatty tumors is it necessary to put the dog down or get surgery??
piiro626 on January 11, 2013:
all this information was helpful
Dr. John Simon on October 19, 2011:
I want to make it clear that needle aspiration biopsies are not infallible and I have had the unfortunate experience of having a malignant tumor hiding underneath a benign lipoma. If small growth is aspirated and only fat is found it is unlikely that a malignant tumor would be obscured by the benign growth, however, a large fatty tumor has a much great chance of covering up a smaller cancerous tumor.
Also I believe that a wait and see approach should only be taken after a needle biopsy has been performed. I went to veterinary conference where the speaker was a clinical veterinary pathologist. He was very emphatic when he said "Never just wait and see if a mass is growing. At the very least perform a needle aspiration biopsy. If the biopsy shows only fatty tissue then you can feel more comfortable watching it to see if it continues to grow"
Dr. John Simon, Woodside Animal Clinic, doc4pets.com
Beagle in ak on September 24, 2011:
My beagle has 2 really bad ones removed and there was no complication other than getting a few more years later. We were told though that they do not harm the pet just can get uncomfortable if in an area where there are joints and only if the fatty deposits are irritating to the dog. The limping expiriced may be something else, but you should get a second opinion before any final decisions.
Roseanne on September 11, 2011:
I have a maltese mix who is about to have a fatty tumor removed. The stories I have read are scaring me. Although I trust my vet, I am considering not having this done. It is a small lump on his side. I don't want him to be in pain, or uncomfortable. It doesn't seem to be bothering him. The vet wants to remove it to prevent it from growing bigger. He says it's a simple procedure. I want to believe him, but now I'm unsure.
Karen on February 21, 2010:
For Owl Creek Observer. I'm really sorry that your dog is experiencing so much pain. I hope he can fight through this. I know how heartbreaking it is to see them in pain. I know I'd rather suffer the pain than have my dog suffer. It sounds like they didn't give the right kind or may not the adequate strength of pain pills. I pray everything turns out okay and, in the end, the surgery will have been worth it. My dog's lipomas are continuing to grow and now she has one close to the front of her back leg. She's been walking a little stiff legged lately, so of course I'm worrying that this might cause some serious problems. I really don't want to put her through any type of clinical situation as she went through so much during the year she was been treated for nonregenerative anemia. In the end, none of the specialists helped, only hurt her. It was at the urging of a lay person that I put her on Doxycyline that saved her life and turned her around. We now have an open-minded holistic vet who makes house calls. Expensive, yes, but I'm going to make my dog as comfortable as can be after all she's gone through. I'm spoiling her rotten. Thanks for your post. I don't believe I'll be considering surgery for her after reading about your dog's experience. Good luck and God Bless.
OwlCreekObserver on February 21, 2010:
We had a lump removed from our dog's back a couple of years ago with no problems. Six days ago we decided to have two more removed, one on his back and the other near the base of his tail. We were given some pain pills to help him through his recovery.
Four days later the pain pills were nearly gone and our dog was in such pain that he was having trouble walking. I called the vet and she prescribed more pain pills. By the next morning (Saturday) his pain was even worse. I called the vet again and explained the situation, adding that we couldn't bear to see him in such pain and that we'd rather have him put down than see him suffer this much.
The vet refused, saying she wanted to "counsel" us first, but her schedule was full until Monday. She referred me to the emergency animal clinic and we took him there. They could find nothing obviously wrong but prescribed an antibiotic just in case there was an infection.
It is now Sunday evening and I have had to carry our little guy outside and back all day. He stays in his bed -- very unlike him. I've done everything I can do to relieve his pain but I know that I failed him by asking for the lumpectomies in the first place.
I would never again, under any circumstances, have surgery done on a pet. The pain, for both the pet and the owner, can be overwhelming.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 16, 2010:
The video is from you tube and I am not affiliated with it. All surgeries for lipomas have different costs, depending on the weight of the dog, the location of the lipomas, the age of the dog, the quantity of lipomas etc. Only your vet can give you an estimate based on all these factors. I can roughly imagine it can be anywhere from $700 to $1500.
Karen on February 15, 2010:
Thanks for this and I'm glad Haddy's surgery and recovery went so well. My beagle has several fatty deposits and one is huge, but not as large as Haddy's. I would let her have the surgery, but she is in recovery from IMHA and I have to watch her PCV levels and am afraid to have her put under an anthestic. As her other deposits continue to grow, I fear they will interfere with her movements. Just don't know what is best for her. Could you tell me how much the surgery cost and how long did it take. Thank you.