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Fatty Tumors in Dogs – A Short Guide

Fatty tumors are clumps of soft, squishy fat that has embedded itself into the dog’s tissues. It’s essentially fat that hasn’t metabolized properly. The tumor walls itself off and safely remains in that pocket of fat.

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These tumors can occur at any time, and anywhere around the dog’s neck, torso or upper legs. 

What is a Fatty Tumor?

A fatty tumor  is actually a fatty mass called a lipoma.  Lipomas, by definition, are not cancerous. They usually feels soft and will not cause the dog discomfort (unless the location of the tumor disrupts movement).  It’s basically a lump of slow growing fat cells which remains localized, not traveling through the body or into other tissues.

Infiltrative Lipoma – Rare

Infiltrative lipomas are a little different than fatty tumors in dogs.  These rare tumors feel firmer and can actually be painful for your dog.  They tend to be fixed to underlying tissue.  However, even though they spread into the  surrounding tissue, they don’t move to other parts of the body. 

Only a veterinarian can diagnose an infiltrative lipoma and, if found, surgery may be recommended.  

How Can I Tell if it’s Cancerous?

The truth is, you can’t.  Dogs commonly have lumps and bumps, especially as they age.  A dog could have two different lumps that look the same. One of those lumps could be a mast cell tumor (for example), and the other one a fatty tumor. 

Fatty tumors are slow growing and not painful. Other than the fact that it’s there, it shouldn’t bother your dog.  If your dog starts itching it or trying to gnaw at it, it could be something else.

Always bring your dog to a licensed veterinarian for examination of all new lumps and bumps.  The doctor will probably do a fine needle aspirate to withdraw tissue. He or she will then take that tissue and view it under a microscope.

Is It Possible for my Dog to Have Several Fatty Tumors?

Your dog can have several lumps at one time. They are not necessarily all benign or fatty tumors.   

When looking at a lump it is difficult to tell if it is benign or not which is why a fine needle aspiration might be necessary to diagnose the problem. This procedure is quick, simple and painless for your pet.

Fatty tumor lipomas tend to grow on the upper legs, armpits, neck and along the chest and abdomen.  However, they can really appear anywhere.

What Do Fatty Tumors Look Like?

Fatty tumors in dogs feel soft and moveable.  They grow just under the skin and can range in size.  The fatty tumor will not continue to grow until it erupts.  Basically, they stay the same.

Lipomas are not pretty to look at.  Even people can develop fatty tumors. 

They can be quite small, although there have been reports of fatty tumors as big as golfballs.  

Can Fatty Tumors Be Surgically Removed?

Most veterinarians will not recommend removing the fatty tumor. It’s always best to avoid having your dog go through general anesthesia if it is not necessary. 

Once the veterinarian has determined that this lump is not cancerous, the general suggestion is to leave it alone.  However, if the lump is in a place that limits range of motion, or is otherwise hard on the dog, a veterinarian will consider surgery.

I’m Still Worried!

If you’ve noticed any weight loss, lethargy, or a sudden cough in conjunction with a new lump, it’s best to make an appointment with the veterinarian.

Remember that fatty tumors are common, especially in overweight dogs. Make sure to ask your veterinarian all of your questions to alleviate your concerns.  If there is reason to believe the lump is cancerous, the veterinarian will talk to you about all of the options.

Remember!  Not every lump is cancerous. Soft, moveable lumps are usually benign.

Have you found a lump you’re worried about? Leave a comment in the box below the post or email me at: [email protected]

Why Not Surgery?

Earlier in this post, I mentioned that veterinarians prefer not to do surgery on harmless fatty tumors. However, I can’t speak for every veterinarian out there. In some cases, it might be in the dog’s best interest to remove the tumor. For example, if the tumor is large and sticking out of the neck, your dog might have trouble eating or even breathing.

Some clinics want to remove every lump and bump, and others are more conservative.  If the veterinarian leaves it up to you, here are some things to consider:

Your Dog’s Age

The average lifespan of a dog is from 10 to 15 years.   There are always going to be dogs that don’t fit within that range, however.  

If your dog still has potentially many good years left, you might decide to have the lipoma surgically removed. 

The Expense of Surgery and Recovery

Find out what the clinic charges for fatty tumor removal. When you add up the cost of anesthesia, post-surgery antibiotics, follow-up appointments, etc., the price might not be worth it.

The Bottom Line…

Fatty tumors are often left alone unless they are hindering the dog’s movement or quality of life in some way. It is important to keep an eye on your pooch so any changes to the size, location or number of masses can be easily noticed. The majority of cases involving these tumors are harmless, however, some cases may require surgery and possibly other treatments.  

I want to thank you for taking the time to read this post. Remember, I’m not a veterinarian so please make sure to bring your dog to the clinic if you suspect anything is wrong.

Comments are always welcome.  Post in the form below, or email me at [email protected]

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