Do you have a dog with lipoma symptoms? A canine lipoma is a very common and often frustrating lump that appears underneath a dog’s skin. As dogs age, they tend to get more lumps and bumps, but dogs of any size or shape, from young to old, can develop lipomas.
A dog with lipoma signs or symptoms should always be seen by a veterinarian. You cannot fully determine what a dog lump is without the veterinarian performing a fine-needle aspirate or some form of biopsy. A canine lipoma is a benign fatty tumor composed of mature fat cells.
Lipomas are generally moveable and somewhat squishy feeling, but whenever a need lump or bump appears on my dog, we have our veterinarian exam and aspirate it. There are things you can do to try and decrease the likelihood of your dog developing lipomas. If your pooch is presently affected by lipomas, this article discusses how to manage, treat, and hopefully prevent future lipomas.
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Dog With Lipoma: What Is It?
Most dog moms and dog dads discover a lipoma on their dog while running their fingers through the dog’s hair or on their skin. Suddenly, you feel an enlarged growth, and panic sets in. I know because I’ve discovered lumps on my dog that weren’t there the night before.
Lipomas are made up of fat cells and they occur underneath the skin on any part of a dog’s body. Lipomas are generally harmless unless they prohibit the mobility of the dog due to their location. For example, if a lipoma prevents your dog from moving a limb or walking properly, removal may be a viable option.
Fat serves a few purposes in the dog’s body: to store energy, help absorb vitamins, create insulation, and store toxins. If you look at a lipoma under a microscope, you’d 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.
You may have heard a vet call your dog’s lipoma a fatty tumor, and that is an accurate assessment. Lipomas are also called fatty lumps.
How Are Lipomas In Dogs Diagnosed?
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 on the dog’s lump.
You cannot tell what a lump is by feeling it or looking at it. Not even a lipoma. Further, not all lumps should immediately be removed. The sheer number of veterinary professionals who recommend removal as the 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 benign lump removal.
There is a type of tumor that affects dogs and it is often called “the great imposter” because it looks like anything and everything. It can even resemble a fatty lipoma. Mast cell tumors in dogs (MCTs) can be benign or very aggressive and malignant. Never take a chance with your dog’s life.
Here’s a dog with lipoma photo below as it appears on my Cocker Spaniel. We monitor it with calipers, I groom around it, and the vet checks it out during routine visits. We had it aspirated. Lipomas may appear differently on your dog. A friend’s mixed-breed dog had a lipoma the size of a small baseball on her chest. She had it aspirated (it was benign), it caused her no problems, and she lived 15 years without it causing problems.
What Causes Lipomas In Dogs?
Dogs get lipomas for a variety of reasons, including one very frustrating cause, as you will see in the list below:
- Hereditary: Fatty tumors are more common in some breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinchers, Weimaraners, 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 have 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 of 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.
- Unknown origin: Lipomas occur in any type, breed, or age of dog at any point in their life, healthy or not. There is no one specific reason as to the cause of lipomas.
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. By that point in a dog’s life, feeding low quality food, too many carbs, chemicals applied to their skin, and too many vaccines creates a perfect storm. Lipomas pop up like moths to a flame.
How Can Lipomas Be Prevented In Dogs?
Feed A High Quality Diet To Your Dog
“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 continues. “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. Dr. Coger says dogs have zero requirements 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 wrote a great piece on calculating protein, carbs, fat, and fiber in a dog’s diet.
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 our Cocker Spaniel. You simply add warm water to the dehydrated vegetables and a healthy source of protein. Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl contains approximately 8.44% carbohydrates when prepared with water. This is excellent!
Sometimes, dog parents prefer to feed a raw diet but don’t want all the mess and grinding involved with the process. Dr. Harvey’s Raw Vibrance can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Include Proper Supplements In Your Dog’s Diet
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 dog’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,” Johnson says. “We use it twice a day in conjunction with a raw homemade diet.”
A few years ago, I started adding Dr. Harvey’s Solaris supplements to my dog’s diet. It is a twice-daily whole food supplement to help support your dog’s cellular and immune system. Since it has things in it like organic turmeric, which acts as an antioxidant 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. Dr. Harvey’s also carries a line of fish oil in an easy-to-dispense pump.
Over at DogsNaturally.com, they share tips on using herbs to get rid of fatty tumors on dogs. Always talk to your dog’s veterinarian first before adding any supplements to your dog’s diet. I recommend chatting with a qualified holistic veterinarian about supplements.
Be Careful With Chemicals Applied To Your Dog’s Skin
We will no longer use topical preventatives that are filled 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.
Not long after putting a chemical tick and flea preventative on my first Cocker Spaniel, she had serious side effects. Her skin flared up, it burned the hair off her back, and it never grew back. Some of her blood levels were altered, and she had a seizure.
There are plenty of natural flea and tick preventatives to consider for your dog.
Be Careful About Over Vaccination In Your Dog
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 react 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.
Here’s why your dog may not need yearly vaccinations and why titers are incredibly helpful.
Stimulate Your Dog’s Coat With Regular Brushing
We arehuge proponents of proper care, bathing, grooming, and brushing of a dog’s coat. A good brushing stimulates the oils in a dog’s coat. Massagins your dog’s skin and can actually help stimulate oils. 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 the last resort for most lipomas. If a lipoma is growing and cause your dog to be uncomfortable, then surgical removal is a consideration.
Never allow a veterinarian to remove a lipoma purely for cosmetic reasons. A veterinarian cannot rely on how a lump feels or looks to determine what it or if the mass is a lipoma.
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.
Can Canine Lipomas Be Malignant?
Although lipomas are generally benign tumors, there is another more aggressive and malignant “version” of lipomas. A liposarcoma arises from juvenile fat cells. A liposarcoma is NOT a lipoma that has gone bad.
Published papers and veterinary research indicates liposarcomas are locally invasive neoplasms that rarely spread, or metastasize. Liposarcomas are uncommon malignant tumors in dogs that can be distinguished from lipomas with fine-needle aspirate of the lump.
My Dog’s Lipoma Is Growing: What Should I Do?
Your vet should monitor and measure all lumps on your dog using an instrument called calipers. If pathology determines your dog’s growth to be a lipoma, you should still monitor it. Watch for changes in size, shape, color, or if it causes any discomfort.
Use your cell phone to take a photo of each new lump on your dog. Use the Dogminder to write down its location, size, and any other important features. You can easily measure the dog’s lipoma or any lump with calipers.
Calipers accurately measure the size of a lipoma or any mass on your dog. I like to use calipers on my dog for his weekly lump check at home. If there is any growth or change, I make an appointment with the vet.
Dr. Sue the Cancer Vet, has free printable skin maps for dogs and cats on her website. You can print it and keep it inside your Dogminder for safekeeping.
Pro Tip: Invest in the DogMinder for under $10 from Amazon. I created this resource to help pet parents track their dog’s medical records. You can accurately follow the size, shape, and changes in any of your dog’s lipomas, lumps, bumps, and more.
What Should I Do About Lipomas On My Dog At Present Time?
My senior Cocker Spaniel 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. 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.
There is no conclusive proof on what prevents lipomas nor is there a guaranteed treatment to get rid of them at this time.
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.
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.