Friday, September 2, 2011

Knowing More About The Bumps on My Dog

If anyone has owned a dog for any length of time, they likely have had to take them to the vet to talk about a new bump they have felt.  Dogs can be bumpy beasts, while cats on the whole should never have a bump when healthy (not all bumps on kitties are malignant, they are just not prone to bumps in general).  Some bumps are of concern with our canine friends, while others can be of relatively little concern.  This article is meant to review some causes of only benign bumps in your dog.  I don't even want to touch on malignant tumors, as they are very serious and I don't want to panic anyone.  If you have found bumps on your dog, always get your vet to look at it right away.

Bumps are tumors, but tumors aren't always nasty.  The word itself describes new growth, where tissue cells are multiplying.  As with humans, some are benign and others can be malignant.  Before understanding some of the different kinds of tumors, it's key to stress the importance to pay attention to your dog's body.  Often we monitor behavior, diet, attitude, etc. but may spend far less time feeling around their bodies.  This is exceptionally key for long haired pets, as we cannot see their skin as easily.  As you groom and love on your buddy, take some time to feel around.  Feel in between their toes, around their tail.. all  the places you may not naturally be "petting".  Also, take some time to look in their mouths.  It makes sense to do what your vet does: start at the nose, and move slowly over their whole body. Feel everything!  It's also helpful to feel with both hands, at the same places as you move through.  This helps the owner understand where bumps are "normal" as they are on both sides, and may just be normal bone protrusions.

Tumors tend to appear in older dogs and cats, and some breeds such as Boxers and Cocker Spaniels are more at risk.  I have never read anything which suggest that Pyrs are prone, but they can still form bumps like any other animal.

  • Benign Skin Tumors
    • Frequently found in younger dogs.  Small, button-like nodules, usually pink and/or hairless.  Found on the lip, face, legs and abdomen.  They may regress, but should be surgically removed.
  • Lipoma
    • Obese and/or older dogs.  Sometimes referred to as "fatty tumors".  Round or oval masses under the skin, often soft and freely moveable.  While they can be surgically removed, they are often not malignant.  They can grow quite large, even though they are benign.  They can come back after removal. I've known many dogs whose veterinarians did not remove these;  it depended on where they were located.  If they grow large in an awkward place (armpits, where collars rub, etc), they can irritate that area and your doc may want to take them out.
  • Papillomas (Warts)
    • Young dogs.  Usually in the mouth, it's a small, white elevated lesion that may go away by itself.  It can spread to other pups, but nothing to freak out about.  Often our pups get them and accidentally ingest the cell material while eating, which causes them to become immune and fight off the warts for the future.
  • Sebaceous Cysts
    • Dogs of any age.  They are round and may squish out a grey, cheesy material when pushed.  They slowly enlarge and may rupture.  They are found on the back, legs, chest, and neck.  They are removed with surgery and are benign growths.  (Sebaceous glands are at the hair follicle)

I've known many dogs with lipomas; actually, I hardly know a senior dog without one, it seems.  I'm a bit of a nervous "mom", and I have to remind myself all of the time that not everything we find on our dog's bodies is catastrophic.  If you have a dog who is getting older, talk to your vet proactively about bumps.  Have him or her educate you on what to expect, and on when to be concerned.  Each breed can come with their own list of concerns, so always have a doc evaluate your pet specifically!  Even if your dog is diagnosed with a benign tumor, your vet will likely want to keep an eye on it for any changes.

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