Lumps and Bumps on Pets: Is it Serious?

By: Christine New, DVM

TVMA Member
Dallas, Texas

Published October 2014

Lumps and bumps cause a lot of questions to arise. “How big is too big?” “Is this serious?” “Should I have it removed now or watch it?” These are all very common questions that veterinarians hear from their clients regarding growths. There is not a perfect answer for all lumps and bumps, but some should be addressed sooner rather than later.

  1. Fast-growing bumps: If you notice a growth on your pet that is getting bigger over a month or certainly if it is growing more quickly than this, you should consider removal of the growth. Smaller growths are easier to remove, especially in certain areas such as the head, face and legs, where there may not be a lot of extra skin left to close the opening after the growth is removed.
  2. Painful lumps: If the lump itself is painful when you touch it or is in a painful area when the pet moves such as in its armpit or groin, you should consider having it examined by your veterinarian.
  3. Discharge from the lump or discoloration of the skin: These lumps need to be evaluated quickly; an infection may be present. If your family veterinarian is closed, seek an evaluation at your local veterinary emergency clinic.
  4. Bumps that grow and then shrink again: These bumps may be a type of tumor called a mast cell tumor that contains granules of histamine. As histamine is released, they will swell, and as the release subsides, they will shrink again. These bumps can be itchy. Do not scratch, poke or squeeze these bumps; doing do can cause more release of histamine, and while not common, a severe allergic reaction can result. These bumps should be removed surgically, ideally when they are small.
  5. Several lumps/bumps that increase in size within a few minutes: This may be an allergic reaction, and you should seek immediate veterinary care.

Causes for Lumps and Bumps

There are many causes for lumps and bumps on your pet. Some common causes include fat, tumors (benign and malignantVery virulent or infectious.), cysts, infection (abscess), allergic reactions and swelling from injury or hernia. A hernia occurs when one tissue or organ protrudes through another into an abnormal place on the body, often causing a lump or bump. It is important to recognize that, with the exception of allergic reactions and abscesses, your veterinarian is unable to know what type of lump is growing just from feeling it alone. Many lumps, both serious and less serious ones, can feel and look identical.

Treating and Diagnosing Lumps and Bumps in Pets

Your veterinarian, however, does have several options to determine if the lump is one that should be dealt with quickly or one that is unlikely to cause a problem.

  1. Cytology: This is a test that can be completed many times in your veterinary clinic and usually does not require sedation. To complete this test, your veterinarian will aspirate (poke) the lump several times with a small needle and look at the sample under a microscope. If a second opinion is needed, the slide can be sent to the lab for review by a veterinary pathologist.
  2. Mapping: Your veterinarian will measure the size and monitor growth. If it is rapidly growing, a next step may be recommended. Local biopsyAn examination of tissue removed from a living body to discover the presence, cause, or extent of a disease. (also called punch or incisional biopsy): This test also can be completed in your veterinary clinic but usually requires sedationThe administering of a sedative drug to produce a state of calm or sleep. and pain medication. A small sample will be taken surgically and sutures placed over the site. The sample will be submitted to an outside laboratory for evaluation by a veterinary pathologist. The results can take three to seven days, but oftentimes the results are superior to results from cytology alone.
  3. Full surgical excision: Your veterinarian will completely anesthetize your pet and remove the entire growth. Ideally, the entire growth needs to be submitted to a pathologist to identify the type of growth and whether it was able to be completely removed.

Any lump or bump, new or old, big or small, should always be evaluated by your veterinarian. It is sometimes helpful before your appointment to color the lump with a marker or draw a circle around it, especially if the lump is hard to find or your dog is very hairy. Even if your veterinarian evaluates the lump and determines it to be a benignNot harmful in effect: in particular, (of a tumor) not malignant. growth, it is a good habit to periodically check the size. Even benign or fatty growths can slowly grow and ultimately need to be removed so they don’t become troublesome to your pet.

Dr. Christine New practices veterinary medicine at the Hillside Veterinary Clinic in Dallas.

27 Responses

  1. K.S. says:

    Have a mini schnauzer. Noticed a round growth appearance between anal area and hip. About the size of a large gum ball. Just noticed it and took dog to the vet. Vet took a biopsy. Looked at the slide and said she was going to send it to pathologist. She mentioned a spindle cell tumor. I have been researching and cannot match it up with a diagnosis. The mass is firm, but you can press into it. Dog has no pain or interest in it. Hoping for the best and it is not cancer. Dog is healthy in every other way. Any answers?

