What Do Lumps On Dogs Mean?

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Dog with lump on ear

If you have an older dog, then you’re no stranger to finding miscellaneous bumps and lumps on them. In fact, most dogs over the age of seven will have developed one or more of these bumps upon inspection. But what are these lumps and bumps on dogs and when should you 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

Keep An Eye On Skin Growths On Dogs

Lumps and bumps aren’t the only cause for concern. Malignant tumors are usually small lumps or bumps, but they can also occur as hairless, discolored patches, rashes, or non-healing ulcers. Because skin tumors are so diverse, experts recommend you always consult your vet if you notice any changes in your dog’s skin. Even benign skin conditions like allergies, warts, or sores could require medical attention.

How do we as pet parents know what to be concerned about and what not to be worried about? Luckily, 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

Vet with clipboard

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’s 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?

Bumps That Are Of Most Concern

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. However, here are some potential red flags you should be aware of.

  • 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

How Do Vets Know Which Lumps Are Bad?

It can be difficult to tell just by looking and touching a lump if it’s 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. A CT scan (or computerized tomography scan) might also help determine the diagnosis.

Treatment For Tumors

Treatment depends on the type of tumor, its location and size, and the dog’s physical health. For benign tumors that aren’t ulcerated or don’t impair the dog’s activity, treatment may not be necessary.

There are several options for cancerous tumors and benign tumors that inhibit normal activities or are cosmetically unpleasing. With most tumors, surgical removal is the most effective option. If the tumor was cancerous, it can possibly be followed up with radiation or chemotherapy to further kill the cancer cells and spread or growth.

If the tumor is suspected as malignant, the tissue surrounding the tumor will also be removed to eliminate all the cancerous cells. For tumors that can’t be completely surgically removed, partial removal along with radiation and/or chemotherapy may prolong the life of the dog.

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’ll 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. Use our tool below to get multiple quotes instantly.

How Vets Diagnose Concerning Lumps On Dogs

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

How To Track Lumps On Dogs

Dog with barbell in mouth (caption: Pet Wellness Plans)

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 seven, 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.

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