What Should I Do If My Dog Has a Lump

The Great Imposter. That’s what she called it.

It’s just a lump and looks like a pimple. I shouldn’t be concerned.

But the dog mom and “worrier” in me, along with thinking “but what if it is something” resonated otherwise.

cute cocker
Forever missed, Brandy Noel.

When a tiny raised lump appeared on my Cocker Spaniel’s shoulder blade about two weeks after getting her then yearly vaccinations, I felt a twinge of “something isn’t right” course through my veins. But I waited – after all a raised, small but swollen area at the site of vaccination is common, according to the veterinary literature I read. (at the time that didn’t mean Internet, it meant the UC Davis Book of Dogs). My dog’s veterinarian at the time tried to “squeeze” the lump and said it was probably nothing more than a pimple. Whew.

“Come home quick, Brandy’s lump is bleeding,” a family member called me at work to flip my day upside down.

“Your dog has cancer and we need to send the pathology out for confirmation of the stage,” said the man in the white lab coat.

The C Word. You could have knocked me over with a pin.

An emergency veterinarian (and second opinion) were summoned to examine Brandy’s “bleeding lump.” After laser excising it, initial reports showed cancer, with an outside laboratory confirming stage II mast cell cancer.
cocker spanielI learned more about mast cell tumors and lumps on dogs along with the over vaccination epidemic in this country in the months that followed than I ever imagined. The great imposter is what Kate Connick called mast cell tumors in her cancer crash course website. “Mast cell tumors vary widely in their size, shape, appearance, texture, and location,” she wrote.

Tell me about it.

Any lump, bump, or new growth found on a dog should be examined by your veterinarian. As a wise friend shared, lumps belong in biopsy jars, not on pets.

After numerous visits to Cornell Small Animal Hospital, several abdominal ultrasounds to screen for metastases, and years of diligent screening, it is believed my dog’s mast cell tumor was a vaccination reaction, which is a whole other discussion. I’m not anti-vaccine, I am anti over-vaccinating our pets. Each dog should have a special protocol designed for them, and if your vet won’t talk to you about it, it’s time for a new vet.

Brandy went on to live one week shy of 15 years of age. She never had another mast cell tumor in her life, but we visited the vet for lump aspiration with each new occurrence. Sometimes, they turned out to be lipomas and benign, other times they were sebaceous cysts (one needing to be surgically removed).


An oncologist at Cornell gave me a rudimentary diagram of a dog and told me to chart Brandy’s lumps. After a few years, I could have connected the dots, so I pass this advice for dog lumps and bumps screening onto you:

  • Photograph each new lump and keep the image safe and secure. Be sure to note EXACTLY where it is located on the dog’s body. When you write “ear,” that might not make a lot of sense if more lumps develop.
  • Invest in calipers. I got mine at a hardware supply store. Calipers minutely measure the width of a lump. Document it. Monitor the lump for any sign of growth or physical change. See the veterinarian.
  • If a lump occurs, see your vet. When Brandy had a few lipomas (warty growths), I had them all removed when she was under anesthesia for something else. Cockers tend to have more sebaceous oil in their skin than other breeds, so lumps are somewhat expectant.
  • DON’T squeeze it. No no and no. This can lead to infection and is a generally bad idea.
  • DON’T panic.  Out of over 25 aspirations in her lifetime, ONE turned out to be cancer. One too many.
  • Know the warning signs of canine cancer.

Cancer can be treated and beaten, especially if detected early. In my nearly 20 years in the dog world, I’ve seen it time and again. Beat the imposter and take action early.

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  1. Petey has a lump on his side. He has had it ever since I got him. The vet says not to worry as it stays the same size, no new ones have come up, and it doesn’t cause him any pain. I would be so heartbroken to know its the C word. Petey has been with me now for almost 3 years and he is 7 yrs old.

    1. You know, Sue, Dex has one too. You could always have it aspirated just as a baseline, though not 100% diagnostic. That’s what I do. Dex has one on his chest and we had it aspirated – lipoma. Benign.

