My Dog Has a Lump. What Is It?
Every day, somebody across the globe will discover a lump on his dog and will ask himself or to people around him, "My dog has a lump, what can it be?" We may start wondering if the dog got bit from a bug or if it's just a temporary swelling that may go away. Some owners may even ignore the lump, thinking it is just something minor, especially if it's small in size. Others may take a "wait and see" approach, which means they'll keep an eye on it and see the vet only if it gets bigger. Finally, some will see the vet the next day because they are concerned. Different people have different approaches in dealing with the appearance of a lump on their dogs, but who is ultimately right?
There is really no way to tell the correct approach in these cases, as it highly depends on what the lump ultimately turns out to be. The owner who ignores it may be lucky if it turns out to just be a local reaction to a bug bite. The owner who waits may be lucky if the lump just stays the same size over the next weeks and months. The owner who sees the vet the next day may be lucky he did so since he caught a malignant growth in its earliest stages, but things don't always turn out this way. Learn why all lumps, regardless of appearance, should be seen by your vet. In the next paragraphs, we will take a look at some answers to the common question "My dog has a lump; what can it be?"
My Dog Has a Lump What Could it Be?
So you found the lump on your dog and now you are skimming through websites and the entire blogosphere in hopes of trying to figure out what it can be. In this article, I will be doing you a big favor and saving you a great amount of time. The truth is, you may never find out. This may burst the bubble to many of those hoping for a straight answer and a possible Internet diagnosis courtesy of Mr. Google. There are many reasons why you cannot know exactly what that lump is, unless you saw a bug bite your dog and you are 100 percent sure that's why your dog got that temporary local irritation, but then again, if you knew, you wouldn't be searching the web, would you?. Following are some reasons, why you won't ever be 100 percent sure what a lump is until you see your vet and why it's not safe making assumptions on what it is when it comes to lumps. Of course, it doesn't hurt to do some harmless research just to look at possibilities and get an idea what to possibly expect, but you should never assume what you read or see can offer a diagnosis and can be used as a substitute for veterinary advice!
- Your Vet Won't Likely Know Either!
Countless owners bring their dogs to the vet and ask their vet "my dog got this lump, do you know what it is?" They are often hopeful their vet says it's nothing and sends them home. They are then surprised though when the vet shrugs his shoulders and confesses that he doesn't have a clue what type of lump it is exactly. You may think, without saying it out loud: "What do you mean you don't know? You're the vet, you should know!." Please, don't take it on your vet, he is being totally honest, and you should thank him for his integrity in not making guessed assumptions.
Veterinarian oncologist Susan Ettinger says it crystal clear. She claims that "No one — not a vet, not an oncologist, and not you — can tell what a lump is just by feeling. Not even the most experienced veterinarian can look at or feel a mass and know if it is cancer or not." So if your vet who has gone to vet school for many years to get his degree and license, but doesn't know, how can somebody on the Internet tell you exactly what it is? How can you figure it out? You may wonder at this point: why is that? Why can't your vet over the years learn to recognize what kind of lump your dog has? Read on to learn more about why lumps are so difficult to diagnose.
- Things Aren't Always Innocent as they Look
So you found a small lump on your dog. You may assume that just because it's small, your dog looks healthy and it's not not growing fast over the course of a few days, your dog is safe from a possible malignancy. You may also think that since your dog's lump looks like another benign lump you have seen in an image over the Internet, he must have the same thing. Truth is, there are many types of lumps and just because your dog's lump looks similar to a picture of a benign one doesn't necessarily mean it's just a benign lump you can ignore. Not all lumps are benign dog fatty tumors (lipomas)!
The perfect example are mast-cell cancers, which vets for a good reason nickname as the "the great imitators."Why? Because these cancers can simply "look like anything they want, even lipomas" explains Michelle Gray, an Associate Veterinarian at Woodland Animal Hospital in Carmel, IN. Veterinarian Dr. Demian Dressler also talks about a vet diagnosing a dog's lump as lipoma by touch and sight alone, until Dr. Dressler finds out it's actually a large hemangiosarcoma. And this brings us to the next point...
- You're Only Looking at the Top of the Iceberg!
