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:
Most concerning, these tumors:
- Appeared out of nowhere
- Increased in size at a rapid rate of speed
- 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
- 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.
- 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.
- Gets the proper vitamins and/or supplements.
- 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.
- 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?