This Article is About
fatty tumors
benign tumors
fat cells
internal organs
stressful situation
dog owners
Fatty Tumors On Dogs
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Fatty Tumors On Dogs

For most caring dog owners finding a lump on your much loved pet can be devastating and extremely scary. Do you immediately fear the worst? Do you know what they are? Do you know what to do? In the past few weeks I have been faced with exactly this scenario. I found a big lump on my dog’s chest and a smaller pea sized one on his rib cage. The vet described both as being Fatty Tumors, also known as Lipomas.

Through research, I found out that fatty tumors are common in middle aged and senior dogs, particularly if they are overweight and female. Generally, they are not an issue if dealt with at an early stage. Some breeds of dog, such as my Labrador, are more prone to them than others.

The best way I found to deal with such a stressful situation was to be well informed. The research I did was useful because I began to feel less intimidated by the dog’s medical condition and my own ignorance of what action to take. Hopefully, by writing about fatty tumors I can relieve some of the anxieties pet owners feel when caught up in similar circumstances.

What is a fatty tumor?

Basically, it’s a slow-growing collection of fat cells found under the skin. It’s important to realise that all dogs have a smooth, uniform fat layer between the skin and the muscles. When it comes to fatty tumors, the fat cells cause lumps rather than a smooth layer of fat.

What to watch out for

• A lump or bump which is visible on or around the chest, ribs, underbelly or groin areas

• When touched the tissue feels soft and has a smooth oval or round shape

• The lump will move slightly on touch without causing discomfort or pain

There are 2 types of fatty tumor

1. Benign tumors – grow slowly and push other cells out of the way. As they grow they can press on internal organs/tissue, but they do not invade them and they do not spread into other parts of the body.

2. Malignant tumors – Here the cells invade nearby organs and they can spread to other parts of the body where they create new tumors. This type of Lipoma is cancerous.

Fact: All tumors are a form of cancer, but thankfully the vast majority are benign.

Problems associated with fatty tumors

• Some can grow so large they can press on and affect nearby internal organs

• They can become so enormous that they affect walking and movement

• They get so large they infiltrate into muscle rather than staying behind skin. Infiltrative tumors are not as benign as a regular fatty tumor.

• If allowed to grow to an enormous size they can rupture, ulcerate and become infected

Diagnosis and Treatment

The first action should be to contact the vet. They usually carry out a fine needle aspiration. During this procedure a sterile needle is used to draw off cells from the lump. They then send the cells away for testing.

If the cells are benign, no treatment is usually recommended other than monitoring the size and shape of the lump at regular intervals. Many dogs spend the rest of their days riddled with lipomas which never cause them any health problems.

There are however certain circumstances when fatty tumors are removed surgically.

• If the aspiration test is not conclusive the vet may suggest a biopsy. This will typically involve surgery. Small lipoma may be removed completely, whereas with larger tumors, only a certain section may be removed for testing.

• If an existing lipoma suddenly starts to grow rapidly

• Where the size of the lipoma interferes with the dogs movement

• If the dog can get to the lipoma and starts to bite or scratch it causing bleeding

Why do dogs have fatty tumors?

Vets are not really sure, but it seems factors such as high calorie diets laden with carbohydrates, genetics, and lack of exercise all play their part. My Labrador is overweight and has been on a strict diet for the last 6 months. The vet believes that his lump has been there for a while, and that slimming down has made it more noticeable.

Fortunately, our test results showed no cancerous cells. However, the size of the lump is still cause for concern and it could possibly be an infiltrative tumor. At the moment we are taking a watch and wait approach.

I did ask the vet if she thought the tumor would shorten the dog’s lifespan. In her view, his life is more in danger by being overweight than anything else. At least we are tackling that issue with some success using a calorie controlled diet. Chances are his tumor will not cause him any problems in the future. Fingers crossed!


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