You’re petting your dog, and you feel something that wasn’t there before. It might be soft, hard, round or oblong. It might be covered with hair or completely bald. It might be alone or appear in groups.
Get to know some of the common growths that appear on dogs. This list isn’t meant to help you make a diagnosis – it should instead inspire you to seek treatment, as most lumps and bumps are easily curable and will not affect your dog’s lifespan.
Should You See A Vet?
Ideally, you should see a vet as soon as you notice anything unusual going on with your dog. As a general rule of thumb, if it’s larger than a pea and persists for a few weeks, you should definitely see a vet.
Most lumps and bumps are non-cancerous and can be easily removed, drained, or go away on their own. You should not be afraid to see a vet because of the possibility of bad news. Stay optimistic, and don’t procrastinate about going to the vet. The sooner you go, the more likely it will be easy and affordable to treat.
Leading up to your vet appointment, you can keep your dog comfortable and try to reduce any swelling. Do not use any over-the-counter medications without your vet’s approval, and do not try to lance or drain any swellings on your own. A warm compress can reduce swelling, while an oatmeal bath can relieve itching.
Lipoma – Fatty Tumor
A lipoma is a fatty tumor that grows beneath the surface of your dog’s skin. It’s benign, not cancerous, and typically harmless. They are often seen in a dog’s armpit, on their chest or belly. Lipomas are one of the most common types of lumps that appear on dogs. It’s not uncommon for dogs to have more than one.
A lipoma is:
- Common in overweight and senior dogs
Even if you suspect that your dog has a harmless lipoma, you should still ask your vet to aspirate or perform a biopsy to check for cancer cells. There’s no way for your vet to tell if a tumor is cancerous or not just by looking at it. While lipomas are very common and typically not harmful, if they are actually cancerous, catching it early could save your dog’s life.
Abscess – Infected Wound
An abscess forms when your dog is injured and the area of broken skin becomes infected with bacteria. Your dog’s immune system brings white blood cells to the infected area to fight off the bacteria. White blood cells die and become smelly, sticky pus – which builds up over the injury in a painful bump.
An abscess is:
- Painful – a normally friendly dog may growl or snap when touched
- Full of pus – it may or may not have ruptured, releasing a stinky fluid
- Noncancerous, and will not spread
- Forms over a wound, or near your dog’s mouth from a dental infection
- Red and swollen
- May be accompanied by a fever
If you suspect your dog has an abscess, go to the vet. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to help your dog’s body fight off the bacteria. If the abscess has not ruptured, your vet may need to drain the fluid.
Cutaneous Histiocytoma – Benign Skin Tumor
A histiocytoma is a small growth that appears spontaneously on a dog’s face. They’re not cancerous and typically disappear within 2-3 months. Histiocytomas are typically found in young dogs under 3 years old, and certain breeds, including Labradors and Boxers, get them the most often.
A histiocytoma is:
- Red or pink
- On the face, ears or toes
If you suspect your dog has a histiocytoma, your vet will likely tell you to watch it for a few weeks. Like all growths, the only way to be 100% sure it is harmless is by checking for cancer cells with a biopsy or by aspirating the mass with a needle.
Sebaceous Cyst – Sebum-Filled Sac
Sebum is an oily substance produced by glands in the skin. It’s produced by all mammals and keeps skin and hair soft and moisturized. Sometimes, the skin produces too much, causing pimples and sebaceous cysts.
A sebaceous cyst is:
- A sac filled with sebum
- Pink and hairless
- Not painful
- Shiny and oily
If you suspect your dog has a sebaceous cyst, they will probably not need treatment, though your vet can aspirate or remove it to be sure it does not contain cancer cells. Usually, it will clear up on its own.
Melanoma – Dark Skin Tumor
A melanoma can be cancerous or noncancerous. Benign (non-cancerous) melanomas usually pop up on a dog’s head or forelimbs. Malignant melanomas typically show up on hairless areas of a dog’s body – the abdomen, lips, mouth or nail bed.
A melanoma is:
- Dark in color
- Raised or flat
- May grow quickly
If you suspect your dog has a melanoma, see a vet as soon as possible. If it is benign, your vet can remove it. If it’s malignant, it will need to be caught early in increasing your dog’s chances of being cured. A malignant melanoma is difficult to treat and does not respond well to radiation and chemotherapy. Your vet may need to remove surrounding tissue to make sure there are no cancer cells left behind.
Hematoma – Buildup Of Blood Under The Skin
A hematoma occurs when a blood vessel bursts, creating a pool of blood that sits beneath the skin. They often occur on the underside of a dog’s ear. Breeds with long, floppy ears are especially prone to getting them. The blood vessels in a dog’s ear are delicate and may rupture if your dog excessively scratches his ears or shakes his head – often due to an ear infection.
A hematoma is:
- Warm to the touch
- A swollen area, not a round bump
- Not cancerous
- May rupture, releasing blood
If you suspect your dog has a hematoma, you will need to see a vet for surgery. The blood and any clots will need to be drained, and additional treatment may be needed to keep blood from filling the area again. An ear hematoma will be fixed with a series of sutures across the surface of the ear to keep it from filling up with blood again.
Basal Cell Tumor
A basal cell tumor may or may not be malignant. It appears on its own, they only rarely come in multiples. They’re hairless, and appear on the neck, head and shoulders of senior dogs. They don’t typically spread, so most dogs recover once they are removed.
A basal cell tumor is:
- May or may not be painful
If you think your dog might have a basal cell tumor, you will need to see a vet for removal. They can grow to be very large. The larger a tumor gets, the more difficult it will be to treat.
Mast Cell Tumor
A mast cell tumors make up 1/4 of skin tumors in pets. It’s unclear why they form, though some breeds are more prone to getting them, including Bulldogs, Terriers, and Retrievers.
A mast cell tumor is:
- White or pink
- Appears on its own
- May or may not spread quickly
- Sometimes paired with digestive symptoms: reduced appetite, vomiting, dark feces
As mast cell tumors are sometimes cancerous, they need to be removed by a vet. They can be treated with radiation or chemotherapy.
Other Tumors, Lumps And Growths
There’re many other types of growths that can appear on your dog. Allergic reactions, insect bites and pimples are just a few of the possibilities. Only a veterinary professional can tell you what’s going on. Googling your dog’s symptoms can give you a vague idea of possible diagnoses so you can decide what questions to ask when you see the vet.
LEAVE A COMMENT below to share your thoughts and experiences. We would love to hear from you!
Don’t forget to SHARE this article on your favorite social media outlets: