What Do Lumps On Dogs Mean?

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Dog with lump on earIf you have an older dog, then you are no stranger to finding miscellaneous bumps and lumps on them. In fact, most dogs over the age of 7 will have developed one or more of these bumps upon inspection. But what are these lumps and bumps on dogs and when should an owner be concerned?

What Does A Lump On A Dog Mean?

One time I reached down to give an affectionate scratch to my older dog when I felt a new bump on her head. Now she is more than 13 years old, so this is not our first “lump,” but I always get concerned when I find a new one. Mainly because this one did not seem like the other lumps and bumps that she has developed in the past. So, off to the vet we went….

How Many Different Types Of Lumps Are There?

The vet explained to me that there are many kinds of lumps and bumps that can develop on older dogs, just like on older humans. These include:

  • Lipomas (fatty tumors in dogs)
  • Sebaceous cysts (skin cysts)
  • Warts
  • Hematomas (blood blisters)
  • Infected hair follicles
  • Benign tumor
  • Malignant tumor

How do we as pet parents know what to be concerned about and what not to be worried about? Lucky for me, my vet is very patient and educated me on the questions an owner should try to answer before they bring their pet into their appointment.

Questions To Ask About Dog Lumps And Bumps

If you know the answers to these questions before you get to the vet, it will really help them diagnose your dog’s “lump” quicker and will also help you know if it is potentially something serious.

  1. Has the lump or bump appeared suddenly or has it been there a while?
  2. Has the bump or lump stayed the same consistency or had the same appearance or has it recently changed?
  3. Does the lump seem to separate from the underlying tissue or does it seem fixed in place?
  4. Is there only one lump that you have found recently or are there multiple bumps?
  5. Finally, has your dog had any changes in behavior such as loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or a dramatic change in overall attitude?

How Much Does Lump Removal Cost?

As it turns out, surgery to remove lumps and bumps is one of the most common types of dog surgeries, and it can cost $1,000 or more per incident.

Pet Insurance Can Reduce Your Financial Risk

Before you start to panic, you might consider signing up for pet insurance as a proactive measure to lower your risk for potential health threats during your dog’s lifetime. Why? Pet insurance is hands down the best thing you can do for your dog. Not only for the health of your dog but to save you from financial trouble should an accident, illness or pet emergency arise. Humans have health insurance so our furry friends should too. That way you will never have to choose between an expensive treatment and your pet’s life. Pet insurance gives you peace of mind so you can make better and less emotional decisions in the face of crisis.

Read some reimbursement success stories to find out how pet insurance can save a life, literally. You’ll quickly understand why pet insurance is one of the fastest growing types of insurance.

Bumps That Are Of Most Concern:

  • Grow fast
  • Change size or shape over a few weeks or months
  • Ooze or break open
  • Are firm and tightly fixed in place
  • Are abnormally colored like melanomas.

The vet was quick to point out that there are no specific criteria to use to tell if any given tumor is benign or malignant, so I was right to bring my dog in when I discovered something new.

How Do Vets Know Which Lumps Are Bad?

It can be difficult to tell just by looking and touching a lump if it is the dreaded “C” tumor that we all fear.

Because of my dog’s age and how quickly the lump developed, my vet moved onto the next phase in diagnosis: the Fine Needle Aspiration. This sounds a bit more complicated than it actually is. He just took a long thin needle and pulled a sample of tissue out of the lump to send off to a lab to be checked.

If the results had come back “suspicious” then he would have proceeded to more tests such as blood work, radiographs and/or abdominal ultrasounds.

All of this helps to guide the vet’s treatment options if a tumor is discovered. Sometimes dog tumors are benign and can be easily removed via surgery. Or sometimes it cannot be removed and needs to be treated with radiation and/or chemotherapy.

How Vets Diagnose Concerning Lumps On Dogs (Video)

Watch this short video to learn more about how vets diagnose lumps on dogs.

How To Track Lumps On Dogs

The most important thing you can do as an owner is to check your dog for any new lumps and bumps regularly. You don’t have to drive to the vet the minute you find something new, but do monitor your pup closely for changes.

Another good idea for any dog, especially over age 7, is to have regular annual exams (like a human physical) where the vet can take more time to check your dog and ask overall health questions. Better yet, if you have wellness insurance these preventative exams are usually covered under your plan (Pets Best would be a good solution for both pet health insurance and wellness insurance in one comprehensive policy). During a wellness visit, the vet can make sure any new lumps are on their “lump and bump map” for your dog. Remember that lumps can change over time so just because it’s been there forever doesn’t mean you can forget about it.

Is That Lump On My Dog Cancer?

After a few tense days for us, I am happy to report that my dog had a benign cyst that was easily treated and not a canine tumor. The vet added the location to her “lump and bump” map so that he will know to track it at her next visit. Both my dog and I had an extra spring in our step when we left the vet office that day; however, I’ll make sure that I continue to monitor all her lumps and bumps as she ages.

Learn more about other types of cancer in dogs and common dog health issues for which you should be on the lookout.

Has your dog had a lump or bump? How did you diagnose and treat it?

Nicole is a freelance writer and a hobby historian who has always had dogs in her life. For the last 12 years, she’s been the proud mom to 2 rescue pups: Angie and Dana. Her days wouldn’t be complete without their love, companionship and daily walks together.

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