If It's Got To Be A Lump, Let It Be Lipoma

The other day I met a nice family, walking their mix-breed dog; friendly fella. As I was petting him I felt quite a large mass in the tissues under his neck.

In the dog's interest, I asked whether they were aware that their dog has a lump.
“Yes, we know about it,” they replied, “we're quite sure it's a lipoma.”

The first rule of lumps, don't be quite sure, be SURE!

“We're quite sure” answer only means that they made an assumption and that didn't have a vet check it out. Bad plan.

If you find a lump, anywhere on your dog, off to the vet you go.

If it is harmless, and some are, you will sleep better. If it is not, the sooner you get it diagnosed and treated, the better.

I don't know what they based their assumption on; maybe they have seen a whole lot of lipomas of the same size, hardness, shape, and location.

However, even if I saw a thousand, I would still want to have it examined.

From the day our late rescue, Bruin, came to us, I was convinced that his chest looked weird.

It was apparent particularly when he was sitting. Nobody else seemed to see what I saw, including the vet.

“He's a big boy, that's just how his chest looks.”

I was never quite comfortable accepting that answer, but since even the vet was convinced that his chest was perfectly normal, who was I?

He was a big boy and he was quite obese. He looked like a beer barrel!

We gradually introduced him to Jasmine's exercise routine and he slowly started thinning out.

And then one day it happened.

Hubby and the dogs were at the friends' farm when he called, all distraught, that Bruin has a huge lump on his chest!

We decided to take him to the vet immediately. The vet suspected lipoma and a biopsy confirmed that.

The lump was the size of a baseball!

Where did it suddenly come from? Nobody grows a lump that size overnight, do they? It was there, sitting on his chest all along. But as Bruin was losing weight, it must have gotten lose and shifted to the side. It definitely became apparent then!

We did discuss whether it should be removed surgically, mainly because of its size, but it was not really in the way of anything and we decided to leave it alone.

So what is a lipoma?

If you do find a lump on your dog, a lipoma is the word you do want to hear.

Lipomas are quite common in older dogs, particularly if they are also overweight.

A lipoma is a benign growth, consisting of mature fat cells and fibrous connective tissue. 

Lipomas don't hurt and most of the time don't bother anything.

They can become a problem is when they're interfering with mobility or are growing rapidly. In such cases, surgical removal might be necessary.

Lipomas normally grow quite slowly. I can only imagine how long Bruin's must have been growing to that size! I hardly changed after it was finally diagnosed.

The main thing about lipomas, however, is that you can't just decide that the lump you found on your dog is probably a lipoma. 

I don't care how many you might have seen in the past. Get a needle aspiration or a biopsy!

Further reading:
Lipomas in Dogs: Benign Fatty Growths
Veterinary Q & A: Lipomas (Fatty Tumors)
The lowdown on lipomas 
Should Fatty Tumors be Removed?


  1. I had two dogs that had lipomas and thankfully, they were sucessfully removed. It's pretty scary when I discovered the first one, though :0

  2. Yes, finding a lump is scary as hell. Lipoma is the happy diagnosis.

  3. Hi Y'all,

    When I was a teenager and young adult our aging standard poodle had fatty lumps all over him. Interestingly, my boxer/greatdane cross got none. Our diabetic basenji never got them either, but our flatcoat and chessie did. None of our dogs were bothered by them, luckily!

    Thanks for the info.

    BrownDog's Human

  4. Yes, not all dogs get them. They usually don't bother anything at all.

  5. My Rott developed a lump on her neck. It came up suddenly. Off to the vet and I heard those words: cancer. Second time around for us. She stayed with us for 8 months and then we said goodbye. Check your dogs at least once a month!

  6. So sorry about your dogs, that is very sad. (((hugs))) The nasty ones can come up quite quick. Yes, it is important to keep checking our dogs.

  7. Good advice... My 10 yr old German Shepherd had one of those quick growing lumps. One day it was just there. My vet said cancer and gave her 2wks... she took 2 weeks and a day. I now check my other 2 GSDs constantly.

    I am following you from the Sat Pet Hop. Please stop by my blog and say hello and follow.

  8. Hi, nice to meet you.

    So sorry about your dog, sometimes one just can't prevent everything. Regular checking does help catching things early though.

  9. Never let a vet tell you that you're being silly for asking for a lump to be aspirated! Just because they think it is a lipoma doesn't mean it is for sure--and no good vet will act like you are stupid. Your concerns are valid. My late Buddy had a growth in his abdomen that was hard to find unless you were looking for it. We got it checked and it was a lipoma, but think how bad it could have been if we were feeling a lump on an internal organ! I thought it was interesting that this lump was not on the "outside" of the body, but neither was it attached to anything else really, not even the abdominal wall. So internal lipomas are possible too! We kept an eye on it just in case it ever started to interfere with urination because it was close to those tubes, but it was probably free enough to yield to existing structures.

