Many pets develop lumps at some stage of their lives. The question always asked by owners is whether or not they need to be removed, treated or left well alone.

Here is a simple guide to lumps and bumps in pets:

Any abnormal lump in a pet needs to be examined at least once a year. Your veterinarian will record the size, consistency, level of adhesion and placement in order to compare to past and for future examinations. They may also perform a Fine Needle Aspirate (FNA) which entails gaining a small sample of the tumor using a needle and syringe and looking at the contents under a microscope. This gives them an indication of what type of lump it is.

If they remove the lump they will often give you the option of sending the lump for confirmatory histopathological examination – shoo – what a mouthful! The lump gets sent to a laboratory where pathologists examine it to determine the type, level of malignancy and whether or not it was removed completely on a microscopic level. This assists us with determining the chance of it recurring or having spread to internal organs.

Most lumps are tumors (cancerous) but not all of them are malignant (rapidly spread locally and/or to other parts of the body) but instead are benign. Examples of benign tumors include lipomas (fatty lumps), hamartomas (skin tags/warts) and adenomas (tumors of a gland cell). These tumors are often only removed if they are actively growing or are irritating the pet. It is important to remember that these tumors do not always remain benign which is why you should always have them checked yearly.  If a benign tumor is in a position that may impede your pets mobility or be difficult to remove surgically if it grows, they may advise removal when it is still small.

The smaller the tumor, the easier it will be to remove completely, the shorter the anesthetic time, the lower the risk to your pet and the cheaper it will be!

Malignant tumors rapidly spread and have the potential to cause systemic disease. The most common examples seen are melanomas, mast cell tumors, hemangiosarcoma’s and lymphomas. Some of these, if caught early enough can be removed, treated and even cured.

Take home tips:

  • Have all lumps on your pet examined by a veterinarian at least yearly.
  • If a lump grows rapidly, becomes ulcerated/bleeding or is irritating your pet, have it examined as soon as possible.
  • Diagnosing, removing and treating lumps sooner often carries a better long term prognosis both for your pet and your wallet!

Written by Dr. Eve Pearse & Dr. Kathleen Davis