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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Help! Found A Lump On The Dog… Now What?

Updated: August 5th, 2019

Summary

Dr. Demian Dressler, best-selling author of “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide”, explains exactly what to do when you find a lump on your dog.

One of the most common comments that readers post on this blog goes something like this: “Help! Found a lump on the dog… What do I do now? The lump is (description) and is on my dog’s (body part).  Is it anything to worry about?”

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It helps to widen back and look at lumps in dogs generally to help clarify this topic.  What’s the number one cause of dog death, if we exclude euthanasia?  Dog cancer.  How does dog cancer most commonly look to the naked eye?  It looks like a lump.

When we find a lump on a dog, this should be a red flag.  A certain reaction should be happening in the mind of the dog lover. First, both veterinarians and dog guardians should know the number one most dangerous health problem that exists for dogs, the most likely problem that could take a dog away… cancer.

We have been negligent in spreading this information to dog guardians.  And by “we”, I include the group I am a member of: veterinarians.  Vets should have this information and be spreading it in the same way we talk about parvo and heartworm disease.



For some reason we don’t.  Perhaps it is because bringing up cancer in a discussion feels a little out of bounds since we don’t want to upset our clients.  Or it could be that there has not been a marketing push like there is for parvo vaccination or for heartworm disease.  Since we have access to preventatives in these cases, pharmaceutical companies make a point to help spread the word about these diseases.

This is not wrong, of course.  Why not protect a dog from a problem when it is prudent to do so? (The vaccination debate is discussed elsewhere…)

So why would a guardian wonder what to do if a lump popped up?  Clearly, if a woman found a lump in her breast, she would most likely be at the doctor’s promptly.  Why?  Because there has been enough press on breast cancer that finding the lump would raise a red flag, sparking the thought that breast cancer happens.

But in veterinary medicine, there is a mental disconnect between lumps in dogs and cancer, in spite of the statistics.

The answer to the question of what to do if a lump is found on a loved dog is this: go to your vet and get it checked!  Get it aspirated, get it biopsied, get the data you need!

Can a vet diagnose a lump by looking at it?  Very occasionally, but usually not.  Can a vet diagnose a lump by squeezing it? Very occasionally, but usually not.

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One of my pet peeves (sorry, bad pun) is the diagnosis of a benign fatty tumor based on looking and touching alone.  Soft, squishy bumps under the skin could indeed be harmless lipomas.  But, they could also be dangerous growths like mast cell tumors, hemangiopericytomas, subcutaneous blood filled hemangiosarcomas, or liposarcomas.  These all feel soft and squishy.

This brings a case to mind.  Three weeks ago, a client brought her dog in to have a lump checked out.  This had been previously diagnosed as a harmless lipoma at another veterinary hospital.  It felt soft and squishy.

A fine needle aspirate was done on the growth at my hospital.  I inserted a syringe with a needle in the growth, and pulled back on the plunger.  Did fat enter the needle hub, which is what a fatty tumor would yield?  No.  The syringe filled with blood.

This was no lipoma. Blood filled swellings have their list of possibilities too, but one of them is a hemangiosarcoma under the skin, a malignant cancer.  And over the 6 months that this growth had slowly increased in size with nothing done, the mass had swelled to about 4 inches across.

Now we had a big problem to deal with that could have been caught a long time ago.

The bottom line is this: remember the dog cancer statistics.  According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, 1 in 3 dogs will contract cancer in their lifetime, and this number increases to 1 in 2 if the dog is more than 10 years of age.

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Get dog lumps checked!

