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

Lipoma and Liposarcoma in the Dog: Fatty Tumors

Updated: October 27th, 2019


Is that soft squishy lump on your dog something to worry about? It depends.

lipoma, liposarcoma, fatty tumors in dogsMany times dog lovers will arrive in my hospital and point out that their canine companion has a bump. They are soft, kind of like very firm jello. “Doesn’t seem to be causing any pain,” they say.

Hmmm. Well, it could be a “fatty” tumor. This is simply a tumor made out of fat. Yes, a big glob of fat, the same stuff that makes us chubby.

Some clients have used natural means to help their dogs with these tumors. I have had my clients say they have had luck with curcumin given by mouth.  Curcumin is a part of the spice turmeric.  In The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, I wrote about this bioflavonoid.  It can be purchased as an ingredient in Apocaps, and also by itself as a sole agent.

Many dog lovers have heard of fatty tumors, and have been told by their vets that there is nothing to worry about. And many times, they are right.

Not every time, though.

Some Fatty Tumors Are Cancers

Here’s why: first of all, not every soft tumor is a “fatty” tumor. Remember mast cell tumors, the Great Imitators? Some mast cell tumors are aggressive, life-threatening cancers. And they can feel just like a benign fatty tumor.

Your vet can differentiate between a fatty tumor and a mast cell tumor with a simple fine needle aspirate. This is an easy outpatient procedure where the vet takes a sample with a needle and sends it to a pathologist. Many of us will review the slide right in house.

Another soft gushy tumor, especially on the limbs, in called a hemangiopericytoma. This is an unfriendly tumor, folks.

Because two dangerous tumors can look like fatty tumors (lipomas) I recommend that all such tumors get aspirated.

Some Fatty Tumors Are Dangerous In Other Ways

Secondly, not every tumor made out of fat is truly benign. Most are, and they are called lipomas. However, a small portion of them grow aggressively. They invade surrounding tissue. They often grow fairly quickly, over months, and expand. These fast growing lipomas have crossed the line and become what are called liposarcomas.

Get the Dog Cancer Survival Guide to learn more on how veterinarians diagnose and stage cancer in Chapter 9

The reason it matters is that they can become quite large. And you remove them and they will often regrow, since they are difficult to remove. You think you got ’em, and they come back.

Liposarcomas are not good news. So again, if you have a rapidly growing, fatty tumor, get it out. You might be dealing with a liposarcoma, and they can be tough. Have the vet biopsy the edge, and make sure they include adjacent muscle, or the path folks may complain they don’t have enough data to make a call.

Best to all,

Dr Dressler


Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

Leave a Comment

  1. Fiona Jewkes on October 30, 2019 at 1:46 am

    My beloved elderly dog who passes away 2 years ago, had a lipoma- feeling lump on her chest wall. I was reassured by my primary care vet, who did an FNA and it did not show malignancy. It continued to grow and I decided I wanted rid of it. I asked to go to the Royal (Dick)Veterinary School in Edinburgh to have it removed as she had a heart murmur and I wanted the best. They took one look and said they would CT it first. (They found an oral malignant melanoma as well, at anaesthesia.) The liposarcoma , as the lump on her side turned out to be, was removed but to get clear margins would have required opening her chest and operating near the top of her leg, (and possibly an amputation). I would recommend very much to get “lipomas” which are big or fast growing removed early, before they get to a size where clear margins are difficult /risky to get. Also, I am sceptical about FNAs in this situation. What do you think of FNAs? Having said all that, her liposarcoma never caused her more trouble. She passed away due to spread of her melanoma 6 months later.

  2. Maria on April 22, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    My dog had a lipoma for years (confirmed by FNA). Overnight it tripled in size. Had another fine needle aspiration and sent to pathology. They say it is an inflamed lipoma. I can’t find anything online about this. Vet suggested anti-inflammatory meds. Any thoughts?

