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Lipomas in Dogs: What You Need to Know

Learn about lipomas in dogs, their causes and diagnosis.

Lipomas are common skin tumors in dogs. They are usually benign (non-cancerous) masses of fat cells. There is a cancerous form, the liposarcoma, but they are much rarer.

What Causes Lipomas in Dogs?

Lipomas are fatty tumors that are encapsulated in a thin membrane. They are common in all dog breeds and can occur anywhere on the body. They feel moveable and soft, and they can range in size from tiny to very large.

The exact cause of canine lipomas isn't known, but there doesn't seem to be any breed or sex predilection. Some dogs never develop one, and others grow many, so it's possible there could be a connection with the dog's ability to metabolize fat or some other internal condition that makes some dogs more prone to them.

How Are Canine Lipomas Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will probably have a good idea that a particular lump is a lipoma based on how it feels and a history from you of slow growth and a lump that is non-bothersome to the dog. A fine needle aspirate, which is the removal of cells from the mass with a needle for microscopic examination, reveals only fat cells.

Remember, not all soft, moveable masses on a dog's skin are lipomas. Enlarged lymph nodes and some types of skin cancer can feel the same way but are more serious than lipomas. Every lump you find on your dog should be checked out by a veterinarian. Learn more: "My Dog Has a Lump; What Do I Do?"

What Is the Treatment for Lipomas in Dogs?

Most of the time, lipomas don't need to be treated, but they should always be monitored for fast growth or change in consistency. Surgical removal can be performed if the lipoma is in a spot that is uncomfortable for the dog or it interferes with his movement.

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