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Lipomas: Also Known as "Lumps and Bumps"

Reviewed by Missy Beall, DVM, PhD on Friday, February 7, 2014
Posted November 13, 2013 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. Find him online at He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.

Dogs and cats commonly develop “lumps and bumps” just about anywhere on or under the skin.  Because what feels like a “fatty mass” or lipoma may in fact be something much worse, it is always advisable to have it checked out by your family veterinarian. 

There are basically three types of masses. Some are harmless or benign lumps. Sometimes the benign lumps can grow aggressively and end up being very difficult or impossible to remove depending on their location.  And then there are cancerous or malignant masses.

"Keep an eye on it" is not considered an appropriate tactic for several reasons. If it becomes too big, even a benign mass can be very challenging to remove. It will cause more discomfort and will cost more in vet care. In some cases, even a benign mass may require, say, a leg amputation because it has become too large. If the mass is cancerous, then denial or delaying surgery are not in your pet's best interest.

Before surgery, your family vet may want to run blood work and take chest X-rays to make sure your pet is otherwise healthy and that nothing has spread to the lungs. Sometimes small skin growths or warts can be removed as an "outpatient" procedure. Other growths are removed under general anesthesia and require more intensive postop care. 

Sending the lump to be analyzed at the lab is always recommended. We have a little saying about tumors: "If it is worth taking out, it is worth sending in!" Many steps are involved. The lump is placed in formalin and packaged with a submission and history form. It is then shipped to the lab, sometimes out of state. The lump is then examined, sliced and closely evaluated under a microscope by the pathologist.

The whole process usually takes 5 to 7 days.  The pathologist then sends a report to your family vet, describing what was seen and what the diagnosis is. Only then can your vet call you with the final results. A plan of action is then discussed: no further treatment, regular check-ups to make sure the mass doesn’t come back, chemotherapy, radiation therapy

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at