Last updated on March 25, 2019
A lipoma is a common, and often frustrating, occurrence in dogs, prompting dog owners to take their dog to the vet so that cancer is ruled out. If you’ve landed on this article, your dog has a lipoma, or perhaps multiple lipomas, and you want to prevent and treat the ones he or she has.
Contrary to popular belief, there are things you can do to decrease the likelihood of your dog developing lipomas. If your pooch is presently affected with them, this is the article that will give you a true fi-dose of reality on how to manage, treat, and hopefully prevent lipomas on your pooch.
What Are Lipomas in Dogs?
Lipomas are benign fatty tumors composed of mature fat cells. The word sounds scary, and anytime you find a new growth, bump, or lump, a veterinarian should always look at it.
If there is one thing you take away from this article, it is this: you cannot determine what a lump is unless you get a sample of it in some capacity. In most cases, this means in-office, painless fine needle aspiration. You cannot tell what a lump is by feeling it or looking at it. Further, not all lumps should immediately be removed. The sheer number of veterinary professionals who recommend removal as a first line of defense is alarming. If the lump has been aspirated or is causing major problems, by all means, have it removed. I’ve talked to countless dog parents who tell me their dogs have had 5, 10, and even 20 procedures (most under anesthesia) for lump removal. Most came back benign.
Lipomas are generally harmless unless they prohibit mobility of the dog due to its location. Lipomas are generally moveable and somewhat squishy feeling, but whenever a need lump or bump appears on my dog, off to the vet we go for aspiration.
Fat serves a few purposes in the dog’s body: to store energy, help absorb vitamins, create insulation, and to store toxins. If you look at a lipoma under a microscope, you’ll see fat cells surrounding a fibrous capsule. Because the skin is the largest organ of the body (in both people and dogs), it is also where elimination occurs. The body, in its attempt to get rid of toxins, will sometimes produce lipomas.
Here’s a lipoma as it appears on my dog. We monitor it with calipers, I groom around it, and the vet checks it out during routine visits. Lipomas may appear differently on your dog. My dog’s bestie has a lipoma the size of a small planet. Due to her age and its location (chest area, near the heart), it is being left alone. It is benign.
Why Do Dogs Get Lipomas?
If you Google the above question, the replies run the gamut. I talked to a few experts in the know, coupled with my own lifelong knowledge as a dog mom and canine health and wellness writer. The reasons, include, but are not limited to:
- Hereditary: Fatty tumors are more common in some breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinchers, Weimeraners, Schnauzers, and even mixed breeds.
- Toxins: From chemical spot-ons to unnecessary ingredients in dog food, if the body is unable to eliminate the toxins, they get stored in one spot, i.e., a fatty tumor.
- Inferior food choices and carbohydrates: Kibble can cause issues, one of them being lipomas. Kibbles have a lot of carbs in them and carbs are not needed for a dog to be healthy. Carbs also cause glycemic spikes. In addition to fatty tumors, there’s an epidemic of dogs being diagnosed with diabetes.
- Additives and preservatives: The body does not need them. Certain cancers will thrive in a diet that is full of carbohydrates, dry foods are not the best choice.
- Over-vaccination: We are not anti-vaccine; we ARE, however, anti over-vaccination. Plain and simple: Over-vaccination and the horrible side effects of this practice has become an epidemic of alarming proportions. As a dog mom whose last Cocker Spaniel developed mast cell skin cancer at the site of yearly dog vaccines, I’ve made it one my life passions and missions to become a more educated and more informed pet parent.
- Aging: As dogs get older, benign lipomas may develop.
- Obesity: Dr. Liz Hassinger, a veterinarian interviewed for Animal Wellness magazine, says most new lipoma patients she sees are either obese and/or have been treated with topical chemicals.
- Stress: The body’s reaction to any number of stressful exposures can cause it to behave in a whole host of ways.
Did you ever notice that most dogs start getting lipomas in middle age? By that time, the body simply cannot excrete the toxins and something starts to build up. Maybe low quality food, too many carbs, chemicals on their skin, and too many vaccines and boom, it’s a perfect storm: hello lipomas.
Can Lipomas Be Prevented In Dogs?
What We Feed
“I find fewer lipomas in raw fed dogs,” says holistic veterinarian, Dr. Laurie Coger, of the Healthy Dog Workshop. “I believe it has to do with carbohydrate intake, which tends to be very low in raw diets.” She says dog parents who cool for their dogs often use starches in the form of legumes, grains, or potatoes; all of these break down and store as sugar in the body.
“Of course, kibble dog food has significant starch levels, and dehydrated products can be quite starchy, so read labels,” Coger says. “A colleague and I were talking about this recently. The dogs who were eating kibble are the ones that had lipomas.” She also says avoiding over vaccination and flea and tick chemical preventatives may help prevent lipomas, too. She reminds us that dogs have no requirement for carbs.
