What is Dog Lipoma?
A dog lipoma is a common soft tissue tumor that grows in fat cells.
The fatty tumors are often movable, not painful to the touch, and can be unattached to the surrounding tissues (muscle underneath or skin above). If attached, it is known as an infiltrative dog lipoma.
The most common site for lipomas is the subcutaneous fat right under a dog’s skin but they can affect other organs, particularly the stomach lining.
In fact, adenocarcinomas or organ lining cancers, are among the more common types of cancers. A dog’s body can have one or multiple lipomas.
How Serious are Lipomas in Dogs?
Canine lipomas are in most cases not a cause for concern but they still need to be examined by a veterinarian. They are usually slow-growing therefore if you discover a lump that suddenly appears, it is unlikely to be a lipoma.
In some cases, the dog lipoma can become a serious problem due to its location. Tumors on vital organs like the heart are very likely to cause complications.
A dog lipoma on the limbs, particularly the shoulders or armpits can also affect your dog greatly since they hinder mobility and cause limping or lameness.
Types of Lipoma Tumors in Dogs
Lipoma tumors in dogs can be classified as benign and malignant. Let’s take a look at each.
Benign Tumors. Most dog lipoma tumors are benign meaning that they are non-cancerous and do not metastasize or invade other body organs. Treatment and surgery are usually not necessary but some pet owners choose to remove the tumors for cosmetic purposes.
Malignant Tumors. This type of dog lipoma tumor is cancerous. However, malignant lipomas, also known as liposarcomas, are very unlikely to spread. Liposarcomas do not grow from lipomas so you don’t have to worry about the benign dog lipoma turning malignant. With surgery, the prognosis of the condition is fair with most dogs surviving for 2 to 3 years depending on the type of surgery.
What Causes Lipomas in Dogs?
Like with most tumors, it is hard to pinpoint a single cause for lipomas. There are risk factors that increase your dog’s chances of getting a lipoma, the most notable of which are age and body weight.
Lipomas are more common in middle-aged and older dogs. Overweight dogs are more likely to develop lipomas compared to their lean counterparts.
There is also evidence of a genetic component in the risk factors since certain dog breeds like Golden Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, and Weimaraners are more prone to developing a dog lipoma.
What are the Symptoms of Dog Lipoma?
The dog lipoma starts as a small soft lump that is moveable under the skin. The typical signs and symptoms depend on the location but usually include:
- A non-painful lump that grows and does not go away
- Lameness, coughing, increased eye tearing (based on location).
Systemic symptoms like lethargy and change in behavior are rare because the tumors generally do not cause discomfort. They are possible in dogs whose lipomas are located on a vital organ or body part like the limbs or heart.
Diagnosing Dog Lipoma
To diagnose a dog lipoma, the veterinarian will typically perform a fine-needle aspiration (FNA) followed by a cytology exam.
Fine needle aspiration (FNA) involves inserting a small needle into the tumor and collecting cells or fluid for testing. The cells are examined under a microscope to rule out other skin tumors like mast cell tumors and histiocytomas.
FNAs may sometimes be inadequate for diagnosis in which case a biopsy may be performed. A biopsy is a more comprehensive method of diagnosis but also more invasive as it requires partial or complete excision of the mass. The sample is then sent for further diagnostics such as histopathology,
It is extremely crucial to have your pet’s lipomas diagnosed by a qualified veterinarian. Malignant liposarcomas can look very similar to lipomas. Treating a liposarcoma like a lipoma will result in late diagnosis and a worse prognosis for your dog.
How do you Treat Lipomas in Dogs?
The best treatment for lipomas will differ from dog to dog. The veterinarian will work with you to determine the best treatment for your dog.
The most effective means of removing a tumor is surgery. For infiltrative lipomas, radiation therapy may be necessary. The removal surgery usually costs less than $500, but more complicated procedures can be $1000 or more.
The veterinarian may inject calcium chloride or steroid or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug to help shrink the fatty tumor and make the removal surgery easier.
As a dog owner, your job is to make your dog’s life as comfortable as possible. Ask your veterinarian how best to achieve this.
Exercise is an effective management option, especially in overweight dogs. You can also ask your veterinarian about alternative holistic treatments like herbs and CBD products.
What can I do to Prevent Dog Lipomas?
The causes of dog lipoma are not fully understood, making it hard to discuss prevention measures. Since the condition is more common in overweight dogs, managing a healthy weight may reduce the risk of developing dog lipoma.
There are two ways to keep a dog’s weight at a healthy level:
- Diet. Provide your dog with high-quality foods that are rich in nutrients. A good diet must consist mostly of natural unprocessed food. Processed food should only make up a small portion of your dog’s diet.
- Exercise. Allow your dog regular physical exercise not only to keep her weight healthy but also to keep her fit. Physical exercise can be in the form of daily scheduled walks or more active playtime.
While you cannot prevent your dog from developing a lipoma, you can prepare yourself in the event that it occurs. An important step in that preparation is a good pet health insurance plan for your dog.
With the One Vet insurance plan, you get 24/ access to a licensed veterinarian and up to $3000 a year in case of an emergency. Plus, the insurance covers all pre-existing conditions for as low as $19.99 per month.
Can Dogs Live With Lipoma?
Yes, dogs can live with lipoma.
If the veterinarian feels confident the tumor is benign, they will often not recommend surgery. Surgery is usually only necessary if the tumor is very large or bothering the dog.
If your dog is living with lipoma, constant monitoring and evaluation are essential to prevent further complications. During monitoring and evaluation, you will be checking for changes in the lump’s size, texture, and appearance.
A lump can be measured and monitored at home by laying a piece of wax paper over it and tracing the edges with a marker. Ideally, this should be done regularly to make sure you note any changes in size or shape.
Do Lipomas on Dogs Go Away?
No, a dog lipoma does not go away unless extracted with surgical removal. A dog lipoma can shrink in some cases with weight loss but will not entirely disappear without surgery.
In most cases, the lipoma will grow and become larger, and sometimes new lipomas may appear in new locations.
Many dogs live happily and long with lipomas. Because the tumors mostly affect senior dogs, there is a greater risk factor during surgery. Therefore, veterinarians may routinely advise pet parents to remove their dog’s lipoma.