For more information on dog lumps, how they are diagnosed, and their complete treatment options, check out The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

Best,

Dr D

Also see: Lumps On Dogs: When To Get Them Checked By A Veterinarian

Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

Leave a Comment





  1. Heidi on December 11, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    My 1and a half year old fixed dachsand had a soft squishy lump by one test..it went away..another one appeared lower..very sqwishy..I don’t have money for vet..I gave her some aloe juice..little tiny bit . And stopped giving her little bits of human fatty food but after a while started again

  2. Azaria on March 31, 2018 at 11:07 am

    My 6th momth puppy has a lump on his side what should i do because i can move it

  3. Luka Dylan on January 2, 2018 at 11:02 pm

    I just got a 5 month old puppy today from a lady who seemed too eager for him to leave. He looks like he was being neglected in the past home. He has a lump right above his groin where his umbilical cord would’ve been. It is about the size of a quarter. He licks it constantly unless I tell him no. It is hard like a ball. It doesn’t hurt him when I touch it. He doesn’t seem to mind. Please help I don’t know what may be wrong with him.

    • Amber Drake on January 3, 2018 at 5:53 am

      Luka, so sorry to hear about your puppy’s past. He’s so lucky to have you now. You should visit a veterinarian as soon as possible to get the lump examined. Warm wishes and cuddles to you and your new puppy.

  4. lump or lipoma or? on August 13, 2016 at 10:09 am

    […] bigger). I read these pages: Ask a Vet: Do I Need to Worry About a Fat Lump on My Dog's Chest? Help! Found A Lump On The Dog… Now What? Can someone please advise? I hope it's benign…already going through enough problems, lost my […]

  5. Susan Kazara Harper on March 15, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Hi, I know how worrying this is. To answer your question, yes, it could be any of those, or none. Can you get to a vet and ask to have the lumps aspirated? Until you actually know, all your energy is spent worrying, and if there is something wrong it will not get better and may get worse. If you get the lumps checked and all is well… .what a relief! Think of it this way, if a lump appeared on your body, would you want to get it checked out? The old school idea of watch and wait for our pets often leads to sad news later on. Get them checked, then you’ll know what you’re dealing with. Good luck!

  6. olayak on March 12, 2015 at 9:12 am

    My dog has a hard lump, the size of a pea, under the skin under her front armpit. It’s been there for several weeks. She also has a couple of small squishy lumps on her side. Mostly I’m concerned about the hard lump. It’s so small. Could this be a cyst? A lymph node infection? Or a tumor?
    Thanks

  7. Susan Kazara Harper on February 22, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    Hi Kortney, It’s nearly impossible to give you solid information online… you would really need a vet to determine the diagnosis. But, depending upon where the lump is on the paw and how suddenly it came up, it’s possible it could be something as simple as a thorn or a bit of something that got stuck in the paw and has formed an abcess. Does she lick it? That could be the cause of the hair loss, plus the fur is expanding because of the lump. Dogs will lick an area that is uncomfortable. If she doesn’t want you to touch it, something hurts, and that could also support the possibility that something is stuck in there. You’d have to call round to your local vets to ask how much a basic appt would cost to look at the paw and give an initial opinion. That would be a start. Is she limping? Unlikely she’s pulled a muscle if no limp. But bottom line is that the more you worry and the longer you wait to at least talk with a vet who can look at it, the more likely it is to get worse. And it’s not likely to get better on its own. Do please at least phone the vets to get a basic price, then you’ll have an idea. Good luck!

  8. Kortney on February 19, 2015 at 10:53 am

    My German Shepard (in laws dog technically)has a large solid lump on her front paw. It started smaller and has gotten quite large. She won’t let me touch it and the fur is starting to wear off on that area. I figure it is probably fluid filled but I’m concerned. My father in law insists she pulled muscle or something. What could it be, and if my husband and I could save little bit of money, what would need to be done/how much might a vet visit for this maybe cost?

  9. Osobear on December 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    My dog has a gold size lump on his leg. I felt it and its really squishy it’s not hard at all it feels as if there was some type of liquid on it. What should I do ??

    • Susan Kazara Harper on December 24, 2014 at 9:50 pm

      Go to the vet. Ask to have a biopsy. Please don’t just wait and watch it. If you don’t go, you’ll worry and if it’s something bad it will get worse. Best case, it’s a simple bump or local infection and can be easily treated. The vet will probably use a needle to draw fluid. So don’t panic, but take action. You’ll feel much better. Good luck!

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