Managing Lipomas (Fatty Tumors) in Dogs

Unlike other kinds of tumors, when it comes to fatty tumors dogs are not in any immediate danger. They are very common in older dogs and vets will usually only remove them if they are in an inconvenient place on the body and are causing your dog problems.

What Are Lipomas?

Lipomas are a type of benign tumor. They are made up of fatty tissue and generally do not pose a health risk to your dog. They are the most common type of benign tumor and every older dog usually has at least one.

Lipomas are subcutaneous fat deposits. This means they develop just under the skin. They are firm but moveable and don't cause hair loss. They won't cause your dog any pain and are not associated with any infections. Lipomas can develop anywhere on your dog's body but are most likely to appear on the torso, abdomen and legs.

Although many people interpret the word tumor as something life-threatening, a benign tumor is a harmless growth that won't affect your dog's health.

The Causes of Lipomas

The exact cause of lipomas is unknown but it is accepted as part of the natural ageing process in dogs. Certain breeds of dog are more prone to lipomas, including:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Mixed breeds

Although they can occur in younger dogs, older pets are more likely to develop these growths, especially overweight females.

Diagnosis of Lipomas

If you spot a new growth on your dog's body, it is important to have it examined by a vet. They will look at the lump and might do a biopsy to confirm what it is.

Treatment for Lipomas

Although lipomas are harmless, there are several reasons why your vet might remove them:

  • Cosmetic reasons
  • They are quite large
  • They are hindering your dog's mobility

They are causing friction between certain parts of the body, for instance if a lipoma is positioned between the flank and the leg However, there are risks associated with surgery and putting your dog under general anaesthetic so it is a good idea to discuss possible options with your vet. Some lipomas, called infiltrative lipomas, can also renew themselves after they have been removed. They are not dangerous but they are harder to get rid of.

If you and your vet decide it is better just to leave the lipoma alone, it is important to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't grow any more. If it becomes too large in the future, it may have to be removed for your dog to be comfortable. It should also be checked by your vet at regular intervals to ensure there are no cellular changes within the lump.

Lipomas are harmless but if you discover your dog has developed a new growth it is important to have the lump examined by a vet. Although benign tumors are common, there is still a chance it could be potentially harmful to your dog.