  2. suse says:

    Ugh, my Maltese has had a small red “bump” for over 7 years (he’s 11). In the last couple of months, it has grown to golf ball. Suddenly, he is in pain. :/

  3. Stanlee Panelle Cox says:

    My 16 year old male miniature poodle, has always had lumps and lipomas and bumps and masses. Vets have never commented on them in his exams of the past 3 years going in and out of the US. Recently he has been licking the air, his feet, his shoulder, his leg, his nose … whatever and nothing. He doesn’t like being touched past the shoulders, much, but has never been cuddly physically. He lies around a lot due to our lifestyle but lately has seemed uncomfortable periodically … kicks and wiggles around … licks … but still wants to eat anything in sight and eliminates regularly and normally for the most part. The past 2 out of three nights he has vomited his undigested dinner in a very orange bile, somewhere in the night, on the bed, without the usual working it up … or wanting to go out which is more normal for him. I cannot tell if he’s really in pain, having a problem or not. Still plays given a chance and is excited like a pup when I come and go and appetite is still neurotic as usual. thanks for any brilliant input …

  4. selkie says:

    My cat has developed a large lump on one side of his neck. It only developed today.
    He is subject to sneezing fits. Is that something that may have caused the bump to arise?

  5. Angela pepe says:

    My brother in laws dog has a lump on the right side of his neck could that be a sign of a tumor? It doesn’t seem to be bothering him at all but I just want to make sure.

  6. Kathy J Cook says:

    My 13-year-old Chiuajua male, has a half dollar sized lump on his right hip, it used to be soft, but now it’s getting hard and a little bigger. I feel bad because I am on a fixed income disabilit and really can’t afford the Vet bills, I rescued him at 8 years old, someone left him and his sister in a crate in the hot sun at Quakes Stadium with no food or water. He had real bad teeth, they had to pull 10 of them, and 5 years later, I took him to the vet to try and get his teeth cleaned, but because of his age, they had to take X-rays
    and blood work to see if he could be put to sleep. He couldn’t and they charged me $525.00 for all the tests. I’m still trying to pay off. I will just have to pray for my sweet boy, He doesn’t seem to be in any pain, But his hips are going out as well.

  7. Sheila Meechan says:

    Our 10 year old Australian Kelpie has a small lump appearing on his leg near the bottom up from his paw he is licking it constantly & nibbling at it what do you think it could be Thanks

  8. LechaBonsant Ouellette says:

    My dog had a marble size lump and it is itchy but it does not hurt her I can touch it and move it and she don’t do anything. She eats well has regular bowel movements and walks with me every day. She is 12 years old. Should I be conserved?

  9. Chrissy Bonaventure says:

    I have a mini schnauzer and he seems to have pimples or pimple like bumps all over his back that are itching him then become scabs. What do you think this is? How does this need to be treated. He seems to have gotten these for the duration of his life from time to time.

    • Michele Smits says:

      Hi Chrissy,
      We rescued a dog 2014 that was thought to be a Mini Schnauzer mixed with Lhasa Apso or Shih Tzu, but that was just an educated guess by the rescue organization. He wasn’t a puppy, but was quite young. About a year after we got him, the skin on his back started to feel like bumpy sandpaper with sores that would form and scab over. Before we had a chance to take him to our vet, he was due to be groomed. Our groomer comes to our house and when she got here, I asked if she knew what was going on. She broke into a grin and told me that we now knew that he was definitely part Mini Schnauzer and that he was 2-3 years old. These are called “Schnauzer” bumps, often occurring for the first time in “doggie adolescence”. Sometimes they go away or diminish and sometimes they can get pretty extensive and remain for life. They are restricted to the back, usually along the spine. They’re harmless unless they get infected or are making your dog miserable with itchiness. In our case, they’ve never gone away. They get worse, then improve, at random. They don’t itch and he’s not really bothered by them. Do a Google search for “Schnauzer Bumps”. You’ll find a lot of amazing info that you never knew before! All my best to you and your fur baby!!

