SlimDoggy Health Check: Skin Problems

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Skin problems are pretty common in dogs. They can range from a simple itch related to a bite to more serious diseases such as mange or melanoma.
Some of our dogs have had sensitive skin and have frequent “hot spots” (Jack). My dog Max had mange that resulted in her scratching up her face in a matter of hours the itch was so bad – she ended up in a cone for weeks. Flea bites are obviously a common skin irritant that probably every dog has suffered from at one point or another.
We’ve covered many of these skin related issues in previous posts as many are caused by fungus or bacteria or parsites.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at skin lumps and bumps and cysts.

The most common skin issue (besides itchy skin from allergies or fleas) is probably lipomas. Every one of my dogs developed lipomas as they aged – the Labs more than others. A lipoma is a benign (non-cancerous) fatty tumor that develops under the skin. They are typically soft and you can usually feel the entirety of the mass – meaning it’s not really attached to any underlying tissue.
They can grow quickly or slowly and may stay small or grow quite large. The location and affect the lump has on your dog’s mobility can be a determining factor in whether you have it removed. Since it’s benign it doesn’t need to be, but if it is located in a place that might cause discomfort, you might want to have it surgically removed. Maggie has one on her neck and I was worried that it was going to affect her breathing, but it’s actually gotten somewhat smaller this past year. Not sure if its related to all of her cancer treatments, but, we’re just leaving it be.
Typically, if they have one lipoma, they will develop more. They can be tricky to keep track of too. I used to keep a chart for our dog Sally as she had lots of them. I do always have them aspirated to be on the safe side.
Dogs can also develop cysts. There are many types of cysts, but most common are Sebaceous cysts. The sebaceous gland contains sebum, a fluid which facilitates with hair growth on your dog. A cyst can develop when these glands become clogged and form a sack like growth under the skin. It looks like a shiny lump. They are typically not dangerous, rarely cancerous, but can be messy if they rupture. Treatment can vary depending on the location and type of cyst. Your vet may wait to see if the cyst resolves on it’s own, or they may open it and drain the cyst, or surgically remove it.
Our dog Tino had a cyst on his leg that we had drained several times but it kept coming back, so we finally had it surgically removed.
Skin tags are usually harmless, just kind of ugly – just like they are in humans. They look like warts and usually if your dog has one, they have multiple. Jack has a pretty big one on his chest, but my philosophy is – if it doesn’t hurt him, leave it alone, so we’ve done nothing about it. There are some instructions on the internet on how to remove them – I wouldn’t try it myself, but if you’re brave you can try – I’d recommend asking your vet.

Additional Readings:

Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs
Understanding Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs
Tumors of the Skin in Dogs
Skin Tags on Dogs


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  1. Thank you for this informative post SlimDoggy!

    My observations are that most people either don’t notice these skin issues until they are so large you can’t miss them but my huMom is always checking me for ticks (we live rurally) & bumps.

    She also believes that if it is harmless & doesn’t bother the dog, leave it alone. With that said, she also informs my pawsome Veterinarian of any changes she sees.

    Nose nudges,
    CEO Olivia
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  2. I started to get the Sebaceous cysts when I was just two. I generally get 1-2 of them a year. Most of the time they get to be the size of a marble, then “pop” and heal up. It is a real mess when they pop, but then they are gone. We had them checked the first few times and decided with our vet there was no need to keep doing that and Mom knows what to look for if I get a bump. The first one was scary because I was so young and Mom was sure it was something bad. Good post!
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  3. We had to ask several vets before one finally aspirated Bentley “fatty tumor” to discover it was a cyst. It went away and hasn’t come back so far. (knock on wood) He has had a skin tag on his chest for years. I’d love to have it removed but I would never try it myself. It will happen when he has to get his teeth cleaned.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB NETWoof Dog News July 11, 2016My Profile

  4. Great post! The girls at work come to me if their dogs have a skin tag and if small I pluck them off.
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  5. Great content. Right now we’re still dealing with these environmental allergies. Trying to get the “itches” under control is a full time job.

  6. I wouldn’t have known about the different types of skin diseases on dogs. Now I see the importance of visiting the vet regularly.
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