Lumps and Bumps
As a pet owner, it can be scary to find a lump or bump on your four-legged best friend. Anytime you find a growth on your pet you should make an appointment with your veterinarian. There is no way to tell whether a mass is benign or malignant without sampling the tumor.
Types of Growths
There are many different types of growths seen on pets. A growth or tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue (cells). Tumors can be benign or malignant (cancerous). Benign growths—those that do not spread—are usually monitored and not typically removed unless they cause an issue for the pet. Growths that spread, whether locally or to other parts of the body, are malignant (or cancerous) and require treatment in some form. Cancerous growths can be locally invasive or spread to or from other parts of the body, qualifying it as malignant. Cancer treatment aims to eradicate these abnormal cells or to slow or stop them from spreading. Depending on the type of cancer, this can be accomplished with surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Some breeds are more predisposed to developing growths. For instance, Labradors are known to develop lipomas, which are benign fatty tumors. Poodles tend to develop papillomas. Papillomas are benign wart-like growths on top of the skin and can be easily irritated with clippers during grooming. White-coated animals are more predisposed to solar-induced cancers like squamous cell carcinoma.
Depending on the size and location of the growth, your veterinarian may perform a fine needle aspirate to get a sample for examination under a microscope. This can be performed during the exam and is a minimally invasive way to collect a sample from the growth. Some growths do not exfoliate or shed cells easily, and complete or partial surgical removal or surgical biopsy is needed to get enough tissue to make a diagnosis via biopsy.
If the fine needle aspirate is non-diagnostic or shows the tumor is cancerous, surgical removal of the growth is typically recommended. Surgical removal also may be performed on benign growths that are bothering the pet or for cosmetic reasons. Surgical removal of a growth is usually performed under general anesthesia, although smaller masses may be removed via local anesthetic depending on the location, tumor type and temperament of the patient. Removal of the abnormal tissue allows for definitive diagnosis by a pathologist. Depending on the tumor type, surgical excision may be curative. Other tumors may require adjunctive therapy including radiation or chemotherapy.
Finding a lump or bump on your pet is common, especially as the pet ages. When you find a lump or bump on your pet, make an appointment with your veterinarian, who can then develop a treatment plan to provide the best care for your pet.
Leslie Sirmons, DVM is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and lives in McDade, Texas. Dr. Sirmons is a companion animal general practitioner and practices at Elgin Family Pet Center.