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Lumps and Bumps and Cysts, Oh My! What To Do When You Find A Mass On Your Dog

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While it may be shocking and frightening when you’re petting your dog (like you always do) and find a lump or bump where it doesn’t belong, these are actually quite common in dogs, and not always something to worry about. Before you panic, read this article below from Dr. Mark Thompson of PetPlace.com to learn what do you when you find a mass on your dog.

Lumps and Bumps and Cysts, Oh My! What To Do When You Find A Mass On Your Dog

Skin growths are lumps of tissue that are within the skin or can be felt under the skin. Dogs can develop small bumps (papules) or larger bumps (nodules) on their skin. These lumps and bumps are fairly common occurrences, especially in the older dog.

Very often the word “lump” brings the word “cancer” to mind. However, there are many other causes of lumps. A skin growth or mass may be a malignant or benign tumor, an abscess, a cyst, a hematoma (blood-filled mass) or a reaction by the skin to an allergen (hives). Lumps are often benign accumulations of fat called lipomas. However, all lumps should be evaluated for the possibility of malignancy.

What to Watch For

Any new lump or bump should be evaluated right away, especially a lump that is rapidly growing, is warm or painful, is ulcerated or bleeding, is irregular in shape or is well attached to the tissues under the skin. Any of the above signs should prompt you to seek veterinary attention.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian may take a complete history. Expect to answer the following questions:

  • How long the growth has been there?
  • Has it gotten larger or smaller or changes in appearance?
  • Does the lump appear to be attached to the underlying skin?
  • How fast is it is growing?
  • Have there been any recent injuries or injections?
  • Is there only one lump or are there others?
  • Are there any changes in your pet’s behavior, such as eating less, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy?A complete physical exam will be done. Your veterinarian will pay particular attention to the appearance of the mass, whether it is hot or painful, whether it is within the skin or under the skin, if it is attached to underlying tissues and where it is located on the body. Additional tests may include:
  • An aspirate of the mass with a small needle may be done to collect cells for staining and examination under a microscope (cytology). This test usually requires no anesthesia and often leads to a diagnosis.
  • If the mass is ulcerated or draining fluid, a microscope slide may be touched to the fluid to make an impression for microscopic examination.
  • A biopsy may be taken to send to a veterinary pathologist for examination. The biopsy may involve removing the entire mass or removing a piece of the mass.
  • A piece of tissue may be submitted for culture if infectious agents such as bacteria or fungi are suspected.Treatment

    Treatment depends on the cause of the mass. There is no specific treatment for all skin growths.

    Home Care

    Give all medications as instructed and observe masses closely for growth, heat, redness and pain.

    If the growth has been removed or biopsied, keep your dog confined to allow for healing. Observe the incision site closely for drainage, swelling, redness, heat or pain.

Read more about what to do if you find a mass on your dog here. Have you ever found an unusual lump or bump on your dog? Tell us your story in the comments below!

12 Responses to Lumps and Bumps and Cysts, Oh My! What To Do When You Find A Mass On Your Dog
  1. Louise
    July 7, 2014 | 2:48 pm

    My dog had a lump located close to the end of her tail removed on June 19 2019. There was a miscommuication between the vet and myself. I never got to speak to the surgeon who removed the lump. I thought the small lump would be removed only if it was cancerous. They removed it without knowing if it was cancerous until after the fact when I requested a lab report. The report came back as non malignet tumor. The problem I am now having is after the stiches were removed she pulled the bandage off and chewed some of her tail. It bleeds and I went to a different vet and they said it is going to be very difficult for this to heal and they want to dock her tail. This has been a nightmare since her tail used to curl and was so much her personality. Do you have any words of wisdom that will help. I plan to try and keep what tail she has after the surgery. They took about a couple inches off. Thank you for your help in this matter.

  2. Jamie Geer
    May 21, 2014 | 5:39 pm

    This was interesting, I wish however that it told more about distinguishing between lumps, bumps, cysts, and swelling. I have one dog that is prone to benign cysts that we regularly have removed simply because we don’t like them and want to be able to distinguish old from new, but another one of our dogs suddenly was noticed to have swelling under her chin. Thankfully, we promptly took her to the vet to have it checked out because it turned out to be lymphoma (you can see her story at http://www.savebambi.net/ or her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Bambi/616673938402311) We have been doing everything we can to save her and she is currently in remission and we are desperately trying to raise the money to pay for her transplant that could not just extend, but save her life. If we had waited she may not even be alive now because this lymphoma left untreated most often kills within six weeks. People need to be aware of where their dogs lymph nodes are located and what they feel like so that that they can closely monitor their dogs and as soon as they notice a change get their dog to a vet, if their vet can’t get them in within one to two days they need to try another vet that can.

  3. erin
    May 15, 2014 | 9:01 pm

    Hi my name is erin,
    Im wondering what the lumps are under my teacup chihuahuas belly,
    near her lower nipples are located. One is located near/under one nipple,
    and another (smaller) located near/under another. They are also soft.
    would u happen to know what this could be?

