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Lipomas, Or Fatty Lumps, In Dogs

These fatty lumps may look alarming but they are most often benign

MetPet.com Staff Writer

A lipoma is a soft and pliable concentration of fat underneath the skin.  They can feel like a balloon filled with oil underneath your dog's skin.  They range in size from the small to the very large and can occur in multiple places.  Lipomas are not painful and rarely become life threatening.  They can be alarming to owners who mistakenly believe them to be cancerous tumors. 

Lipomas are very common in older, overweight female dogs although they can occur in younger dogs and male dogs.  Some breeds are more prone to lipomas including terriers, retrievers and poodles. It is possible that injury, or bruising to a bony area causes the body to create a pocket of fat to protect the bone from further damage.    The body responds to the injury by creating a soft pocket of fat for protection.  This is a theory and it is not yet clear what causes lipomas.  If a dog develops a lipoma, it is more likely to develop more. 

Although they can be unsightly, lipomas are most often harmless.  Most do not migrate or become problems.  Problem lipomas are those that grow in places where they can obstruct movement of the legs.  Some grow large enough to become uncomfortable for your dog. 

Although you should not be unduly concerned, if you feel a lump or bump on your dog, you should have your veterinarian examine it.  He uses a needle to aspirate the contents of the lipoma and then checks the cells under a microscope.  On occasion, lipomas might need to be biopsied. 

Unless they are causing obstructions, lipomas are generally left and reexamined over time.  If you are concerned that they are an issue, you can have them surgically removed when your dog is under anesthesia for something else such as a routine teeth cleaning. 

Malignant Lipomas

On rare occasions, lipomas can become infiltrative and metastasize or spread to other parts of the body.  If this happens, you should discuss various treatment options (surgery and radiation) with your veterinarian. 

 
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