  10. Hi Serissime, glad Buddy's lump was just a lipoma also! It is ALWAYS good to make sure, lumps are no matter for guesswork.

  11. We have had all of Cali's lumps checked out and it is ALWAYS a relief that it is just a fatty tumor (although, it would be nice if we could figure out what causes them!) I am a huge worry wart, so not having them checked would make me worry even more!

    Cali has one the size of a baseball on her chest in front of her left shoulder and I'm sure it bothers me much more than it bothers her! I give her a good body massage every day to check out all of her lumps ;)

  12. Hi Julie. As the title says, if it has to be a lump, let it be a lipoma! :-)

    Unfortunately it's not really known what causes them.

    Even if there is no sufficient evidence to back up these causes, there are a few probable factors that cause the occurrence of fatty cysts in dogs.

    The dog’s diet is thought to play an important role. This is why lipomas are more common in obese dogs. A lot of vets believe that fatty cysts are due to a diet that is rich in carbohydrates.

    Other theories claim that the fatty cysts are caused by intensive hormonal activity or a hormonal imbalance in the dog’s organism. These may be caused by pregnancy or a problem in the dog’s body. Certain drugs may also cause hormonal imbalance.

    The lipomas may simply be caused by an accumulation of fatty tissues, which is again due to the fact that the dog is overweight.

    The formation of fatty cysts may also be attributed to heredity, according to some vets.

    Read more: What Causes Lipomas in Dogs? - VetInfo

  13. You know, I saw a mass on Kekoa that I was sure was a lipoma. It looked like it and felt like it too. But when I stuck a needle in it, it turned out to be an invasive sarcoma underneath a pillow of fat. You are so right. There is NO way to tell without getting a tissue sample!

  14. Hi Dr V. Wow, I'm so honored you read my article!

    Thank you for reading and commenting. Kekoa was lucky to have such a great vet!

  15. Lipoma are non cancerous tumours made up of fatty tissue. They are found beneath the skin and are soft, moveable and painless, they can vary greatly in size.

  16. I have a King Charles Cavalier, about 9 years old. Looking at his chest it looks like a bulge on a tire in 4 places. They are soft , pliable and move back and forth . A couple more showed up after his vet check up. She told me he was fine. . He does not seem to be sick. He seems to sleep alot. Anyone know what that sounds like? He does not seem to be in pain. I just read where kibble can cause cancer .

    1. Nobody can diagnose a bump from looking at it. The less from a picture or a description. Does sound like they could be papillomas but you need to have them identified properly by your vet which may or may not require aspirate. I'd do blood work while at it as well.

      If they are papillomas, those indicate that immune system isn't as strong as should be and you might want to take measures to support the immune system.

      But with bumps it always needs to start by a vet visit.

  17. Hi.
    I have a collie cross, 11 yr old Hutch. He has a large lump on his chest, and vet did needle aspiration which came back as inconclusive. I want to get it removed but hubby said with his age i shud let nature take its course. He is 12 in october. Do i risk an op or leave it? I am so upset as i have no kids & he is my life!!

    1. Josi, that is a difficult decision. With the results being inconclusive, I'd start by getting a second opinion, ideally with an oncologist or internal specialist.

  18. My 8 year old labrador has a lump near her armpit and the vet suggested a biopsy. He said it could be another lipoma or something else. I was all for the biopsy until I asked the vet what could be done if the biopsy comes back saying that it's cancerous. The vet said that because of the location of the lump they can't remove it. Then he mentioned chemo. So we decided not to do the biopsy because there is no treatment for our baby if it is cancer. We are keeping a watchful eye on her and she's happy, healthy, energetic and has good appetite. She does have other lipomas on her so we are hoping this one is a lipoma. We don't want to put her through the biopsy if nothing can be done. So please people don't judge when people decide that a biopsy is not the best option. We love our girl to pieces and we are very responsible dog owners.

    1. Well, a couple of thoughts.

      - knowing what it is would give you at least a piece of mind so that's worth something. A needle aspirate is quick, non-invasive and affordable. Well worth it.

      - if it did turn out cancerous, before concluding it cannot be treated it is always best to consult with an oncologist. There are MANY treatment options these days. There is a "radiation" surgery, specifically for things that one cannot operate on in a traditional way. There is the chemo, yes. You could also look into cryosurgery.

      And even none of those were possible, you can adjust to cancer-fighting cancer.

      Or, you can celebrate if it turns out that it is a lipoma.

      So I'd definitely do the aspirate.


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