It is not unusual to discover our dogs have lumps and masses growing on them, especially as they get older.
Sometimes we can see them but sometimes we only feel them when we are stroking our pets.
These growths can occur anywhere in the body but are most easily noticed when they are on or just under the skin.
Lumps and growths can be a type of tumour. These can be malignant (meaning they might spread to other parts of the body) or benign (meaning they won’t spread further).
It is very common for masses to be benign, so don’t panic if you find a growth on your dog!
Older dogs and certain breeds of dog are more at risk of developing masses.
A mass can be located in the top layer of skin, or much deeper.
Sometimes these masses can become infected. When infected they are often red, inflamed and can even ooze blood or pus.
Benign masses can cause problems if not properly monitored and treated.
What causes masses to grow?
There can be many causes of growths and tumours such as genetics, hormonal abnormalities, sun exposure and certain viruses.
What should I do if I find a mass on my dog?
The likelihood is there is nothing to worry about. Most of the growths we see are completely benign. However it is always best to get any new masses checked by your vet.
Your vet may ask you to monitor the growth of the mass. The easiest way to do this is by measuring the mass every 1-2 weeks. If this is tricky then you can take a photo of the mass next to a ruler or even an object like a penny. That way you can compare the size of the mass to the object in each photo you take. This technique is also helpful to record whether the mass is becoming inflamed, changing colour or growing larger.
How do I know if it is benign or malignant?
Your vet will usually take a small sample of the mass to be sent to the lab. This sample might be taken by inserting a needle into the mass (a fine needle aspirate) or a section might be surgically removed from the mass with your pet under a general anaesthetic.
What are some of the most common benign masses?
The most common benign mass we see is called a lipoma.This is a slow growing fatty mass and is more commonly seen in middle aged to older dogs. Your dog won’t find it painful when you touch it or feel it. These masses do not usually cause a problem because they won’t spread, but they can sometimes get very large. If they do become problematic they can be surgically removed.
Older dogs may also develop small wart-like growths called ‘skin tags'.Again these are usually nothing to worry about, but they can occasionally get caught and bleed. In severe cases they can also become infected, and can be easily removed with surgery.
are another common benign mass. These are fluid filled growths which can vary in size. Sometimes cysts can burst, this can look very dramatic as there can be a significant amount of fluid (including blood or pus) released. Clean the affected area with warm water and contact your vet for further advice.
What if the mass turns out to be malignant?
If the laboratory test identifies the mass as a malignant cancer your vet will discuss the treatment options with you. Depending on the type of cancer these treatment options can range from surgery to chemotherapy to monitoring closely but no treatment.
How can I prevent my dog from getting lumps and bumps?
You cannot prevent the growth of skin masses, but noticing them early means they are much more likely to be treated easily.
Check your dog once a week for any new lumps, they will always appreciate the attention.