Feel a Lump? Don’t Wait, Aspirate.

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You may have heard that saying from your vet, or you may have been told “Let’s watch it”. Certainly it’s your choice whether you pay the money to have a lump aspirated and tested or wait for it to grow or change…we’re just suggesting it’s better to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to lumps or changes in your dog’s skin, just as you would for yourself.

Labradors have a tendency to get fatty lipomas.1. Sally had them, so did Becca and both Jack and Maggie have them. Jack’s tend to be smaller but our females have developed big, old lemon-sized lumps.

The reason it’s important to check them is obvious, they might be some type of malignant tumor. Our Sally developed several lipomas over the years and we would have them checked as soon as we discovered them. When she was about nine, I noticed a new lump that appeared on her lower back, just to the left of her tail. It didn’t look or feel much different to me than her other lumps, but we went to the vet and it turned out to be a mast cell tumor (MCT). We had it surgically removed immediately. MCT’s can be highly malignant and should be treated as quickly as possible to prevent spreading. Up to 20% of dogs are at risk of developing an MCT during their lifetime.
Currently, Maggie has 4 large lipomas that we have had aspirated. One in particular really bothers me as it’s right on her neck. I worry that it interferes with her breathing or irritates her when she wears her collar. We could have it removed, but then you have to balance the risk of anesthesia and surgery over a non-threatening lump. In Maggie’s case, she can’t have surgery while undergoing chemo, so for now we will just leave it.

Lipomas may require surgery depending on size and location. When they are large enough to interfere with your dog’s normal day-to-day functioning, you should consider removal. I was shocked to find this video of a huge tumor being removed from a dog. This should have been attended too long ago. Now it is so large, the dog is at risk.


Since my Labs tend to get a lot of these lipomas, I keep a chart of where they are located, and so does my vet. That way you can keep track of where they are and how big they are. If they grow quickly, they may actually be liposarcoma, or a cancerous tumor. Other tumors that grow under the skin are hemangiosarcomas, sebaceous adenomas, mast cell tumors, and hemangiopericytomas. If there is any question about diagnosis, removal may be the safest option.


What causes these lipomas? There’s no definitive answer, although there are some who say overweight dogs with ineffective metabolism tend to develop more. Holistic vets also believe that the lumps are a result of the body’s inability to rid itself of toxins through the normal liver, kidneys and intestinal functions. And some experts say it’s possible that females get more than males.

A needle aspirate is a quick and relatively painful diagnostic. Your vet will insert a needle into the lump and remove some fluid to be lab tested. The cells from the fluid will indicate whether any cancerous cells are present.

There is no medical treatment beyond surgical removal for lipomas. Some holistic vets recommend a sprinkle of Turmeric in your dog’s food. Turmeric has great anit-inflammatory properties and is thought to help the liver eliminate toxins in the body more effectively. There are options for liposcution if you want to go that route. Recently introduced was a new medication, called XIAFLEX, which is an injection of collagenase. These are enzymes that break the peptide bonds of the collagen in the lipoma which results in the break down or ‘melting’ of the fat cells so the tumor reduces in size. Laser treatment and steroids are also being researched as treatment options, but pose their own risks.

1. Lipomas are subcutaneous (underneath the skin) masses or tumors that develop commonly in dogs. They are usually soft, with limited mobility under the skin. The overlying skin is usually not affected. Over time they can grow larger and can impede movement if they are located between the legs or low on the chest.

Additional Readings:
Why I Don’t Remove Lipomas – Unless They Do This

Lipomas in Dogs

Fatty Skin Tumors in Dogs | petMD


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  1. Katie and I have both had lumps and had them aspirated to make sure they were “nothing”. I tend to get small lumps several times a year, but in about two months they disappear. After aspirating many of them we now have the monitoring policy. If they get bigger or last longer we will get them checked, otherwise they just go away. We’ve heard in my breed this is common but still we keep an eye on them.
    Emma recently posted…Fall Fun On A WalkMy Profile

  2. Great post!!! Love the title! So true all lumps should be aspirated so better to catch things early and even if it feels like a lipoma it maybe sneaky and be something different or could be a cancerous lipoma.
    Sand spring chesapeakes recently posted…Glorious Thunders 17.5 Weeks OldMy Profile

  3. Over the years, Callie and Shadow have both had their share of lipomas. As Golden Retrievers are so susceptible to many cancers, I’ve always had our vet aspirate each one. I wasn’t taking any chances with my girls! When Callie was diagnosed with the lymphoma, I went from cautious to paranoid with Shadow. I know where her lumps are – and their approximate size – and if they change at all, I’m on the phone with the vet. And new ones – as always – are aspirated as soon as possible.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\’s Mom recently posted…Ducky’s Disappearance/Shadow’s NonchalanceMy Profile

  4. You have such good posts that really help educate people about health. Thank you. I give Cocoa little massages every night before bed and check to make sure nothing feels out of the ordinary.
    Julie recently posted…FavoritesMy Profile

  5. I recently wrote about our experience with a lump on Bentley’s lower back. We saw several vets and they all said “fatty tumor” until one agreed to aspirate it. It turned out to be okay, but it was NOT a fatty tumor. It is important to be vigilant. Lumps and bumps might be nothing but why take the chance?
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Ear Ye, Ear Ye #DrHarvey’sMy Profile

  6. I’ve always taken the “wait and see” approach. Although it depends on if the lump is interferring or bleeding. But now you have me rethinking my position…
    Blueberry’s human recently posted…WW 11-11-15 – Getting CraftyMy Profile

  7. By doing an aspiration on a lump on Missy’s neck we found out that it was cancerous. Yikes, I hate remembering that moment, but I’m glad we took her right to the vet. While Missy had her chemotherapy sessions, we found a tiny itty bitty lump on Buzz’s chest – although we were pretty sure that it was nothing, we went straight to our vet and had it aspirated. It wasn’t anything after all, but we still had it removed.
    That’s very interesting to hear that lumps could be the result of built-up toxins – huh. Better keep those livers & kidneys in tip-top shape.
    Ever since Missy’s cancer treatment, the pups have been getting turmeric with their meals. We evolved from sprinkling turmeric powder on their meals to adding some homemade turmeric paste (it also contains coconut oil, water, & freshly ground pepper in order for the body to better absorb the turmeric).
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  8. Good information.
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  9. Actually, some time back I read about the idea of liposuction for lipomas. Logically seems to make a lot of sense. Particularly since the content of a lipoma is pretty oily, not solid fat mass as I thought. On slides from JD’s aspirate it literally looked list squirt of oil.
    Jana Rade recently posted…To Breathe or Not To Breathe: Cookie’s Hind Legs Transiently Fail to Work (Again)My Profile

  10. Super scary stuff. I will definitely take heed and remember this post.

  11. I feel like I’m constantly finding little “things” on Ace that our vet usually says are skin tags so I don’t have anything done with those. He also has one lump that the vet says is a lipoma but I haven’t had it aspirated. After reading your post and Jana’s post I’ve thought about having it aspirated even though four vets have said it’s just a lipoma. Honestly, I’m not too worried about it but like you said, better to rule it out.
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