Lumps and Bumps


Lumps on Cats

Q: Hi Dr. Mike, My cat has a lump above the stomach just below the sturnum. It's about the size of a half dollar. It is soft and moves around and she doesn't seem uncomfortable when I touch it. What could this be? I'll take her to the vet soon but thought I'd ask for your opinion. Maybe you've seen this before. She's 18 months old. Thanks so much, Diane  

A: Diane- It is best to get all lumps in the skin or subcutaneous tissue of cats examined by your vet.

Lumps can occur due to abscesses or trauma leading to hematoma or seroma formation, which are collections of blood or serum, respectively, under the skin. Even though they are usually due to some sort of trauma, hematomas and seromas are often non-painful. It is easy to identify these by aspirating the contents with a needle on a syringe (fine needle aspirate) since either blood or serum will be extracted from the lump. Abscesses occasionally wall off and appear to be non-painful, as well. Lumps in this region can be due to hernias. If the lump has always been present this is a strong possibility. Hernias also sometimes occur due to trauma and we have seen a couple of hernias that appeared later in life for unknown reasons. It is surprisingly easy to miss a hernia that has been present for a long time. I have noted hernias in the record and then had owners come in later with the cat, having just noticed the lump again and not remembering talking about it in a previous office visit.

The last cause I can think of for lumps in this region is cancer, even in young cats. Sometimes young cats develop fibrosarcomas and they can occur in this region. These tumors need to be removed and very wide surgical margins made around the area the tumor occupied. For this reason it may be best to have a needle aspirate done first and the type of tumor identified if possible. That way, the surgeon knows for sure the importance of making an aggressive effort to get wide surgical margins in all directions. So it is just best to have your vet look at the lump and try to determine what it is. I'm glad that is your plan. If a biopsy is suggested it would be a good idea to have it done. It is better to error on the side of caution when it comes to subcutaneous lumps in cats.

Mike Richards, DVM    

Lump -  Referral

Q: Approximately 2 months ago I brought my cat (Tuna, american short-haired tiger, 7-8 years old) to the Vet because she was acting lethargic, she wasn't eating, and was hiding in my closet for about 48 hours. She wasn't running a fever, and everything seemed fine since after testing her blood and urine for various problems (blood count, Feline Leukemia, feline A.I.D.S., kidney and liver problems, urinary problems, etc.) I spent about $250 on these tests, and still had no idea what was wrong with her.

A few days later, a large lump arose on the side of her neck. I took her back to the Vet and they believed it to be an abscess. They sedated her to lance the abscess, but there wasn't one. We then put her on antiobiotics for 10 days she seemed fine (eating normally behaving normally) but recently the sight of the lump has become larger. Once again I took her to the Vet (another $150) and they ran more diagnostic tests and couldn't find anything. I spoke with the doctors and they said it could one of the following: a blocked Salivary gland, a walled-off abscess, a thyroid tumor (however, she does not have systems of a hyperactive thyroid), or cancer.

Now they've referred me to surgeons at University of Georgia's School of Veterinary Medicine and the estimated cost of x-rays and a biopsy would be $500 and surgery would be anywhere from $500-2500. Isn't this something that can be done at a regular Vet's office? Why would they be reluctant to treat her? Have you ever had these symptoms with any of your patients? And lastly, what would you recommend doing? I just don't want to put her through unneccessary pain and suffering. Thank you for your time. Kristin

A: Kristin- Without being able to see or feel the lump (or aspirate from it) it is pretty hard to tell you what might be going on.

I would worry about fibrosarcoma (a form of cancer that sometimes occurs at vaccination sites and often just occurs for no apparent reason). If your vets suspect this tumor may be present they may be referring your cat because of the aggressiveness required in surgical removal of these tumors. It may not be possible to remove enough of the tumor to satisfy the maxim that about 1 inch of tissue should be removed around the tumor in all directions -- 1 inch deep in the neck can include some pretty important things, like the carotid artery, esophagus or trachea.

If your vets suspect thyroid cancer they may be unwilling to start surgery due to the possible complication of causing parathyroid damage. There is a "learning curve" associated with thyroid surgery and many vets do not have access to training in the surgical technique without involving their patients in this learning curve. Many do not want to do this, including me. Usually, when your veterinarian gets frustrated enough to suggest referral to a specialist it is a good idea to go and at least talk with the specialist even if you decide not to pursue treatment.

Mike Richards, DVM    

Bump on Cats Mouth

Q: I found a bump in the corner of my female cats mouth. It looks like a human cold sore but is about half a centimetre big. She has also been coughing up white foam. It looks like saliva. She makes actions as she does when coughing up a hair ball but this foam substance comes up instead. This has never happened before. Are these two things related? What can I do?  

A: The lump could be an esosinophilic granuloma (a common problem in cats), an infection, or even cancer. There are probably lots of other possible problems, too. The best thing to do, especially since she is coughing up foam, is to have her examined by your vet. Please take her for an exam if you haven't done so already.

Mike Richards, DVM  

Lumps on Cats

Q: Hello Dr Mike, I have a 4 yr old ragdoll cat, he's been neutered and has been healthy having no sign of any problem until the last few day's when I noticed he has a lump on his left side very near his back bone, and now he's limping What could this be?

A: The most likely thing, if your cat goes outside or lives with other cats, is an abscess. These are often very warm or painful when touched. They tend to burst open after awhile if untreated (part of the treatment is to open and drain the abscess). They can cause extensive skin damage and in some cases, death. No matter what this is, all skin lumps in cats need to be taken seriously. Dogs develop a number of benign lumps and bumps and pet owners sometimes think that the same situation occurs in cats, but it just isn't so. Most skin lumps in cats are associated with serious problems and should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Please have your cat examined by your vet!

Mike Richards, DVM      


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...