  3. Bush on March 22, 2019 at 4:55 am

    My puppy lab was sprayed 2 hrs ago she now has lump on her groin what could it be

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on March 22, 2019 at 6:24 am


      Thanks for writing. As Dr. Sue writes in this article, if your dog has a lump that is larger than 1cm or has been there for over a month, to get it checked by a vet ASAP to determine what it is 🙂

  4. Sue on September 2, 2018 at 5:48 am

    Dr. Dressler,
    My 14 1/2 year old Golden Retriever had two, what I was told, were fatty lipomas about the size of a small marshmallow. This past year they both ruptured and are now raised, raw, red and seeping. Due to my concern about general anesthesia for removal of them at her age and general health (she has lar-par and weak hind legs), the vet surgeon said I didn’t have to do anything and just continue cleaning them and applying a topical triple antibiotic ointment daily. He said they are probably some type of skin cancer, but that it wasn’t going to kill her. These awful sores look like pictures of mast cell or squamous (sp?) cell cancer from pics I viewed online. I’m not sure how much discomfort they are causing her, but they do seep a little fluid with a small amount of blood, but she maintains her appetite, although she is very sedentary. I can’t exercise her because of the lar par–was told to keep her cool and calm because of her reduced ability to cool herself. At her age, am I doing the right thing by not risking her life with surgery? I don’t know what is best for her? Any comments or ideas would be so appreciated. Thank you very much.
    Nessa’s mom.

  5. Debbie Lacroix on December 12, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    There is so much cancer in my area with people. Ive had one cat die of cancer of the palate. now my dog has cancer also. Is this common anywhere else?

  6. Debbie Lacroix on December 10, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Hi my dog has a lump the size a soft ball in the inside right leg growing on the body. the vet said it was a fatty tumor without doing a needle biopsy. my dog is a border collie black lab and is 12 1/2. I see her now scratching at lumps on her abdomdon she is not over weight she is 46lbs. when she scratches its not causing skin damage or hair loss. and no fleas. do you think it might be painful/.

  7. patti kyra on July 20, 2017 at 3:26 am

    We Has our Bulldog’s tumor removed from the spleen. It was the size of a babies head. It was benign and he has been living a great life without medical issues since. He is 12yrs old.

  8. Susan on March 9, 2017 at 7:45 am

    My Shih-tzu had a very small dime size mole “lipoma” ( I am guessing) and the vet did not want to remove it. It is on her neck(above her chest) where a collar would sit so that was my primary reason for wanting it removed. I was disappointed that they would not remove it but I mostly use a harness so I let it go…. but all of a sudden, it grew and grew to be golf ball sized so I am guessing this is now a liposarcoma. The doc did not label it, she said it was a harmless fatty mole. Right now she is in surgery. I just hope she comes out of it okay. The moral of my story is….if you feel that something like that should be removed such as a wart, mole…growth, you might insist while it is still small as it could turn out to be something bad. We had to wait a month for this surgery and it just kept getting larger and larger during this time. It went from dime size to golf ball size in about 2 months. Since it is so large now, they are putting her under and its a full blown surgery. Its evasive and its going to cost a lot of money but I do love her so much so its worth it to me. Be proactive! Do not wait if you do not have to. I think it would be cheaper to be proactive if cost is a factor and much more humane in the long run.

  9. Ralph W. DiBacco on January 29, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Hello…I am so glad there is someone I can talk with. I am feeling SO guilty. I recently put down my 13-year old Basset. In a little less than a month, she developed large anal tumors, a cloudy right eye, a severely bulging third eyelid on her left eye (Cherry Eye?), and a double-ear infection. Her last night at home she refused to eat, but drank four large bowls of water. I brought her to a reputable Animal Hospital in my area numerous times. They would not confirm ANY diagnosis without running tests. I’m glad my personal doctor isn’t like that. In fact, this vet, I believe, failed to correctly diagnose a severely enlarged lymph node under my dog’s jaw two years ago. They didn’t even offer to run tests then! Given the breed’s susceptibility to cancer, I believe she had Lymphoma. The anal tumors grew so quickly. It appeared that she had some kind of organ failure at the end, as she drank constantly and gained two pounds in a week, while eating barely a morsel. I needed to share this. There are alot of dog owners who criticize posters for not seeking veterinary help. I wore a path to our local Vet, spending hundreds of dollars in a very short period of time. Please, people, don’t make the same mistake I made. Research everything…despite what your hometown Vet says! That’s why I so appreciate this site. Thank you for listening.

  10. Susan Kazara Harper on June 23, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    You need more information. Did the vet put a grade to the tumor, or offer any treatment options? More information will give you a better feeling of being able to do something, and the diet in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, or will help your Tommy feel better and be able to fight the fight.

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