What is That Lump or Bump on My Dog?
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From supermodel Cindy Crawford with her signature beauty mark on her face to a little poodle with a mole on her ear, plenty of people and lots of dogs have skin lumps and bumps. If your dog has warts, moles or beauty marks, how do you know which ones are nothing to worry about and which ones require attention?
Your dog can develop bumps from infection or allergies that are benign or harmless. But he can also develop permanent, abnormal growths of skin cells or tumors. In fact, according to Merck Manuals, tumors affecting the skin or the tissue just under the skin are the most commonly seen tumors in dogs. Luckily, the majority of skin tumors in dogs are benign, but you still need to be vigilant since early detection of the malignant ones is always best when it comes to treatment and a cure.
How can I spot abnormal lumps and bumps?
First, how obvious the appearance of any new growth on your dog’s skin is will be pretty dependent on your dog and his haircoat. If your dog starts licking or scratching at a new lesion, that will draw your attention to it. And if you have a short-coated dog a good look all over (remember ears, lips, gums, arm pits, groin and toes) is going to be pretty easy and should be part of your normal routine. But if you have a shaggy dog with long or thick hair, a thorough dermatological exam is going to be much harder. In those cases, examining the skin as the hair parts while you are brushing it will help you to see down to the skin itself. You can also feel for bumps. Going slowly and meticulously over your dog with a light touch of your fingertips can reveal surprisingly small growths.
How will you know if a lump is benign or malignant?
You won’t. Again, most skin lumps are benign but they should all be checked. So you will need to consult with your veterinarian. You also need to be prepared for the visit. You would be amazed at how often that pesky lump simply cannot be located once the dog is in the exam room at the clinic. That’s why it’s a good idea to make a ‘map’ of your dog and mark the location of each lump. Note its size (not in vague terms like ‘it’s the size of a quarter’ but in actual inches or millimeters) along with its shape and its color. This is the digital age so even snap a picture if you are so inclined. If you still aren’t sure you will be able to easily find the lump, mark the area with a magic marker or trim a bit of hair in that location -- anything that will help.
How will your veterinarian know?
In some cases, your veterinarian may be able to tell you, with relative certainty, that a lump is benign just by looking at it. In most cases, however, some type of diagnostic test will be required to get a definitive answer. Sometimes sufficient information can be obtained with a needle aspirate of some of the contents or cells from a lump. Other times surgical excision (if the tumor is small enough and in an accessible location) or a biopsy will be required for histopathology in order to know for sure.
The key is to be aware, to be looking and to address your dog’s lumps and bumps as soon as they appear. Don’t wait to see what happens or if it grows. See your veterinarian.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Surgery or Not?
Once we've got that proper diagnosis of the problem, we can move on to planning surgery. It might be that surgery is not needed. It might be that actually, yes, we do need to do surgery but we need to look a little bit closer at the potential the cancer has already spread.
We might need to take some samples of the lymph nodes, or it might be that we want to plan a more radical surgery just to make sure that we have the best chance of removing all of the tumor margins without leaving any cancer cells behind.
Some tumor types will also benefit from additional treatment techniques, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Getting a specific diagnosis and staging the cancer is very important in a lot of cases.
Now, in Stuart’s case with his Vizsla, a wart-like cyst on the outer flap of his ear, I suspect that it is a benign lump, but there is no way that anyone can say that without actually looking at it in-person.
It might be that your vet takes one look at it and goes, “No, that is just a skin tag. We don't need to worry about it. Let's just leave it alone”. If it is not causing any problems, not growing and not a nasty tumor then why actually remove it in the first place? You can just leave it alone as the mass is essentially just a cosmetic problem.
The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.
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What Are Tumors, Growths, and Cysts?
Most veterinarians will call any unknown lump or bump a growth, mass, or a tumor. In general, the terms can be used interchangeably, but most vets avoid the word tumor unless the mass has been determined to be a type of cancer.
