What to Do For Lumps On a Dog

Bonnie Marshall knew something was not right with her dog: Thirteen-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Oogy, visited the vet just a week before for his annual examination, teeth cleaning, and vaccines. A week later, this is Oogy when lumps suddenly appeared under his skin:

Dog with tumor on chest

Most concerning, these tumors:

  1. Appeared out of nowhere
  2. Increased in size at a rapid rate of speed
  3. Formed in multiple locations.

The Vancouver, British Columbia resident opted to have the tumors removed and tested. As the co-founder of West Coast Cocker Rescue, Marshall knew that Cocker lumps and bumps tend to occur more often in the breed, especially as they age. Cockers are one of those breeds that tend to have more sebaceous gland issues than some other breeds. This was definitely different from any typical growths she’d experienced in her many years as a Cocker mom.

The following photos may not be for the surgical weak of heart readers (there is only one skin incision photo), but we are taking you inside the operating room for a step-by-step of the tumors that Oogy had removed and to help you see up close and personal what happens when a dog enters a qualified, caring, veterinary surgeon’s operating room.

Step by step, here’s what happened and then we’ll discuss what you should do if your dog has any sort of lump:

Cocker spaniel with multiple tumors
Oogy is x-rayed to determine if the tumors are infiltrating any organs.

 

Dog relaxing prior to surgery
After receiving sedation to relax, Oogy is feeling pretty chilled out.

 

Dog with lumps
Oogy has his heart rate monitored

 

Dog preparing for surgery
Oogy on the table while Dr. Anderson sets up some monitoring equipment.

 

Dog with tumors in surgery
Prepping Oogy for surgery

 

tumors on dog
Dr. Anderson locates one of the several tumors on Oogy.

 

Dog surgical incision to remove tumor
One of the incisions to remove a tumor.
Dog skin incision
An incision in Oogy’s groin.

 

Abdominal tumor dog
Here is the actual tumor removed from Oogy’s abdomen, sent out for biospy.

 

Dog after surgery for lumps
Dog mom, Bonnie Marshall, waits with Oogy in a private room post-op

Postop Period

As dog mom Bonnie awaited the results of the biopsies, she shared what the veterinarian told her. Oogy had one tumor in his abdominal area and one in his chest cavity. Marshall is generally allowed to be in on all of the surgeries for her dogs, but with one of the tumors resting close to the dog’s jugular vein, she left the OR under the surgeon’s orders.

The results of all tumors was benign. Dr. Anderson shared with Marshall, “This is a DNA flaw similar to when a photocopier gets jammed. The paper cannot get pushed through the track and it gets stuck. These tumors are similar in nature: They look like balls of fatty string.”

The good doctor shares that most of these tumors are benign. As soon as we are able to ascertain the actual lab report, we’ll circle back to this article and update with the exact medical terminology.

What to do about lumps on a dog

Lumps and Bumps on Dogs

Some dogs produce an overabundance of sebaceous oil. Sebaceous glands are found in the skin of mammals and produce an oily or waxy secretion called sebum. When the production of sebum goes awry, (either too little or too much of it), this is when blocked glands, cysts, or tumors can occur. As a Cocker Spaniel mom of nearly 25 years, we’ve dealt up close and personal with a variety of lumps and bumps on dog skin. If your dog has any sort of lump or something you suspect might be a cyst, never attempt to burst it or pop it. Squeezing at it can cause it to implode, stir up infection, and cause other issues depending on what the nature of the lump is.

dog drain
One of the drains on Thurman after his lump removal.

One of the things you can do to help a dog distribute the sebum throughout their skin is to brush them regularly. Make a note of any lumps or bumps, and even better, take a photograph and measure the lump. Then seek veterinary attention.

We penned an entire article on What to Do if Your Dog Has a Lump. It is worth your time to read it, bookmark it, share it, and refer to it, as the information within it can potentially save your dog’s life. I know because a rather benign-looking growth on my first Cocker Spaniel turned out to be a mast cell (cancerous) tumor of the skin.

