Lumps and Bumps: What to Watch For

You snuggle your dog and cat every day. You pet them when they’re good, you snuggle them on the couch, and they even curl up by you at bedtime. It seems like you’re always petting them. You’d know if something changed, right? But a new bump can show up seemingly overnight. One day, as you run your hand along their back, you notice a small bump. Maybe it’s a tick–it is summer afterall, but nope, you don’t see anything. Or maybe it’s just a wart you’ve only now noticed. It doesn’t seem to be bothering your pet at all, but what could it be?

Many lumps and bumps are not a cause for concern, but they can be, so always get a new lump (or one that seems to be changing in size) checked by your veterinarian. Your vet will likely do a needle biopsy, which involves a tiny needle prick (that your pet will likely not even notice), and your vet examining its contents under a microscope. At that point, she’ll be able to give you a better idea of next steps for testing or removal, if any next steps are needed at all.

One of the most common bumps that seem to spring up on both dogs and cats are lipomas, which are just fatty tumors under the skin. These “tumor” are non-cancerous and, in most cases, our pet doesn’t even seem to notice they’re there. These bumps stay in place, and once they’re done growing, just sit in one place under your pet’s skin and never bother him. Sometimes, they do continue to grow, but unless they begin to bother your pet, rarely need to be removed. Even more rarely, lipomas can grow to be malignant–so always feel free to ask your vet check it out, even if it was tested at your pet’s last check up.

Many pets, especially aging pets, tend to get lipomas, so don’t worry if you find a new bump on your pet. Make an appointment with your vet to get it checked out, but it is very likely not an emergency situation.

Other common lumps on our pets include sebaceous cysts, which some breeds (such as spaniels) are prone to. Never puncture a cyst on your own–it could become infected or not be a cyst after all. Sebaceous cysts can occasionally develop into a sebaceous adenoma, which is a cancerous growth. These adenomas can be surgically removed fairly easily, with no long lasting effects on your pets.

Warts are another extremely common bump that shows up uninvited on our pets. They often go away on their own–some pets might even unknowingly scratch them off themselves. If you’re concerned, or it is bothering your pet, removal by your vet is an option.

Other bumps that do show up in our pets can mean cancer, but finding a new bump on your pet in no way means that they DO have cancer. Melanomas, mast-cell tumors, and carcinomas are all common dog and cat cancers they show up on the skin. They might not bother your pet at all–no hurting and no itching. But always mention the new bump at your pet’s next vet check up. If you notice a new skin lump that seems to be growing quickly, seems red and irritated, or is bothering your pet, be sure to contact your vet. But try not to worry too much–some dogs (and cats) are just a little lumpy.

By Rachel Leisemann Immel