Sunday, April 7, 2024

Lipomas - Fatty Tumors on Dogs And Cats

Have you noticed a  soft, rubbery lump underneath your dog or cat's skin?   It could be a lipoma,  a benign tumor, often referred to as a fatty tumor.  Both dogs and cats can get lipomas.  Lipomas are one of the most common types of tumors found in dogs, especially in older dogs. In cats, lipomas are less common compared to dogs, but they can still occur. Lipomas are non-cancerous growths made up of fat cells. They feel soft and movable under the skin and can vary in size from small pea-sized nodules to larger masses.  They are usually not painful.  Lipomas are generally considered harmless but they  can sometimes grow to a size where they may interfere with movement or cause other issues depending on their location. While they can show up anywhere on your pet's body, they're commonly found on the chest, abdomen, limbs, and neck.

What Are The Symptoms?

It is very common for lipomas to go unnoticed by the pet owner. They grow very slowly and may not become apparent to the pet owner for many years.  Many dogs and cats live happily with these benign growths without experiencing any symptoms. However, if a lipoma grows large enough, it might cause discomfort, bleed, become cosmetically concerning, or affect your pet's mobility. In such cases you might notice your pet licking or chewing at the area.  Surgical removal may be necessary in these cases.  

 What Causes Lipomas In Dogs & Cats?

The development of lipomas in pets may be caused by a variety of factors and the exact cause can vary from one pet to another.  In most cases, these non-cancerous fatty tumors in dogs and cats can be left alone but sometimes surgical removal is necessary.  Below are some possible causes of lipomas in dogs and cats: 

Genetics: There may be a genetic predisposition for certain breeds to develop lipomas. Some dog breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, and Miniature Schnauzers, are known to have a higher incidence of lipomas.

Age: Lipomas are more commonly seen in older pets, particularly in dogs. As pets age, the likelihood of developing lipomas increases.

Obesity: Overweight or obese pets may have a higher risk of developing lipomas. Excess fat accumulation in the body can contribute to the formation of these fatty tumors.

Hormonal Factors: Hormonal imbalances or changes in hormone levels may influence the development of lipomas, although the exact mechanisms are not fully understood.

Diet and Lifestyle: Diet and lifestyle factors, such as high-fat diets or lack of exercise, may contribute to lipomas.  Omega 3 fatty acids added to the diet may be helpful but they cannot prevent lipomas.

 If The Lump Isn't A Lipoma, What Else Could It Be?

If you notice any new lumps or growths on your pet, it's essential to have them evaluated by a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and management.  Here are some common types of lumps that pets can get. 

Mast Cell Tumor: Mast cell tumors are a type of cancerous growth that can occur in the skin or other tissues. They may vary in appearance and behavior, so a biopsy is often needed for diagnosis.

Abscess: An abscess is a localized collection of pus caused by a bacterial infection. It often appears as a painful, swollen bump and may rupture, leading to drainage of pus.

Cyst: Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can form under the skin. They may be caused by blocked oil glands or hair follicles and can vary in size and appearance.

Warts: Dogs can develop warts caused by viral infections, such as papillomavirus. These growths are usually benign but can be unsightly or cause irritation.

Tick or Insect Bites and Stings: Bumps can develop as a result of insect bites or stings, causing localized swelling and irritation. For tick bites, a lump can result from the tick remaining attached and engorged. Tick bites may also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease or Ehrlichiosis.

Allergic Reaction: Dogs can develop allergic reactions to various substances, including foods, medications, or environmental allergens. These reactions may manifest as skin bumps, hives, or rash.

Tumor: While many lumps and bumps on dogs are benign, some may be cancerous. It's essential to have any suspicious growths evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the nature of the bump and appropriate treatment.   Depending on the size, location, and any associated symptoms, your vet might recommend removal for your pet's comfort or to rule out any potential health concerns.

Author:  Susan Blake Davis, Pet Nutritionist
Revised and Updated:  4/7/2024
Originally Posted: 6/23/2014