Dog mom, Devri King, experienced something similar with the appearance of lumps on her dog’s skin. Her dog, Thurman, was diagnosed with Sterile Nodular Panniculitis. It is an immune system deficiency, with no cause identified. (There was no bacteria in any of Thurman’s biopsies or cultures.)  Read more about panniculitis and King’s journey here.

When lumps appear on your dog

Cancer or Not?

Anyone who has a dog with a lump, at some stage, has the C word run through their mind. Having been down this road, I can completely attest to the sinking feeling of worry that washes over you when your fingertips innocently discover a lump. I will tell you that 98 percent of the lumps that have appeared on my dogs have been benign. Each dog is different and many factors come into play: From environment to genetics, diet and even a dog’s weight.

My friend and wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Patrick Mahaney, is treating six kinds of cancer in his dog, a Terrier named Cardiff.

“When surgically removing a benign or non-cancerous mass, there’s less of a need to have wider margins of normal tissue removed in addition to the site of concern,” Mahaney writes on his petMD blog. “With malignant tumors, it’s crucial that more normal tissue is cut out to ensure the cancer has not invaded deeper into the site of origin on a microscopic level. Two to three centimeters in all directions is an ideal margin for masses suspected or confirmed to be malignant. Surgically removing (excising) a mass with clean margins is often curative.”

Of the six tumors recently removed from his dog, three of them were benign sebaceous adenomas. Read all about Cardiff’s journey and what Mahaney is doing to treat and manage his dog’s benign and cancerous tumors.

Dr Patrick Mahaney

Your first course of action should always be to visit the veterinarian. I am a proponent of fine-needle aspiration. It is a simple test, the dog only feels the gentle prick of the needle (if anything), and no anesthesia is required. A thin needle is gently inserted into the lump. Fluid within the lump is drawn up into a syringe and then the veterinarian can assess it. Our veterinarian would look at the slide in his office for a first glance and to ease our minds. The pathology is then sent out and assessed at a laboratory. This is a first line of screening for most lumps and depending on the results, the pet parent knows how to respond.

Your Dog Has a Lump: Now What

A lump appears on your dog. What should you do next? Do not panic but do not sit idly and hope it goes away. Act by making a vet visit. There is a portion of those in the veterinary community who feel that a lump needs immediate removal. Surgery, anesthesia, stitches: The whole she-bang. Um, no. I am not a veterinarian but I am a dedicated dog parent who has interviewed well over 1,000 people in her career within the pet world. A great deal of these people are professionals who advocate for surgery only when absolutely necessary. This is the type of veterinarian I seek and recommend to you, my readers, that you seek for your dog(s). Every lump should be examined by the vet. I do believe in aspiration whenever possible.

lump on dog
A lump on my dog, Dexter, that is benign and we monitor.

How to Prevent Lumps and Bumps on Dogs

I wish I had a 100 percent certain answer to give you here, but there is no one particular method that will prevent all lumps on dogs. There are things you can do, however, to keep a dog as healthy as possible. In a nutshell, please ensure your dog(s):

  1. Eats a quality diet. The diet that works best for your dog is the one that agrees with him, merits good bloodwork, that he or she enjoys eating, and that provides sound nutrition. Want to know what I feed my dog? Click here for my dog’s diet.
  2. Is not overweight: Heavier dogs have more problems, and over 52 percent of dogs in the United States are considered overweight or obese. Your dog needs to lose weight if he is tipping the scales too high. Click here for tips on helping a dog lose weight the safe way.
  3. Gets the proper vitamins and/or supplements.
  4. Is not overvaccinated. Do you know which vaccines your dog needs? Read here for more info on vaccines and what diligent dog parents should know.
  5. Avoids chemicals as much as possible.  The chemical-laden flea and tick topicals are not used on our dogs, and we prefer safer means of flea and tick prevention.

Has your dog ever experienced a lump or bump? What did you do? What would you do armed with this information?

 

Comments

  1. So scary when you find a lump on your dog or cat. We have had a few scares over the years and of course, it is easy to panic and assume the worst. I’m glad to hear most tumors are benign.

