By Dr. Judith Herman
Q. I have found a lump on my middle-aged dog. Should I be concerned?
A. Most dogs will develop lumps you can feel during their lifetime. When to worry and when not is a concern for every guardian. When you find a lump on your best friend, the best thing to do is to set up an exam with your veterinarian. Many lumps are benign and may never cause a problem. Others are a concern and need to be addressed sooner than later.
I have talked about cancerous tumors in past articles. This article will address benign tumors and what does that mean.
The lumps you are going to find are on the skin and under the skin. The most common skin lumps are warts. Warts are firm when you feel them. Many are cauliflower shape and some are smooth. They can be tiny or big. Generally, they are not a problem, but some are in an area that bothers the dog, like on his legs. These warts are nothing to worry about. Generally, they bother us more than the dog. If a wart is a problem either by getting cut when groomed or by Fido constantly licking it, removal is warranted.
There are also warts called viral papillomas. These warts are viral in origin and are contagious. Dogs acquire them from other dogs. Viral warts are usually found in and around the mouth of young dogs. Sometimes they are found on other mucous membranes such as genital and eyelid margins. They differ from other warts by the way they look and their number. These warts look like sea anemones and there are usually several. The good news is these papillomas will go away within a month or two. Viral papillomas are contagious, so remember if your pup develops them don’t let him interact with other dogs until they are gone.
Another common benign skin tumor is called a skin tag. It is small piece of tissue that grows with a small base and can become long and floppy. They occur mostly around the head, neck and chest, but can occur anywhere. Like humans they develop with age and can be triggered by irritation. This irritation can be from chemicals, rubbing collars, and chronic scratching to name a few. If they get big, they can get caught on something and tear. If they are on the chest, they can become frostbitten causing discomfort for your dog. Removal is mostly for cosmetic reasons unless they are bothering your dog.
Sebaceous cysts form in the skin. These are lumps made from skin glands called sebaceous oil glands. These glands produce a skin oil called sebum. Sometimes these glands get clogged with dirt, debris, or scar tissue. The sebum builds up and makes the nodule you feel. Sebaceous cysts can become inflamed and painful. When this happens, it is important to have your dog treated by your veterinarian. Sebaceous cysts can look like other tumors. If the lump in the skin changes size from day to day, have your veterinarian check it out because it may not be a benign cyst but something more serious.
The last common lump most dogs get are called lipomas. These are tumors made of fat cells. Normally they are soft, moveable, non-painful, and under the skin. If you find this on your dog, you don’t need to panic, but you will want your veterinarian to check it out at Fido’s next visit. Most lipomas are not a problem unless they grow big and inhibit your dog’s movement or quality of life.
The most important take away is not all tumors are a problem, and it is best to have your veterinarian confirm that you don’t need to worry.
Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH
Animal Wellness Center