Lumps & Bumps
Pet owners frequently ask their veterinarian to look at a lump or growth on their pets. Why are lumps and bumps so scary?
Lumps and bumps are often associated with cancer and these growths can be malignant. It is difficult and often impossible to tell what a growth is just by looking at it and touching it. The feeling of the unknown can put a knot in your stomachs which is why it is always a good idea to have any new lump or bump evaluated and sampled by your veterinarian.
You can mark the location of the lump on their dog’s body with a marker and to measure it so that it can determined if this new lump has or has not grown in size over a short period of time. This makes the lump easy to find when your dog visits the vet’s office and maximizes the time spent with your veterinarian.
Lumps and bumps don’t discriminate. They can occur on pets of all ages, sizes, and breeds. Lumps and bumps can occur anywhere on the body. Many young dogs can get warts, lumps that can resolve on their own (like histiocytomas), and even cysts. Commonly, dogs can also get skin infections, which can look like small bumps all over the body. Typically, young dogs tend to get more benign growths, but unfortunately cancerous growths in dogs of all ages has been reported. Middle-aged to older dogs tend to get cysts, oil gland growths (sebaceous cysts and sebaceous adenomas), fatty tumors (lipomas), warts, skin tags, and other benign growths. We also see more malignant growths in mid- to older-aged dogs. These cancerous growths include but are not limited to mast cell tumors, melanomas, lymphoma, mammary gland tumors, and soft tissue sarcomas. It is important to feel for new lumps or bumps, but also make a habit of looking in the armpits, in the mouth, and around the rear end as these are common places that get missed by pet owners.
What should you do when you find a lump on our pet?
A lump or growth of any sort cannot be identified as benign or malignant without getting a sample of the cells or tissue and evaluating it. The easiest and least invasive way to sample a growth is to have your veterinarian do a fine needle aspiration of the lump in question. A small needle is used to collect cells from inside the lump. The cells are transferred to a slide and then evaluated under a microscope. Sometimes your vet can get the results during that same appointment. But sometimes lumps don’t provide enough cells or are too bloody to get a good idea of what the lump is. That leaves your veterinarian with some options. They can use a slightly larger needle and try again, biopsy the lump (obtaining a small tissue sample), remove the entire lump with surgery, or monitor it carefully and see if it changes in a short period. If you choose to monitor lumps, you gave to watch for significant growth in a short time (weeks to a month), changes in how it feels, changes in colour, or if it starts to bleed or ooze at all. If any of these changes occur, rechecking the lump will help your veterinarian to determine if further action is needed to ensure the health of the pet. Remember to keep a journal, take a measurement, and see your veterinarian any time you are concerned about a lump or bump.