  2. Carol I was so touched by this information my first cocker had lumps in her left teets turned out to be cancer, had the cancer removed and a partial teet removal, a few years later the right teets were attacked with cancer so we repeated the process. She lived to be a tad over 15 died of congestive heart failure. Her daughter my beautiful Samantha developed cysts on her head and as mentioned in the article above cockers tend to have this issue her mom had a few removed while under for other things. Poor Samantha had a multiple on her head and neck of course we had them all removed as they continued to grow out of control and I was worried they were cancerous but always assured they were not. Well just before her 15th birthday a spot came up on her nose looked odd I monitored for a week or two , didn;t like what I was seeing and low and behold she had stage 4 nasal cancer and at that point nothing could be done to save her so we kept her as comfortable as the good Lord allowed us to before she met her mom at the Rainbow Bridge. I so agree that pet owners need to be aware of suspicious things on or about their pets they aren’t just animals they are family members and require as much if not more care than a human child simply because they can’t express what is wrong or where it hurts. My eyes are welling up so I shall stop and say THANKS for getting the message out about lumps in our pets!!

    1. Tharice, you are more than welcome. It is the hardest thing for me to talk about and I feel that when we go through something like this, our precious furbabies memory and legacy lives in on sharing and educating. Knowing that our pooches are finding each other at the bridge until we meet again gives me comfort, friend. TY for commenting.

  3. My dog Roscoe has been a lumpy guy since I can remember. We first started getting cysts removed when he was about 4. Since then he has had about 3 more surgeries to address warts, cysts and growths that we weren’t sure about. “Some dogs are just lumpy” my vet laughed but you got to get them all checked. Some I don’t remove and just watch. When one gets un managable and he goes under the knife, I have them get the rest that have accumulated. Finding something can scary but as your story shows removing potential problems can give your dog a long life and most times they are nothing. I’ve sweat it out many times waiting on a pathology report. In Chinese herbalism cysts and growths are considered an issue of phlegm and stickiness in the body and can be helped by pulling out the stagnant material with herbs or acupuncture.

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Amanda Jane. I know my Brandy started to look like a little pin cushion with the many lumps she had as she got older.

  4. My groomer saved my beagle by knowing this. She pointed out a little bump on his rear end–it looked like a bug bite. But she told me it was there the last time she groomed him and she thought I should get it checked. Yep, mast cell tumor. Surgery and six months of chemotherapy later, Seamus beat the original prognosis (1 year) and is still with me six years later. Get the bumps and lumps checked out. Great advice.

    1. I am so glad to hear Seamus is okay. I call it “massage time” and diligently give my pooch a weekly once over… I’ve found things that way over the years including some rocks and dirt he brought home 😉

  5. Thank you for adding this to our hop! This is such important info. We went through MANY lumps with our beagle – a couple were mast cell and were removed, others were fatty lypomas. Best to always get them checked out!

  6. So happy Brandy’s lump turned out to be okay and she lived a good long life. Thanks for the great tips about how to chart and measure lumps. I have to do this for Ike now. I will be much more vigilant after receiving all this good information. Thank you for joining the hop today.

  7. Thank you so much for reminding us that we need to monitor lumps/bumps and have them investigated.My late Cocker,Riley had had quite a few fatty tumors on his sides that were of no concern but on 12/24/12 my son pointed out a lump to the side of his left eye,I took him to the vet on 12/27/12 …they aspirated enough to determine that it was Cancer and that it would not be long before we lost him.They said he probably had about 3 weeks left.We had him to love until 4/11/13…he was 11 years and 3 mos old exactly.
    We got a new pup not long after we lost Riley and at 9 mos. I found a funny looking bump/lump on his neck that looked infected.The vet aspirated it and told me that it was a histiocytoma and that they are usually benign and go away in about 3 mos on their own.He also said that some breeds(Cockers) are more prone to these than others.The bump has completely disappeared now but he has a dime sized bald spot left in its place.Bottom line is that we need these reminders to check our furchildren the same way we do our other kids :).

    1. Thank goodness the bump disappeared. We are very diligent about any new growths on our dog. So glad it all worked out, Jackie.

  8. Our vet has been great at charting all of Harley’s lipomas. I never considered using calipers to keep track of their size, that is great advice. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Our Rascal started with lumps and bumps at nine months. Luckily none were cancerous. The most frightening was a LARGE lump grew on his shoulder. Three weeks prior, Rascal had been given a shot of antibiotics. That vet hospital didn’t note location or the shot. After surgery, the biopsy showed an allergic reaction to the antibiotic. Unfortunately, during surgery he was given the same shot. Yep, three weeks later we had another huge hard lump. Thankfully, we changed vets. The new vet asked me about the notes about the reaction. She scoured the old vets notes, determined what was given and promptly made a large note on the file that he was allergic to the drug. And gave me the name in case of emergency. And any shots of any kind given in the future, location was noted. Our vet has been great with monitoring any lumps. Our new cocker is a 10 yr old boy, he came to us with miscellaneous lumps. I monitor the ones I knew were there and the 2 our vet found on a weekly basis.

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