  2. Thanks for getting this info out there Carol. You can never have too much info ! I will forward Oggy Doggy’s histology report to you . Many thanks from both Oggy Doggy and me! We love your blog and we love YOU!! Happy New Year to you Dex & Dar <3

  3. I have had many dogs over the years and some have developed lumps and others haven’t. I have never seen exactly how the lumps are removed but thanks to you now I have. Some lumps just continued to return on one of my dogs but they were always benign too.

  4. Lumps are always scary. I’ve been getting them a few times a year since I was about a year old. Mine disappear after a month or two. We had them all checked in the beginning, but they are always “nothing” lumps. Now Mom just keeps an eye or rather, fingers on them and monitors them. Katie got one, so we took her in to have it aspirated and it was also nothing, thankfully. The key is to monitor your dog always so you know when something changes and talk to your vet about the next step.

    • That is such a good point. I remember with our last Cocker had so many, the oncologist gave us a diagram of a dog. We were to pinpoint where the lump was located. We lost track with so many dots and started taking photos, too.

  5. Thanks for sharing Oogy’s story. We’ve been monitoring a lump on Stetson for the past few years. We did the fine needle aspiration and our vet said everything looked okay and as long as it wasn’t bothering Stetson when he walked (it was located close to his elbow) we didn’t need to remove it. Even after our vets reassurance we still keep a close on Stetson’s lump and his health.

    • Colby, so nice to hear from you. How have you been? You are very smart to keep an eye on your dog’s lump.

  6. So much good information here. We used to worry every time our dogs got a lump or bump – and they got more of them as they got older. Thankfully, none of them were dangerous to them.

  7. Our elderly – but – lively terrier mix, Phoenix, developed a good sized, regularly shaped lump near his ‘armpit’. The vet aspirated it and said it was benign. We still watch it for changes..

    • That is great that the vet aspirated it – especially in that lymph node area, Kay. I am glad to hear it was benign and you are such a great dog mom to keep a watchful eye on it.

  8. Keeping a watchful eye for any kinds of changes on your dog’s skin is important. We’ve been really lucky so far, but I pay attention. Our furry friends can’t tell us when something is wrong or different.

  9. Having gone through this a number of times, yes it is vitally important to get your pet to a vet when anything is out of the norm as well as for annual check-up! We found comfort in going 2x a year for an annual senior panel after our dogs hit a certain age or showed aging signs. Just like humans good healthcare is important! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Great post. We had our fair share of lumps, checks, aspirations, lumpectomies, etc. with both Zeus and Lola. Tut had a couple checked our and biopsied last year too.

  11. I’ll never forget the day I found a cyst-like lump in the folds of Edie’s face! After having it checked by her vet, it was decided to have it surgically removed and sent for a biopsy. Of course you always think the worse but pray for the best. Luckily for Edie, the results came back benign. It turned out to be a sebaceous cyst.
    I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to get their pets checked out sooner than later when they find any lump, bump or cysts.

  12. This is a great article, full of so much helpful information, thank you! I really liked following along with Bonnie and Oogy on their lump journey, it really helps to see that. My Husky had one weird “bump”, which appeared to be due to her excessive paw licking which she does when she is very stressed. The Vet felt strongly about surgically removing it, but with subsequent similar looking bumps we’ve re-directed her away from licking and it goes away by itself! The surgical experience she had wasn’t very good for her, it got rid of the bump but her stress level was through the roof during the whole process. It was pretty awful. Thanks for the tip about brushing your dog regularly to help with sebaceous oil buildup!

  13. We had a scare with a lump on Bentley that kept growing and the vets said it was a “fatty” tumor and to leave it alone. Finally after several vets, one drained it and it is gone!

  14. I’m glad that Oogy’s lumps were benign. It is such a scary thing to go through and we are so lucky to live in a time when there are good treatment options (at least part of the time) if a tumor turns out to be malignant.

  15. After our big C scare with Nakita’s lump last year I have been trying to educate myself more and more. We cannot prevent these lumps and bumps from occurring but we can be prepared by knowing what to do when it happens. Thanks for sharing these stories and helpful information.

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