Lipoma in Dogs – Fatty Tissue Tumors And What They Mean For Your Pet

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Lipoma in Dogs

Welcome to our complete guide to lipoma in dogs. We’ll explore what lipoma is, the symptoms of lipoma, and the possible treatment plans your veterinarian might suggest. By the end of this article, you’ll know everything you need to know about dogs with lipoma.

One morning you’re petting your pup and you discover a lump just underneath his skin. Your mind immediately jumps to the worse. You rush off to the vet and discover that your dog has lipoma. Your vet doesn’t seem worried, but what exactly does this diagnosis mean? Is it something you should be worried about, or can you be as carefree as your vet?

Welcome to our complete guide to lipoma in dogs - Health advice from The Labrador Site.

What is Lipoma?

Lipoma is a benign, fatty-tissue tumor. This tumor is, in most cases, completely harmless. Depending on the location, the tumor usually only presents a cosmetic issue, which doesn’t faze dogs one bit! Because of this, lipoma usually doesn’t require treatment at all! Many dogs live long and happy lives with multiple lipoma tumors. However, if the tumor is located in a problematic area, such as a joint or the throat, it might need to be removed.

Truthfully, lipomas aren’t a very rare occurrence in dogs. They seem to develop most commonly in overweight, female dogs. However, all dogs are at risk. Furthermore, lipomas do not only appear in older dogs. The median age for a dog to develop a lipoma is six, which isn’t considered old at all!

Symptoms of Lipoma in Dogs

Usually, the only symptom of lipoma in dogs is noticing the actual lump beneath the skin. Most lipomas are soft and slightly moveable under the skin. They feel like fatty masses beneath the dog’s skin. Usually, your dog will not exhibit any signs of pain or immobility unless the tumor is located in a joint. Furthermore, this discomfort usually does not happen until the lipoma has reached a moderate size.

Most commonly, these lumps are located on the fattiest areas of the dog, such as the belly and trunk. However, they can appear everywhere and usually appear in increasing numbers. A dog with one lipoma will probably develop another one eventually. This is not because lipomas are caused by a disease or are spreading around the body. It is simply that if a dog is genetically dispositioned to get one lipoma, they are likely to get another.

Causes of Lipoma in Dogs

The exact cause for these fatty growths is unknown. It is assumed that some dogs are simply genetically dispositioned to develop them. Often times, it is noticed that if a dog’s parents had lipoma, they are also likely to get it. However, like previously mentioned, overweight dogs are also more likely to get lipoma. Because of this, keeping your dog at a healthy weight can sometimes prevent a lipoma from forming.

Still, any dog can get lipoma, no matter their weight, breed, or gender. So ensuring that your pet is at a healthy weight will not always prevent these fatty tumors from forming.

Diagnosing Lipoma in Dogs

Diagnosis of lipoma is extremely important. Just because your dog has something that appears to be lipoma, doesn’t mean he or she actually does. There are various dangerous tumors that are similar to lipoma. It is important that these tumors get treatment right away. This is why it is always extremely important to get your dog diagnosed by a vet.

Often times, simply feeling the tumor is not enough to decide if it is simple lipoma or something more serious. On top of a complete physical exam, the vet will also need to extract some of the tumor with a fine needle. This small extraction can then be used to determine the type of tumor.

Usually, when a vet is physically examining a canine that is suspected to have lipoma, they find multiple masses. This is very common. However, each mass will need to be tested individually to ensure that they are all, in fact, lipoma.

If the fatty mass is in a joint or dangerous location, the vet might follow up the initial testing with a CT or MRI. These tests will allow for a better view of the tumor. This allows the vet to decide the best course of action in your pup’s care.

Infiltrative Lipoma in Dogs

Infiltrative lipoma in dogs is simply a special subclass of lipoma. Instead of sitting harmlessly just under the skin, these tumors invade the muscle tissue and face of a dog. In other words, they literally grow into the muscles and surrounding tissue. These lipoma are not always dangerous and sometimes do not cause any problems at all. However, due to their tendency to invade and restrict a canine’s movement, they might need to be removed.

