A lipoma is a common benign mass made up exclusively of fat cells. While most lipomas in dogsare located just under the skin anywhere in the body, these lumpy masses may also develop in the abdomen and chest.
About 16% of middle-aged to geriatric dogs are most predisposed to be affected. Among these, obese adult female dogs are particularly at risk. Lipomas are considered rare among felines.
As benign masses, lipomas are not considered cancerous. As such, they do not metastasize (spread) to other tissues. However, canine lipomas can prove problematic in other ways, such as when they grow large enough to interfere with normal movement or when these space-occupying masses arise in inconvenient anatomical locations.
As with so many other masses, cancerous or otherwise, the exact cause of dog lipomas is unknown. Because some breeds of dogs are overrepresented, some genetic influence can be assumed.
Symptoms and Identification of Lipomas in Dogs
A lipoma on a dogwill typically present initially as a small, hemispherical lump under a dog's skin. It will usually appear haired, relatively soft, and somewhat mobile, though variations in texture (firmer masses that are more firmly adhered to the underlying tissues) are not uncommon.
Many dogs will present with multiple lipomas on their body at once.
While most dog lipomas are diagnosed via a fine-needle aspirate, owners need to understand that a fine-needle aspirate is not always 100% accurate, given that it only retrieves a small number of cells that may not be representative of the mass as a whole. For that reason, dog owners are asked to monitor the mass for rapid growth or changes in appearance or texture. Annual re-aspiration of these masses is typically indicated.
Since lipomas are rare in cats, the presence of any lump may represent a more sinister type of growth. Some veterinarians believe any mass under the skin requires a biopsy, not just a fine-needle aspirate.
Affected Breeds of Canine Lipoma
Though canine lipomas can affect any breed of dog, middle-aged and older dogs are more likely to present with lipomas.
Treatment for Lipomas on Dogs
Since the vast majority of canine lipomas are harmless, surgical removal is only necessary if they are large enough to cause discomfort, hinder normal movement, or interfere with body functions. Nonetheless, biopsy (to retrieve a substantial tissue sample) with or without surgical removal is strongly recommended for cats with fatty skin lumps.
If owners elect surgery for cosmetic reasons, they should understand that these masses can prove problematic post-operatively in that a higher risk of post-surgical complications (at the site of surgery) has been reported for these masses. For this reason, some veterinarians are now pioneering liposuction to extract fatty tissue from within these masses. Unfortunately, re-growth rates following surgery or liposuction are high.
In addition to surgery and liposuction, steroid injections and laser therapy (among other alternative pet therapies) have also been studied. Still, the wider veterinary community has adopted no conclusive approach to handling all lipomas in dogs.
Rarely will dog lipomas become locally invasive. Removal may be indicated in these cases, and radiation therapy may help limit its re-growth.
Veterinary Cost of Dog Lipomas
As benign masses, most veterinarians do not remove them routinely. The removal of canine lipomas is relatively inexpensive compared to other lumps. Their cost is typically confined to the price of the annual fine-needle aspirate, which usually costs anywhere from $20 to $100.
However, surgical removal can prove pricey, especially given that these tumors have a high degree of post-op complications.
Owners should expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $500 per mass. Should the mass be extremely large, reside in a hard-to-reach spot, or be highly invasive, surgical expenses may creep toward $1,000 more should a board-certified surgeon be enlisted to remove an especially difficult mass.
Dog Lipoma Prevention
There is no known prevention method for dog lipomas. However, since they occur more frequently in overweight dogs, healthy weight maintenance should be of some benefit in limiting the size and/or number of lipomas.
Embrace Pet Insurance offers various dog insurance plans for conditions such as lipomas in dogs. Different pets have different needs so please reach out to Embrace Pet Insurance to discuss the coverage details that are best for your furry friend.
Browse our full-coverage pet insurance plans and pet insurance discounts to find a plan that works for you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Lipomas
How Do I Shrink a Dog Lipoma Naturally?
To naturally shrink canine lipomas, fish oils, and omega-3s may be an ideal choice. They may help shrink or prevent lipomas in various ways - one of which is by reducing obesity and inflammation in your dog, which helps keep their joints lubricated and the coat and skin healthy.
How Fast Do Lipomas Grow in Dogs?
The speed at which dog lipomas grow varies. Some may grow rapidly and take several weeks, while others may take more time to grow and become visible over the years.
Why Does My Dog Keep Getting Lipomas?
A poor diet is likely the reason why your dog keeps getting lipomas. Excessive carbohydrates, preservatives, and toxins in processed dog food contribute to the growth of dog lipomas.
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