Lipomas: Fatty Lumps And Tumors In Dogs

(Picture Credit:

(Picture Credit:

Lipomas are mostly benign, fatty skin tumors that appear on dogs and are fairly common, especially as dogs age. They are usually a cosmetic issue unless they appear in vital areas such as the throat, thigh, or armpits. One of our readers had a question about the lipomas found in her dog. Below is her question and our answer.

What Is A Lipoma And What Should You Do About It?


My husband and I discovered a lump on our 6-year-old Labrador Retriever‘s left hind leg. It was diagnosed as a fatty tumor, and we just discovered another lump in a different location. Can you please give us some advice as to what we should do?


A fatty tumor, technically called a lipoma, is a benign lump quite commonly found in middle age and older dogs. The lumps are composed of fat surrounded by a membrane. Lipomas can be found almost anywhere on your dog’s body. They are moveable if you press them gently, non-painful, and will generally produce no changes in the skin above them. Dogs may develop one lipoma or multiple lipomas. It appears that overweight dogs are more prone to developing these lumps. Lipomas are not dangerous, but some lipomas may grow large enough to cause your dog discomfort or interfere with your dog’s movement.

Diagnosing Lipomas In Dogs

Vet is doing a needle biopsy on a Cocker dog.

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

If your dog’s diagnosis was made on the basis of a physical exam only, then the diagnosis is actually only an educated guess. Although a veterinarian may have a lot of experience seeing lumps and bumps, only a biopsy of the lump tissue can provide a definitive diagnosis. Some veterinarians prefer to perform first a fine needle aspirate of the lump in which a tiny needle is inserted into the lump to take a sample for evaluation. An aspirate can be performed without anesthesia and is relatively painless. The problem with fine needle aspirate results is that they can give false readings that do not reflect a true representation of the lump’s characteristics. The only way to make a definitive diagnosis regarding the lump is to have it biopsied for proper evaluation.

Treating Lipomas In Dogs

GUELPH, ON - MAY 9: Surgery Resident Dr. Dominique Gagnon perfomrs a surgical biopsy to remove a mass just under the skin of Sarah the dog. The Mona Campbell Centre for Animal Cancer located in Guelph is Canada's first cancer centre for animals, funded by donations to their Pet Trust Fund. (Chris So/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Chris So/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Most lipomas do not need to be removed from dogs, as they are simply cosmetic lumps on the skin. When they appear in certain areas, however, they can be a problem. Fatty tumors around the thighs or armpits can restrict movement, and they may need to be removed. If the biopsy shows that a mass is an aggressive tumor, it may also need to be removed. In some rare cases, an inflitrative lipoma will invade muscle tissue, making surgery difficult. Sometimes these are treated with radiation therapy.

In general, removal is unnecessary. Fatty tumors tend to be slow growing and local, meaning they don’t spread. They do often return after removal, so you may want to consider that if you are planning to have them surgically removed for cosmetic reasons. Otherwise, they tend to be nothing to worry about, and your dog will go on living a happy, normal life. Hope your pup’s lumps are just regular lipomas. Chances are good that they won’t bother him, so they shouldn’t bother you.