Imagine being invited to a contest where you are brought to a room where there are over 200 pies displayed on many tables. A person points to a pie and asks you to guess what type of pie it is. You have nothing to help you out. You can't taste the pie, smell the pie or open the pie to see its content. You will have to rely on the sight of the pie alone. You end up guessing because there are no clues to help you out, so you say "peach pie", so they slice the pie, and of course, you are wrong. The same goes with lumps, you don't know what you are dealing with through sight and touch alone unless you do a fine needle aspirate. In a fine needle aspirate procedure, your vet collects cells and/or fluids using a small needle. The collected cells and/or fluids are then placed on a glass side and sent to pathology for evaluation. Only after the pathologist looks at the collected sample and sends a report, your vet can let you know what the lump exactly is. This can ultimately help sort out the malignant growths from the benign ones.
*Note: some lumps may be tricky to identify. In some cases, a fine needle aspiration may come back inconclusive or suspicious and a biopsy may be needed or the vet may suggest to simply remove the lump and send the whole thing to pathology.
Found a lump? Keep track of your dog's lumps with this helpful body map!
Courtesy of Southern Arizona Veterinary Oncology, a wonderful resource for treating cancer in pets, is this helpful body map for dog owners to record their dog's lumps, locations and findings.
When in Doubt, Please Sort It Out!
You still may at times feel tempted to wait to have that lump checked out, just because it's small, looks innocent-looking and isn't growing much. Perhaps, even your vet suggested you to do so. There's a scary trend going on and owners should be aware of this. There have been cases where vets have told their clients to take a wait and see approach because the lump was small as a pea or just because they dog has had many similar lumps in the past and they all turned out to be benign. It's easy to get a sense of false reassurance just because the dog has had many lumps in the past and they turned out being all benign.
There are countless stories though of dogs who end up with cancer just because of that "wait and see" approach. What happened? In many cases, the owner wasn't too diligent in keeping an eye on the lump until he notices it's three time its size, or the owner may have forgotten how it looked like in the initial visit six months prior (it helps to take routine pictures and measurements of the lump to keep track) . A needle aspirate is then done and pathology report reveals the big "C" and the vet calls the owner who is in disbelief. The surgery now is much more invasive than it would have been if this was caught earlier and the prognosis may be guarded. If the owner waited a bit more, the cancer could have metastasized to internal organs which could have been a death sentence. Not a nice ending to a story that could have had a totally different outcome!
The bottom line? Play it safe and have your vet check the lump. Chances are high, most vets will recommend a fine needle aspiration. If your vet tells you to remove the lump surgically without doing a fine needle aspirate first, consider that the surgery can be a shot in the dark--meaning risky business. Always have lumps removed once you know exactly what you are dealing with! Why? you may question, isn't it good to remove the lump once and for all? Thing is, depending on what the lump is, the surgeon will need to take a conservative or a more aggressive approach. For instance, in the case of a mast- cell tumor, the skin will need to be excised with a very wide margin; whereas, with a benign growth that bothers your dog a small cut may do. VeterinarianKaren Becker suggests to always get a confirming diagnosis so the surgery can be carried out accordingly based on the type of tumor.
A last piece of advice? If your dog turns out having cancer and you can afford it, your best bet is to have a specialist deal with the surgery. This way, your dog will be in the best hands possible and you up the chances for clean margins and a potential one-time surgery.
Disclaimer: This article is the result of my research and should not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If you have noticed a lump on your dog, please play it safe and have it checked out by your vet. Never try home remedies to shrink a growth without ruling out cancer and consulting with a holistic vet first!
What do you do when you find a lump on your dog?
For Further Reading
- Understanding Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs
What are sebaceous cysts in dogs and how do they occur? How are they treated? Learn why it's important to see your vet if you notice any unusual lumps and bumps.
- Causes of Lumps on Dog Paw Pads
Wondering what may cause unusual lumps and bumps on a dog's paw pad? Learn possible causes for why your dog has lump on paw pad and why it's so important to see the vet.
- Causes of Lumps and Masses in the Mouth in Dogs
What causes unusual growths in the dogs dog's mouth? There are several causes for growths, lumps and masses in the dog's mouth and all of them should be investigated by 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.