Cysts on Dogs: Identifying Dog Cysts vs Tumors

Medical articles
A dog making use of its pet insurance by having a regular check-up to help diagnose if the growing lump is a tumor vs. cyst and to identify if it is a false cyst.

Cysts on Dogs: Identifying Dog Cysts vs Tumors 

One minute you're cuddling your dog on the couch, the next you feel a lump you can't recall ever noticing before. Your heart skips a beat. What is it? Should you be worried? Is it cancer? 

Take a deep breath! While finding a bump on your dog is definitely cause for concern, it doesn't always mean the worst. Many times, these lumps turn out to be benign cysts or tumors, which are essentially harmless growths, but any new or unusual growth on your furry friend absolutely needs to be checked by a veterinarian. They can help diagnose the lump and determine the best course of action, giving you peace of mind and keeping your pup healthy. 

Types of Cysts and Tumors on Dogs: What Pet Parents Need to Know 

As a pet parent, discovering a lump or bump on your dog can be a worrying experience. While some growths are harmless, others may be cause for concern. It's important to understand the difference between dog cysts and tumors, and to know when it's time to visit your veterinarian. 

Cysts are typically sacs filled with fluid, air, or other material, and they can develop just about anywhere on your dog's body. Tumors, on the other hand, are abnormal growths of tissue that may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Identifying the type of growth your dog has is crucial for determining the appropriate course of action. 

To help you better understand the types of lumps and bumps you may encounter, we've compiled a list of common cysts and tumors found on dogs. Remember, only your veterinarian can make a definitive diagnosis, so if you notice any new growths on your pup, it's always best to have them checked out. 

Common Lumps and Bumps on Dogs 

Lumps and bumps on your dog's skin can range from harmless to concerning. Here are some of the most common types of growths you might encounter: 

Lipomas: These are benign fatty tumors that are soft, rounded, and usually movable under the skin. They're most often found on older or overweight dogs. 

Sebaceous cysts: These small, slow-growing cysts form in the sebaceous glands and are filled with a thick, oily material called sebum. They appear as raised bumps that may rupture and release a white, paste-like discharge. 

Skin tags: These are small, fleshy growths that often appear on areas where the skin rubs together, like the armpit or eyelids. They're usually harmless unless they get irritated. 

Warts: Also known as papillomas, these are caused by a virus and are most often found in and around the mouth of young dogs. They're usually benign and may go away on their own. 

Mast cell tumors: These are potentially malignant tumors that can vary widely in appearance. They may look like wart-like nodules or ulcerated sores. Early removal is key to preventing the spread of cancerous cells. 

Melanomas: These are malignant tumors that are often found in the mouth or on the toes of dogs. They can be black, brown, gray, or pink and are prone to spreading if not caught early. 

Squamous cell carcinoma: These red, ulcerated, irregular, angry-looking tumors typically arise in the mouth of dogs (technically they can be anywhere on the skin though). They’re considered aggressive cancers, but they can be treated surgically if they’re addressed early. 

While some of these growths may be nothing to worry about, it's always best to have any new lump or bump evaluated by your veterinarian. Only a vet can determine if a growth is benign or malignant by examining a sample of the cells under a microscope. This is typically done through a fine needle aspirate or surgical biopsy. Catching potentially malignant tumors early can make a big difference in treatment success, so don't delay in getting any suspicious growths checked out. 

The Cost of Treating Lumps and Bumps on Dogs  

The cost of treating a lump or bump on your dog can vary widely depending on the type of growth, location, size, and whether it's benign or malignant.  

Here are some estimates for common diagnostic procedures and treatments: 

Keep in mind that these are just averages. The actual cost for your dog will depend on your specific situation, veterinarian, and location. It's always a good idea to discuss cost estimates upfront with your vet when making treatment decisions for your pet. 

When to Get Your Dog's Lump Checked Out  

As a general rule, any new lump or bump on your dog that persists beyond a few days or is growing in size should be evaluated by your veterinarian. The sooner a potentially serious growth is diagnosed, the better the chances for successful treatment. During the visit, your vet will perform a thorough physical exam and likely obtain a sample of the mass for microscopic analysis to identify the type of cells involved. Additional testing such as blood work, x-rays, or ultrasound may also be done to check for any signs of cancer spread. 

The Role of Pet Insurance  

As you can see, treating lumps and bumps on dogs can get expensive quickly, especially if cancer is involved. This is where dog insurance can provide peace of mind. Accident and illness coverage is designed to help pet parents manage the cost of unexpected veterinary bills, such as those associated with diagnosing and treating cancer. Most pet insurance plans will cover things like surgical removal of masses, chemotherapy, radiation, and other cancer treatments. 

Traditional veterinary medicine is crucial for diagnosing and treating lumps and bumps, but a holistic approach to pet care can be very important if that lump or bump turns more serious. You'll want a pet insurance company that can help you manage the financial burden of treatments, both conventional and alternative.  Unlike many other pet insurance companies, Embrace ensures pet parents have the option to pursue complementary therapies at no additional cost.  They’re already included in the plan. This coverage can help offset the cost of therapies like acupuncture or physiotherapy, which can manage pain and inflammation associated with certain lumps or bumps. This can improve your dog's comfort and recovery throughout their treatment journey. Always consult your veterinarian to determine if complementary therapies are right for your dog's specific needs. 

It's important to note that pet insurance generally does not cover pre-existing conditions. So if your dog already has a mass or has been showing signs of illness before you enroll, those issues likely won't be covered under your new plan. That's why it's best to get pet insurance when your dog is young and healthy before any problems arise. 

In addition to accident and illness coverage, many pet insurance providers offer wellness plans as an optional add-on. These plans reimburse you for a portion of your pet's routine preventive care costs, such as annual check-ups, vaccinations, and dental cleanings. Wellness plans help you budget for the cost of this important preventive care over 12 months, making it more affordable. Regular check-ups are essential for detecting potential health issues like tumors early when they are most treatable.  


Finding a lump or bump on your beloved dog can be scary, but the good news is that many growths turn out to be harmless. Of course, it's always best to have any new mass evaluated by your vet to determine if it's a cyst, benign tumor, or something more concerning. When it comes to your furry family member, it's better to be safe than sorry. The sooner a problem is detected and diagnosed, the better the chances of a positive outcome. 

With diligent monitoring and great medical care, you and your loyal companion can enjoy many more healthy, happy years together. Remember, your dog looks to you to keep them safe and well. Trust your instincts, and don't hesitate to have any suspicious lump or bump checked out. Your best friend is counting on you!