Lumps and bumps are certainly more common and often a little more worrisome in older pets, but that’s not to say that those younger pets don’t get them because they do.
It is recommended that you check your dog and cat’s body’s on a regular basis, this will allow you to become more familiar with your pets body and you will recognize any changes that occur. You can check your pet by running your fingers through their coat, lightly starting with the head, back, sides, down the legs, chest and the belly. If you feel something unusual, notice a new lump or notice that lump has changed is size and shape we recommend that you have it looked at by AVH.
Although most lumps are harmless, some can be very dangerous if left untreated; of particular concern are lumps that are cancers.
What kinds of lumps are there?
Lipomas – fatty lumps
Probably the most common lump found on dogs and is more common in obese pets. These are benign cancers that can grow quite slowly and rarely spread. In some cases they may need to be removed.
Cancer – Mast cell tumors
Mast cell tumors are a type of cancer that can take on many different appearances. It is difficult to tell if and when they change from a benign cancer to a malignant cancer, so all mast cell tumors should be removed.
Breast cancer – Mammary tumors
Whilst some lumps in the mammary glands in female dogs can be quite harmless, others are amongst the most aggressive forms of cancer. In male pets mammary lumps are often particularly nasty. In most cases, surgical removal of mammary lumps is advisable.
Warts are more common in older animals and look like a small tag of skin attached to the coat. They can be irritating and in some cases require removal.
These are swellings filled with a creamy matter. Often seen in older pets and found in the middle of the back. Sometimes the swellings become quite red and normally they do not cause any problems other than soreness.
Histiocytoma are a red button like lump that are usually found on young pets. They usually go away as rapidly as they appear but it is best to have any lump checked by your vet.
How can I tell if a lump is cancer?
You cannot tell whether a lump is cancer, just by looking at it. Your veterinarian will examine the lump to see if they think it is suspicious. They will also examine your pet to see if they are healthy and if there are any other growths present.
Some cancers make animals unwell – if your pet has a lump and shows signs of illness, eg sickness, depression or excessive drinking then it is important for you to mention it to your vet. If your vet is concerned they will take some samples from the lump to try to find out what sort of lump it is.
Taking a sample lump can be as easy as putting a needle into it to collect a few cells or it may be necessary to take a piece of the lump under anesthetic. These samples are examined in a laboratory and depending on your veterinarian’s facilities; this might be done at the clinic or be sent to an external pathology laboratory. Once your vet knows this they will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your pet.
Types of cancers – benign or malignant
Benign – Benign lumps may grow bigger but do not spread elsewhere. Some growths can cause problems if they continue to grow. Such as restricting movement or breathing due to the size of a lump.
Malignant – More aggressive lumps which grow and can spread through the body and can affect organs such as lungs and liver. Malignant growths must be removed before they spread elsewhere.
What treatment is required?
In most cases, the treatment required for small growths is to remove them. However, if the cancer is malignant, your vet may want to make sure that there is no sign of spread and to do this they may need to take x-rays or perform an ultrasound examination.
A final word on lumps and bumps…
A watchful eye, is rewarded. Noticing changes in your pet’s health, including the appearance of lumps and bumps on their coat, can lead to early diagnosis and successful treatment. Always check with your veterinarian if you notice any changes, or if you have any concerns about your pet’s well-being.