  4. Cheryl Arcella
    November 17, 2013 | 9:05 pm

    Last comment was for PETA Scott not Sheila B.

  5. Cheryl Arcella
    November 17, 2013 | 8:59 pm

    Sheila B. did you happen to notice when your dog was drinking those huge amounts of water if he was vomiting up a foamy clear liquid? We had just gone through this for several months this summer. Our dog had high count of protein in her urine. She’s 8 yrs. old, a Maltese weighed 18lbs. Over weight. We watch her diet now. And she’s on Hills UD for her chronic urinary infections that started this summer. We have to use special wipes for her. We always wiped her, but these are anti fungal/antibacterial. So I suggest you take your dog to the vet SAP Uti’s are painful and can turn into serious stuff. Our dog also had struvite stones removed, I failed to mention when this all went down. Best of luck. Hope this helps you. We love our pets. Cheryl

  6. PETA Scott
    June 20, 2013 | 12:57 am

    Hi can anyone please help me with my 15yo kelpie male that has some huge cysts that the vet assures me are harmless unless they affect his joints. He has started coughing up huge amounts of liquid at night I thought it was urine but its not, it would be Atleast a litre, he does it in his bedding or anywhere, as for his general health he seems happy he even plays sometimes with our other dog.i know he’s old and I expect him to have accidents but I just wish I knew what this is, he drinks a lot of water and we always let him out before bed, but once again it’s not urine. Thanks for listening PETA

  7. nicole
    January 15, 2013 | 4:13 am

    i have a dog that is 11 years old and i just noticed a lump under her skin its not real big it looks like a bead is under her skin its just above her nipple closer to her front leg wat could it be and would it need to be removed she is a little maltese dog plese help im worried

    • Sheila B
      June 3, 2013 | 4:26 pm

      I just noticed your question when I was looking for information for my son. He has a dog with cyst on his tail. Anyway, I have had a few Maltese, I have one right now. She is 15 and gets these small to medium size growths on her. I have had her at two vets and they have both told me that these growths are very common in the Maltese breed, especially when they get older. I make sure to keep her skin clean and hydrated and watch the growths for any infection. They seem to come and go and can sometimes bleed. I put a salve on them that I got from a pet catalog and the vet says that’s about all I can I do. They do seem to be better when I bath her with a good hypoallergenic shampoo. Good luck! I love this breed of dog.

  8. Brandy Arnold
    January 7, 2012 | 7:59 am
    Brandy Arnold

    My dog, Molly, a few years ago developed a small, squishy mass on the underside of the base of her tail. My veterinarian drained and tested its contents and deemed the cyst to be harmless – her body’s reaction to a bug bite, probably, as long as it remained small and didn’t get in the way of her normal activities. Because she is a long-haired dog and the cyst was under her tail, it wasn’t really noticeable – much to my dismay. When I checked the cyst about a month after draining it, it had doubled it’s previous size.

    Molly and I began a regular routine of draining, waiting for it to fill up again, draining again, and so on… until we reached the point that in under a week it was full again. And each time it refilled, it became larger and larger. Well, you may be wondering why I went to all this trouble rather than just having the cyst removed permanently. Because of the location of her cyst, my veterinarian was concerned about operating in an area rich with nerves that might effect her bowel control. He even suggested removing her tail altogether – a notion that I couldn’t even fathom as watching her tail windmill when she’s excited is one of my favorite pastimes.

    In one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I decided to take Molly to a highly regarded vet for a second opinion. I suspect Molly’s original veterinarian was just too busy to be bothered with a complicated surgery on an older dog because my new vet, after 6 hours of intensive surgery, successfully removed the cyst – and only the cyst – relieving Molly of the years of carrying around a sac that, at one point, weighed nearly a pound and contained a full liter of clear fluid. My suggestion for anyone that finds a lump of bump on their dog, is to get a first opinion – and then get a second.

    • Jane Russell Songer
      January 1, 2013 | 4:53 pm

      Oh, my goodness! Thank you for sharing that! That is horrible that you & your precious dog had to go thru all that! I salute you for getting a 2nd opinion! I can’t get OVER that the cyst was so HUGE! A LITER: OMG!

    • PETA Scott
      June 20, 2013 | 12:46 am

      Hi my old kelpie who is 15 has huge cysts in and on him and he has started I think? Vomiting huge amounts of liquid (1 litre clear) at night in his bed, or anywhere in the house. I thought it was urine but its definately not, can anyone tell me what is happening. The vet says the cysts are no need for worry, and as far as I can tell he still has his usual ones on him that he’s always had. Peta

    • Laura
      December 20, 2013 | 12:21 am

      I’m really glad to hear this was a harmless bump. I have found a couple of small bumps on my dogs back that my vet said were most likely benign cysts. Reading that your dog is alright makes me feel so much more relieved about my little girl.
      Thanks a lot for sharing! I’m happy that Molly is back to being her normal, tail-wagging self! Cheers! :)

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