Feel a Lump? Don’t Wait, Aspirate.
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.
Why I Don’t Remove Lipomas – Unless They Do This