1. Warts or Papilloma’s
Warts are groups of abnormal cells , shaped like cauliflower, generated by the papillomavirus. It is a benign pathology, which is usually detected in the skin and mouth of dogs. It appears more frequently in elderly animals or those undergoing immunosuppressive therapy. Although, as a general rule, they do not require treatment, their evolution should be medically controlled, since they can lead to painful or malignant forms.
2. Sebaceous cysts
This type of lump in dogs arises as a result of a blocked sebaceous gland and can affect any breed. Like most fat lumps, sebaceous cysts are benign and usually heal on their own after eruption and encapsulation. But, if they persist or bother, they may require surgical removal.
The hematoma is a blood-filled inflammation that appears in a certain area of the skin, after a strong blow. In general, it should not alarm us too much, since it tends to be reabsorbed and disappear little by little thanks to the lymphatic system. What we must check is the cause-effect relationship, that is to say, that the hematoma, and therefore the lump on the dog’s body, was caused by a contusion and not for other reasons.
4. Papules Papules
or pustules are common skin lesions, without pus or serosity, with relief, solid and less than one centimeter in diameter.
The origin of the papules can be allergic, but they can also arise from follicular infections or exposure to irritating or toxic substances. These lesions usually disappear without treatment, but they can become infected and then require veterinary attention.
These types of bumps in dogs are fatty , soft, generally benign and located under the skin. They are usually detected in middle-aged animals and do not require their removal, unless they cause some discomfort to the dog. After the diagnosis, if the result points towards the malignancy of the tumor, the veterinarian will surely recommend its removal, which is usually simple, when it is a small mass.
6. Abscesses wounds or inflammations
The abscesses are bags filled with pus , which are often seen around the infected wounds . These lumps are generated when the immune system tries to control a skin infection , such as that arising after a poorly healed wound or an insect bite or sting.
Generally, the treatment is simple and the lump remits with creams or ointments, but a visit to the veterinarian will always be necessary to control the extent of the infection and prescribe the most appropriate treatment or intervention.
7. Vaccine lumps
If you have vaccinated your dog and notice a small and hard lump at the point of the puncture, you should not worry too much, as it is common and usually disappears over time, sometimes it even takes a couple of weeks.
8. Mast cell tumors
The mast cells are cells spread throughout the body and whose function is associated with inflammatory and allergic reactions but sometimes some inexplicably, can become malignant.
These masses can appear in any area of the body of our dogs, although more frequently within or under the skin. The places commonly affected are the trunk or the extremities.
These bumps in dogs can have a firm or soft lump appearance , similar to other benign and malignant bumps. They can change in size and show various signs, such as redness, bruising, ulceration, swelling, or hair loss.
They affect older dogs and certain breeds more frequently , such as: bulldog, boston, boxer, labrador or golden retriever.
Since it is impossible to diagnose these lumps with the naked eye, it is necessary for the veterinarian to perform tests to confirm or rule out whether or not it is a mast cell tumor.
Your Veterinarian will look at the physical characteristics of dog lumps on the skin to determine a preliminary diagnosis. They will look at the location, duration, firmness, and size of the canine skin lump or bump.
According to Dr. Timothy Fan, your veterinarian will ask several questions about the dog lumps on skin or bumps:
- Has the lump appeared suddenly, or has it been there awhile?
- Has the lump stayed the same in consistency and appearance or has it changed recently?
- Does the lump seem to separate from underlying tissue or is it attached?
- Is there only one lump or have you found multiple dog lumps on skin?
- Are there changes in your dog's behavior such as eating less, losing weight, vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy?
Common Signs of Dog Neoplasia (Tumor)
- Abnormal swelling that does not stop growing
- Sores that fail to heal
- Loss of weight
- No appetite
- Any bleeding from any part of the body
- Strong offensive smell or odor
- Trouble swallowing or eating
- Reluctance to exercise, low energy
- Acting lame or stiff frequently
- Respiratory issues, urination issues, defecation issues (trouble going to the bathroom)
To be sure of a diagnosis of dog lumps on skin, the veterinarian will take a sample by using a needle to remove some of lump for study in a laboratory (fine needle aspirate).