    • Tracy Waters says:

      My 6 yr old shihtzu had 2 lumps under his neck I can now count 5 and he has suddenly gotten 1 under each armpit obviously I’m very very concerned and will be taking him straight to the vet first thing in the morning could this be cancer I’ve sat and cried my heart out all day hes my baby

  10. Ricky says:

    So my dog has this bump like rash on the tip of his snout just under his noise what is it

  11. Valerie terblanche says:

    i came home and my shepherd can hardly walk. He has a huge lump near his groin on the right side of his stomach. It is christmas day i want to know its 12.30 am will he be ok till the morning

  12. Jose Colon says:

    My Black Lab is going to be 13 this month. Has a huge mass on his back over is right paw side. His rear hips are just not holding up great but I see him not wanting to stand long at all. I took him to the vet but still not sure because they do not say much. I know he is not comfortable but cannot tell if he is in pain. He eats and goes out still but has had a couple accidents. Urine in his bed pretty bad two days ago. I just don’t know. Seems like the hump is just getting bigger and I hate to see him like that. I am sad…

    • Jose Colon says:

      Sorry for you and your dog. I am feeling the same about my Lab who will be 13 this month. I had him for all his life. I got him at 3 months old. He has a big mass over his back over top of his right paw and his hips are going. I have no idea if he is in pain or even suffering. Its sad because I just don’t know.

  13. Jean B Martin says:

    My dog had a bump on his back/neck near where his collar is. It is the size of a large pea and hard & black. He had this about a year ago and I was considering removal by his vet when it disappeared after having it for a month or two. About 6 months later it appeared again and after about 2 months it suddenly disappeared again. It doesn’t seem to hurt him in any way.
    Any ideas about whether to worry or not?

  14. Kimberly McLaughlin says:

    My dog is older but not quite sure how old I rescued him 5 years ago…..I just got home from work and noticed he has a big kumo the size of a golf ball between his tail and back but it wasn’t here this morning….it hurts him to the touch….can you please tell me what it could be?

  15. Sue Stang says:

    I have a 6 1/2 year old shih zhu. When she was born she has a small lump. Vets have said it was a common her is from birth. Last week it great larger and moved around easily. Now I just noticed she has 2 lumps. She has had loose stools over the past two days . Our vet is closed now until Monday and I am scared to death something is wrong. She doesn’t seem to be sick.

  16. CHES GARDNER says:

    My sheep dog has a hard lump on his hip about the size of a quarter . It came there about 3 years ago , but does not bother him at all

  17. donna klemme says:

    I have a labrador retriever and his left side limp bodies swollen. He has been on antibodies for almost 2 weeks. It went down on the right side but now he is very picky about his eating and is panting when he is up. The knot feels like is getting bigger. What can I do for him. I think it is cutting off his air way. My lab is 11yrs old.

  18. Janis Thorn says:

    I have a 1 yr old German shepherd mix with Belgian malinois and flat coated retriever I know this because I did his dna.
    He had a small like pimple on his side a couple weeks ago and now it has grown, it feels like a fatty mass. Should I get it biopsied?

  19. Christi Carter says:

    My dog is 13. We adopted him from the pound at 7 months old. He looks like like a golden retriever with short thick fur or a dingo with floppy ears. He likes to herd and hunt. He has several lumps including one that is one of those black bumps dogs get on their muzzles and another on the bonier part inside his back leg. When I pinch or squeeze the lumps, hair comes out. I know I probably shouldn’t be doing this but tuffs of hair keep coming out of it consistently. I tweeze out the the tufts until he gets uncomfortable. Are these lumps just made of hair of hair?

  20. Giselle Harris says:

    I have an american bulldog 10yo. Around 90 lbs. I noticed that he has a big ball over his left shoulder the size of a golf ball. It doesn’t hurt when touched or itch.
    What do you recommend to do? What could be the cause?

  21. Riaan says:

    Hi I have a Ridge back Labrador with a lump on the neck. It was small but then he slipped and fell on the tile floor and the lump started swelling as big as a golf ball. When I squeeze it a lot of reddish pus comes out and a lot of stuff that looks like dark brown sand almost like a cyst

  22. […] you ever spotted abnormal lumps or “rocks” under your pet’s skins and they start to lick or chew it, you have scored yourself […]

  23. James Windle says:

    Hi my french bulldog has a tennis ball lump on the inside of his groin and all his leg has swollen (over the last few days

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