Dogs seem to acquire small fatty tumors almost as easily as they find smelly things to chew on or roll in. It seems to be a “dog thing,” almost like we find a gray hair when we least expect it.
No dog is immune to lipomas, which is a common small fatty tumor, which by definition are benign and sometimes unsightly. In rare occasions they can cause problems.
What is a lipomas? A lipomas is usually a soft and non-painful mass found right under the skin. A true lipomas is never cancerous, however, there are some malignant variants called lipsarcomas and infiltrative lipomas, which are locally invasive. Ninety nine percent of the time lipomas should not cause an owner any need for worry.
Lipomas can appear anywhere on the dog’s body, but usually show up on the abdomen and legs. The tumors can range in size from the less then a quarter of an inch to the size of a baseball. It is said that some if neglected for a long period of time can reach basketball size. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that someone would let that happen to his or her dog.
A dog can have several at a time and lipomas do not favor any particular gender or breed of dog. Middle-aged and senior dogs however, seem more prone to them. Any size or age dog can have them; the tumors are not particular.
Even though they are basically harmless, a trip to the vet is a good idea. Your vet will insert a needle into the tumor to confirm that it is benign and discuss whether or not it should be removed.
Lipomas are removed when a vet thinks they may cause pain or impede a dog’s movement. A pain causing lipomas would be one located under the “armpit” area (under the dog’s foreleg next to its chest). A lipomas in this area would possibly bother the dog while walking. Others would be recommended for removal if the size was large and in an area where a large incision would be necessary.
Some lipomas are removed for cosmetic reasons, though most vets suggest removal for that reason to be put aside until the dog needs to go under anesthesia for another reason. Putting a dog under anesthesia is always a risky endeavor and should only be done when really necessary.
What can be done as a prevention? There is no possible prevention as some dogs are just prone to having them. The only thing you can do is be on the lookout for any lumps or bumps on your dog and have them checked.
Apparently the ones to really keep an eye on are lumps that grow quite rapidly and appear to be firmly fixed to the body. This would be a liposarocoma and should be removed and followed up with some radiation therapy. Without some radiation therapy once removed, could spread through the blood to other areas.
Infiltrative lipomas look like an ordinary lipoma under a microscope, but actually have a root type system that will grow into deeper areas including the muscles. This type of tumor is a challenge to remove because of its so-called root system. Both types of these tumors require radiation treatment and sometimes require amputation of a limb.
Amputation is a bitter pill for most dog owners to swallow, however, as a dog owner you need to realize that your pet will adjust to it quickly and very easily. They are not like us and dwell on the loss of a limb; they just find an easy way to get used to not having it, without any fanfare or tears. A lesson we could all learn from.
Since lipomas are part of our dog’s life what can we do? Keep a watchful eye on your dog’s body. Frequently use your hands when you are petting your dog to wander over its body checking for lumps and bumps. Talk to your vet and whenever you have your dog in for its checkup have the vet look for signs of lipomas.
You can keep track of the size of the tumor by placing a piece of paper over the lump and trace the size; you can then use this guide to measure future growth.
Lipomas are usually nothing to worry about, but it is wise to see you vet and talk to him/her about what to look for. Your vet can give you some guidelines to follow and when in doubt, take a trip to the vet, just to be certain all is well. Your dog deserves proper care and you will have peace of mind.