What to Do About Lumpy, Bumpy Lipomas

In the last 10 years we have had the pleasure of living with several senior dogs.  Each of these pets have developed lumps and bumps and each of these lumps and bumps presented differently on each pet. Our one dog had just one large bump located at the front of her chest and our lab had multiple small lumps in various places. For those that have never seen a pet with these lumps it can be very disturbing, and owners often think the worst, cancer.  Most of the lumps and bumps felt on a pet during a veterinary examination are lipomas. Lipomas are fatty tumors that are usually benign and non-cancerous. There is always a chance that any tumor is cancerous or malignant, so it is always wise to check with your Veterinarian and schedule a checkup if your pet develops a lump. 

If you feel a lump or bump, what could it be?

  • Lipomas (fatty tumors in dogs)
  • Sebaceous cysts (skin cysts)
  • Warts
  • Hematomas (blood blisters)
  • Infected hair follicles
  • Benign tumor
  • Malignant tumor


Today I wanted to give you a few facts about Lipomas since they are the most common cause of lumps and bumps:

  • Generally, occur on middle-aged animals, commonly in dogs and mostly in overweight females
  • Are only occasionally found in cats and horses

Breeds of dogs that are most often affected:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Poodles
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Terriers
  • Mixed breeds

Taking a Closer Look: Examination of Lipomas

When an animal is brought in for examination, the palpation of a lipoma will usually reveal a small, round, or oval mass that is:

  • Located in the flesh under the skin, not in the muscle
  • Found most often in the areas of the:
    • Chest
    • Abdomen
    • Legs
    • Armpits
    • Soft to the touch, may feel somewhat rubbery
    • Typically, not painful
    • Does not seem attached to skin
    • Does not seem attached to underlying muscles or tissues
    • Slow growing

The examination of an atypical lipoma may reveal a mass that is:

  • Larger, the size of a golf-ball or even a baseball
  • Growing long and wide, not round
  • Solid to the touch, usually due to inflammation or fibrous tissues
  • Fast growing

How to Be Sure It’s Not Cancer: Confirmation

Because palpating the mass will not rule out whether it is benign or cancerous, confirmation that it is a lipoma is necessary. This includes:

  • Fine-needle aspiration
    • Invasive biopsy procedure that removes fluid from inside the mass for examination
    • A slide is then made from the collected material to view under the microscope
    • The collected material is stained, and the cells are viewed to determine if they are healthy and normal, or abnormal and possibly malignant

What to Do If It Is a Lipoma: Treatments

There are many types of treatments available to animals that are diagnosed with lipomas, including:

  • Watch and wait
    • This approach is based on the typical characteristics of a lipoma, for example, benign and slow-growing
    • The premise is that if the lipoma isn’t increasing in size and if it isn’t creating health problems, it is better to be left alone
    • Watching should include training clients to routinely monitor and measure the mass at home for any noticeable physical changes
    • Surgery
      • Recommended when a lipoma:
        • Creates function and mobility problems, such as with infiltrative lipomas
        • Grows rapidly, indicating that it might be a different type of tumor, one that is often mistaken for a lipoma, such as:
          • Liposarcoma
          • Sebaceous adenoma
          • Mast cell tumor
          • Hemangiosarcoma
          • Hemangiopericytoma
          • Liposuction
            • Successful treatments have been found with smaller, encapsulated lipomas
            • Not recommended for giant lipomas or ones that contain fibrous material
            • Not recommended for infiltrative lipomas
            • Radiation therapy
              • Use follows a surgical removal in order to delay or prevent recurrence


While most of the lumps and bumps found on a pet are benign, it is always advisable to make an appointment with your veterinarian for a thorough examination and a biopsy on any masses that are noticed. Because some benign tumors look the same as malignant tumors, it is impossible to tell if a mass is non-cancerous without your Veterinarian looking, feeling, and examining it under a microscope. 

To Your Pet's Good Health,


Barry Miller DVM