We recommend knowing how to calculate carbohydrates, since they are not listed on most food labels. The FDA does not require this. Whole Dog Journal recommends calculating carbs this way:
To calculate the percentage of carbohydrates in a commercial diet, subtract the percentages of protein, fat, moisture, crude fiber (an indigestible part of carbohydrates), and ash from 100. This percentage may be shown as “nitrogen-free extract (NFE)” on a nutritional analysis.
I asked the folks at Dr. Harvey’s what the carbohydrate portion is of the Veg-to-Bowl is that we feed Dexter, along with a protein we add in. It has approximately 8.44% carbs, when prepared with water. This is excellent!
If you are like me, and you just aren’t into the work that raw feeding requires, our friends at Dr. Harvey’s have a new formula. Raw Vibrance can be made in advance and stored in the fridge up to three days, which is something we like. After all, grinding organ meats and bones can be complicated and messy. No worries on this formula. They also have a variety of other formulas for dogs.
What We Supplement
Dog mom, dog blogger, and successful entrepreneur, Rachael Ward Johnson of 2 Traveling Dogs, has seen a reduction in the size of her mixed breed’s lipomas since starting him on CBD hemp oil. As of this writing, her pooch, Digby, has been receiving Pet Releaf brand CBD hemp oil on an empty stomach for two months.
“Many of his lipomas have decreased in size, down to half their original size. We use it twice a day in conjunction with a raw homemade diet.”
Over at Dr. Harvey’s, we’ve started our dog on Solaris. It is a twice-daily whole food supplement formulated by Dr. Harvey to help support your dog’s immune system. Since it has things in it like organic turmeric, which acts as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, we are thrilled to be using it.
A good skin-supporting Omega-3 fatty acid capsule is also good for dogs. We use one Health & Shine capsule daily on our dog’s food.
Over at DogsNaturally.com, they share tips on using herbs to get rid of fatty tumors on dogs.
What We Apply
Fleas and ticks are horrible, on this we all can agree. No matter what method of prevention you choose, the reality is you must do something as a responsible dog parent. We will no longer use topical preventatives that are laden with chemicals nor will I administer a pill that “takes care of it all.” I want nothing toxic, chemical, nor dangerous to my dog on his external body nor affecting his internal system. Do what is best for your dog.
What We Inject
Diligent dog parents should have a discussion with their dog’s vet about vaccines and potential adverse reactions. You absolutely do NOT need to re-vaccinate (give “boosters”) automatically.
I attended a webinar hosted by the renowned Dr. Jean Dodds and learned that dogs with white or dilute coat colors have a higher propensity to reactions to things in general. Lighter colored dogs are more prone to chemical reactions beyond vaccine side effects – including flea medications and sulfonamides, etc. Use caution if your dog is white and/or is lightly pigmented, as my dog is.
What We Brush
Indeed, we are huge proponents of proper care, bathing, grooming, and brushing of a dog’s coat. A good brushing stimulates the oils in a dog’s coat. Doing so massages the skin and can actually help in preventing any additional lumps from forming on the skin. By distributing the oils through brushing, you actually help your dog (plus it feels darned good to the dog).
Should Lipomas In Dogs Be Surgically Removed?
If the lipoma impedes the dog’s regular movements or in some capacity the dog is in pain, discuss removal of any growth with your dog’s veterinarian. Surgery should be a last resort for most lipomas. Scar tissue after surgery is left behind, and when the body tries to release toxins from that area, scar tissue is there instead. Surgery also does not address the cause of the fatty tumors. So yes, it has its place, but surgery should be a last resort and not purely for cosmetic reasons.
What Should I Do About Lipomas On My Dog At Present Time?
So Dexter has a few lipomas. We were kibble feeders for the first year or two of his life. We know better, so we do better. It’s a huge reason I became a dog health and wellness writer: to help other dog parents.
Refer back to the sections above on what to feed and supplement with. Keep an eye on any existing lipomas. They may increase in size, and this can be perfectly normal but brought to the attention of your dog’s vet. Since a fine-needle aspirate is not always 100 percent accurate, it is important to monitor the mass for sudden changes in its texture, size, and/or appearance. Keep your dog at a healthy weight. Exercise, increase mental stimulation, and spend time with your dog. Be happy.
Medicine Vs. Mom
Our friend Rachel at My Kid Has Paws, is a former vet tech, and she has some thoughts around canine lipomas, too. Check it out here: The Lumpy Truth About Canine Lipomas
Don’t Stop Now
Keep on top of any lumps or bumps on your dog and check out:
We cannot guarantee any results, and we encourage you to talk to your veterinarian. Never over supplement and make sure your dog is able to consume all ingredients of a supplement before starting it.