Dog Lipoma Treatment

Usually, a dog with lipoma doesn’t need to be treated at all. Most lipomas are completely harmless and only cause cosmetic issues. However, some lipomas might need to be removed based on location. These locations include places like the joints, neck, and spinal column. In these cases, dogs often show other symptoms depending on the specific location. For example, one study found that lipomas in the spine can cause paralysis. Another noted that a tumor near the trachea caused coughing and difficulty breathing.

In nearly all cases, a vet might recommend surgery to remove the mass. Luckily, these surgeries are often times very successful, with 67% of dogs remaining disease-free for at least a year after the surgery. The success of the surgery depends partially on how defined the tumor is. Tumors that are more defined and separated from the surrounding tissue are easier to remove. Tumors that are in fatty areas of the dog, such as the stomach, are usually less defined than those located in joints and leaner areas.

Your vet might also recommend something like irradiation. This can be especially helpful if the tumor is difficult to remove or if the particular dog is known to redevelop these tumors quickly.

Lipoma in Dogs

Dog Lipoma Removal Cost

If it is decided that your dog needs the lipoma removed, you can expect to pay somewhere around $300 to $500 dollars. This also takes into account the probable aftercare your pet will need, such as pain management medications.

It is always important to ask your vet about the expected cost, however. Different vets charge different amounts and certain dogs are more likely to experience complications after surgery that might call for more aftercare. Always ask your vet about your dog’s risk for complications, and prepare your wallet accordingly.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Lipoma in Dogs

Being told that your dog has a tumor can be scary. However, in most cases a lipoma is completely harmless. In most cases, your vet probably will not recommend removal unless the mass is located in a dangerous location or is causing your pooch serious problems.

Usually, lipomas do not need any treatment at all and are left alone altogether. However, it is still important to get your dog diagnosed by a professional. Some dangerous tumors feel like lipoma at first glance. This is why diagnosis is extremely important.

References and Further Reading

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website

11 COMMENTS

  1. Our lab is 13 and has several. When he first got one the vet did a biopsy on it to make sure it wasn’t cancer. That one has gotten HUGE the others still small, I feel like the biopsy “awakened” that one, its probably 8 lbs now. But he is still so full of life, sometimes acting like a puppy.

  2. I have a whippet mix. He is about 60 lbs. He is slim and trim. He has always been this way. He has so many lipomas I can’t keep up. He had a few removed a few years ago. I think I it was less then $200. We live in Georgia. Now he is 12 going on 13 and surgery isn’t an option. I think I he could be part lab and whippet. I’m not sure his back ground. He is a rescue. His first lipoma removal was when he was about 2 years old.

  3. I would say the cost is off as well. In WI just had a quote for lipoma surgery on my 75lb lab. One lump about 5″ L x 3″ W (belly) surgery cost is $1,500-$1,900 if we also remove a second smaller lump found near ribs (about 2″ round) it would add another $500-$600. That was without CT Scan as my doctor did not say it was necessary for my dog’s operation.

  4. My older male cattle dog had multiple large lipomas on his sides. He was also overweight. I put him on a weight management dog food. In 5 months, he is slim and trim again and all the lipomas are gone. Gone!

    • Can I ask…Are you saying that the ones he did have actually disappeared? And if that is so, how many did he start with? I ask because I have a 6 yo male lab and he is husky, but not what I would consider fat, but if weight loss worked for your dog, there is no harm in trying with him.

  5. Omg. I don’t even have a 100$. So he has to suffer this on top of all the old age stuff he’s going through. Idk if I can watch him go through anything else. He’s not ready to put down yet.

  6. Your cost estimates are a little off. Our dog is at the vet having lipoma surgery at this moment. CT scan to assess extent of lipoma -$1,200. Surgery – $2,800 – $3;800.

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