Bumps and lumps are good reasons why you should check your pet’s body regularly. Contrary to popular notions, lumps, bumps, or skin growths are NOT all cancerous. But if you do find one on your pet’s body, it is recommended that you bring it to the attention of your veterinarian. It is always good to be safe than be sorry.
Causes of bumps and lumps on dogs
Bumps and lumps are quite common in dogs. It should be noted that not all skin growths you may notice on your pet’s body are tumors. Some lumps are brought about by the accumulation of cells or fluids under the skin tissues. Thus, if you do find a lump or bump, always remember that most are not really life-threatening. Don’t panic! Make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately so your dog can undergo a complete examination and a treatment regiment can be started if needed.
Malignant versus Benign Dog Tumors
A growth is said to be malignant or cancerous when there is rapid growth and has the potential to spread to other organs of the body (a process known as metastasis). On the other hand, benign tumors tend to grow slowly and don’t metastasize. A major concern associated with benign dog tumors is when they exert pressure on another organ or impede movement.
Common types of lumps on dogs
Lumps, bumps, and growth on the body have distinct characteristics that allow proper diagnosis so appropriate treatment can be given. When you find something on your pet’s body, it can either be a type of skin growth (such as abscesses, hematomas, apocrine cysts, or a reaction to an injection) or a tumor (histiocytomas, lipomas, sebaceous gland hyperplasia, or malignant skin tumors).
Types of skin growth in dogs
- Abscesses -- The lumps are painful and usually contain pus and blood. It’s a local infection caused by a wound, a bite, or when a foreign object is embedded in the skin. Abscesses can rupture and release its contents.
- Apocrine cysts -- These are benign cysts that are caused by skin glands that have been obstructed. The firm, immovable mass can sometimes rupture and eventually clear up.
- Hematomas -- Blood can accumulate under the skin as a result of trauma. You may see a hematoma as a lump or bruise that may be painful. A common example is an ear hematoma in which a dog’s ear flap appears swollen. This is brought about by blood that escaped the small blood vessels in the ears, called capillaries. The capillaries ruptured as a result of violent head-shaking brought about by itching in the ears.
- Lumps on injection sites -- A lump can form under a dog’s skin after an injection. These bumps are tender but will usually clear up in a couple of days or weeks.
- Papillomas -- These are commonly known as warts. They are caused by a virus and are usually found in or near the mouths of juvenile dogs, but it can also occur in dogs of all ages. Most warts go away with time even without treatment. Surgery might be needed to remove warts in senior dogs.
Types of tumors in dogs
- Lipomas (fatty tumors) -- These are benign tumors that are common among overweight or obese dogs. Lipomas in dogs are composed of fat cells. These lumps can grow very large. They often occur on a dog’s abdomen, chest, and front limbs.
- Histiocytoma -- It’s a benign growth that usually develops in young dogs. They appear as button-shaped, small, and firm growths on a dog’s head, legs, or ear flaps. A histiocytoma generally resolves on its own with time.
- Hyperplasia of the sebaceous gland (sebaceous cyst) -- This is caused by the rapid growth of sebaceous glands which are responsible for secreting sebum, the oily substance that is important for skin lubrication. The benign growths appear to be smooth or may appear like warts and tend to occur on the dog’s legs, eyelids, and trunk.
- Skin cancer --These are malignant skin tumors that may appear as an enlarged lump, or it could be a sore that doesn’t seem to heal. The most common malignant growths in dogs are called mast cell tumors. This form of skin cancer is common in Labrador retrievers, boxers, beagles, Boston terriers, and schnauzers. Early detection and medical attention are very important to improve prognosis.
How tumors in dogs are addressed by veterinarians
If you notice any type of growth on your pet’s skin, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. After a thorough examination, your veterinarian may decide to employ other procedures to confirm the initial diagnosis, such as obtaining a tissue sample from the lump and examining it under a microscope. Your veterinarian will also want to know additional information such as:
- Did the lump appear suddenly?
- Has its size, shape, or color changed?
- Is there any change in your pet’s behavior, including his appetite and energy level?
If cancer is suspected by your veterinarian, a biopsy may also be recommended. It involves removing a part of the tumor or the entire tumor and having a pathologist examine it. Your pet may have to be sedated or given anesthetic drugs before the removal of the tumor.
For other types of skin growths, such as ear hematomas or abscess, there are treatment procedures to address these problems.
The decision to have a lump removed or not will depend on the veterinarian’s assessment and diagnosis.
If it’s cancer, what’s next?
If it’s cancer, the next step will be to determine if it has already spread to other parts of the body before a course of treatment can be made. Radiation and/or chemotherapy may be needed for treatment and prevent further growth and/or metastasis.
Grooming sessions are the best times to check your pet’s body for any signs of lumps or bumps. Being familiar with your pet’s body will make it easier for you to notice if something is wrong. Always remember that early detection is very important so veterinary attention can be sought immediately.