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Lumps, Growths & Tumors on Dogs

By Colleen Williams
January 23, 2017 • 3 min. read
growth and lumps dogs

Reviewed for accuracy on April 23, 2020 by Brittany Kleszynski, DVM

Finding a lump on your dog may be a cause for concern. It is important to recognize masses can occur at any age and for a variety of reasons. These masses can be benign or malignant, and it is best to have them checked by your veterinarian. Let’s discuss a few types of skin masses that are commonly seen in dogs.

Benign Tumors

Lipomas

These are soft, freely movable masses just underneath the skin. They are made up of fatty deposits and are commonly seen in dogs as they age. They are usually not painful, but sometimes they can be in a location that restricts movement, such as behind a leg. Your veterinarian may perform a simple needle biopsy to confirm the diagnosis by visualizing fat cells under the microscope.

Sebaceous Cysts

These are small bumps that develop due to plugged oil glands in your dog’s skin. They are most commonly found on the head or abdomen, and they are generally shiny, raised bumps that may appear red or scaly. Sebaceous gland cysts are usually slow growing, but if they are particularly painful or infected, your veterinarian can drain them and prescribe antibiotics.

Histiocytomas

These are small, raised bumps that commonly occur in young dogs. They may become red and ulcerated but will often resolve on their own. A needle biopsy can be a helpful tool used by your veterinarian to diagnose this mass.

Other Benign Lumps and Growths

A variety of other benign lumps and bumps may be found on your dog. Some examples include cysts, warts, ingrown hairs, skin pustules, and blisters. They may cause discomfort in your dog. Your veterinarian can determine the appropriate treatment for each individual patient.

Cancerous Growths

Sometimes masses that occur within the skin may be cancerous. These tumors can arise from the sweat glands, connective tissue, the outermost layer of the skin, or hair follicles. Often, they grow quickly, change in appearance, or become bothersome to the affected dog. While a needle biopsy can diagnose some tumors, others require surgical removal and submission to a pathologist. These tumors may also spread to other parts of the body, so your veterinarian will need to assess your dog’s lymph nodes and lungs through examination and other diagnostic testing.

Cancerous skin tumors may not cause any adverse clinical signs in the early stages, but as they grow or spread, you may notice weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, strong odors, or trouble breathing.

Treatment

Sometimes benign neglect is an option for smaller lumps, like warts or cysts. However, for any masses that are hard to identify with a needle biopsy, grow rapidly, or change in appearance, surgical removal is recommended. These masses can be submitted to a pathologist for identification.

For cancerous growths, your veterinarian will discuss options for treatment after surgical removal.  Chemotherapy and radiation are often needed for cancerous growths that are quick to spread to other parts of the body or that were not fully removed during surgery.

Although prices can be variable, the lists below will give you an idea of what to consider if your dog is diagnosed with a cancerous growth. It is important to recognize not all patients will require extensive diagnostics and that costs and treatments are variable.

Diagnostics

Needle Biopsy: $50
Digital X-Ray: $100 – $400, depending on the number of views
Histopathology (Biopsy): Up to $1,500
Ultrasound: $300 – $500
CT Scan: $3,000
Bloodwork: $150-$300

Adjunct Treatments

Surgery: $500-$1000
Radiation: $500 – $1,000 per session, around $5,000 – $10,000 in total
Chemotherapy: $1,000 – $15,000 for a full course

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.

For more information on common dog health conditions that includes both benign lumps and cancerous growths plus their associated costs, please read our Cost of Pet Care report.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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