What’s this Lump on my Dog? – the Good, Bad and Ugly

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We love interacting with our dogs and stroking and patting them so finding a lump on your dog ‘that wasn’t there before’ is a very worrying time for owners. Although many owners will immediately suspect cancer there are many causes for the sudden appearance of lumps on dogs.

This does not mean that owners shouldn’t be concerned – the advice is always to get them checked out by a vet. If the lump does turn out to be malignant cancer then early diagnosis can be crucial to a good outcome.

Lumps generally fall into one of the following categories:

Fatty tumours: These happen most commonly in middle aged or older dogs and are commonly found around the rib area. They are most common in larger breeds and overweight dogs. In most cases, unless they are causing the dog a problem with moving about they do not require treatment.

Sebaceous cysts: These are caused by a blocked oil gland. They are filled with a white substance and can burst. Cocker Spaniels seem to be extremely susceptible to these cysts.

Warts: Caused by a virus, most warts will eventually go away by themselves but in persistent cases will need to be surgically removed.

Abscess: These are caused by an insect bite or infection and cause a build-up of pus under the skin.

Mast cell tumour: This is the most common form of skin cancer in dogs and certain breeds are more susceptible.

If you find a lump on your dog, book an appointment with your vet. Your vet may want to know if the lump has suddenly appeared, whether there has been any change to the size, colour or shape and whether there have been any changes to your dog’s behaviour such as appetite or energy levels.

The most common methods used by vets to diagnose lumps are:

Impression smears: This is where a microscope slide is pressed against the lump to collect cells. These are then stained and viewed under a microscope.

Biopsy: There are two types of biopsy -needle biopsy and tissue biopsy. In a needle biopsy procedure the needle is put into the lump and cells are extracted. The cells are then examined under a microscope. Sometimes a larger mass of tissue needs to be examined and this is done via a tissue biopsy.

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