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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. Mitch on November 30, 2014 at 8:49 am

    thanks for the info! really helpful Frankie’s lump was big one day and then really small the next day. and the next day it was almost gone…..i think im over reacting, but it can never hurt to be too careful when it comes to caring for your loyal friend.

    • Susan Kazara Harper on December 1, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      Very true. Keep an eye on it, and don’t wait to go get it checked. Just imagine, if you woke up with a lump that changed almost daily, wouldn’t you ask your doctor about it?

  2. Susan Kazara Harper on November 14, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Take the pup to your vet to be checked. Please do not waste time worrying. Nothing good will come of it. Find out what’s going on and what you can do. There is nothing like puppy love and joy. Get him checked.

  3. worried on November 8, 2014 at 10:16 am

    I have six pups an only one has about three limps under its belly an he is olny 4 weeks old i am worried

  4. Kay on October 26, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Hello, my dog is a 10 year old border collie cross. She usually sleeps in my room, but a couple weeks ago we noticed that she wasn’t in our bedroom. We went looking for her and found her in the basement corner having a hard time walking on her back legs. After a day or so she was almost totally back to normal and walking fine. Around a week and a half later we noticed a lump on her neck and brought her in to the vet’s. We had a biopsy done and the vet withdrew a syringe of bloody looking fluid from the lump. We sent it off to the lab, and apparently it wasn’t cancer. We’ve had her on antibiotics for almost two weeks now and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better, also her walking has gotten progressively worse until this evening she could barely stand to go outside. She’s eating fine, and looks generally healthy but we don’t know what to do. Our vet says the antibiotics should clear up any infection but after all this time the lump hasn’t changed and her walking is only getting worse. I should also mention that she was at another persons house for a few weeks with their two big dogs, but all three get along and are good pals (not sure if that helps?) the other two big dogs are totally healthy and happy.

    Thanks!

    • Susan Kazara Harper on October 27, 2014 at 10:16 am

      Hi Kay,
      I know this is worrying. It could be that she rough-housed with the other dogs, perhaps has an infected bite wound or similar, but you know, there is no way to advise very much here online. But for sure, you are worried and I think you’d be happier moving ahead a bit faster on finding the reason for her symptoms. If you own vet is not worried and doesn’t hear that you are, you are perfectly within your rights to consult another vet. Your priority is your dog, and she’s obviously not happy. Good luck! Go take care of her.

  5. Susan Kazara Harper on September 23, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Well, it can be an allergic reaction, … allergic to what? Is your dog itching? Has the vet prescribed anything to help? You need more information, but there’s no point getting scared until you know what to be scared about. Get a diagnosis, get a prognosis, use the best nutrition with real food that you can and take it from there. Good luck!

  6. okc405 on September 19, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    my dog has half dollar size lumps all over his body they say allergic reaction never seen anything like this it scared the hell out of me

  7. Raquel S on September 18, 2014 at 11:54 am

    My German Shepherd has this lump on her side. It was small then thru the months got bigger and today i found out that she started to lick it and nibble on it and she wont stop licking it! they say that dogs can heel their own wounds. But im scared and worry now.

    • Susan Kazara Harper on September 18, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      Hi Raquel,
      The saying that dogs can heal their wounds is ‘old wisdom’, and refers to a dog licking something like a cut or a tear in the coat. Keeping it clean and helping it to heal. This isn’t the same at all. Now I don’t want to scare you more than you are. Get your girl to the vet and have the lump checked. Leaving it any longer will not make it better. If it’s nothing, or a simple cyst, that’s great news and you’ll get it taken care of and can relax. If it’s something more serious, leaving it longer will only give it time to get worse. Get to the vet, and ask for a biopsy. Good luck!

    • olayak on March 12, 2015 at 7:26 am

      My dog was licking at a wound on her leg, it looked like a sore. Short story, it ended up being cancer but we didn’t know this until it spread to her lungs and killed her. Dogs often lick a spot where there is a tumor. Please get it checked out.

  8. Susan Kazara Harper on September 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Hi Andy,
    Yes, it could be cancer. It could also be a benign fatty mass. Go to your vet. Get it biopsied. Don’t be fooled into “wait and see”, that’s old school, and accomplishes nothing. The only thing waiting gives you is: If it’s benign, you’ll spend time worrying. If it’s malignant, you’ll waste precious fighting time. Go to your vet. Find out for sure.

  9. Andy Gray on September 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    My dog has this lump, yet it isn’t hard and squishy, its hard and if you massage it, it moves a bit around as if encapsulated. Could this be a sign of skin cancer? or just a fat mass? idk, im really worried.

  10. Susan Kazara Harper on July 30, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Hello, I know this is scary, but you don’t know yet what you’re scared of. By that I mean, you are imagining all the horrible possibilities before you really know what this mass is. You must have a follow-up appointment booked with your vet to see whether the antibiotics have made any difference. Yes? If your vet confirms that they have not, I recommend you ask to have the mass biopsied with a fine needle aspirate. This can be done without sedating your dog. A needle is inserted into the mass and fluid drawn out. The fluid is then checked at a lab, and they should be able to tell you whether it’s an infection or something worse like cancer. Even with cancer, it could be a low grade that you could do something about. But until you know, you are spending energy worrying. Remember, “Worry is a prayer for what we don’t want.” I do recommend you make your dog’s nutrition the best you can. You can get a free Dog Cancer Diet download at http://www.dogcancerdiet.com and remember, the best nutrition will also help him with his joints and all his other body systems. Please do check back in with your vet. Also, a good tip for that mass. Take a photo of it on your phone, and every couple of days take another photo. It’s a wonderful way to chart any changes. Good luck!

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