What are these Lumps and Bumps on My Pet?

by Barbara Murray

Adult dog being treated by a veterinarianOne of the top questions pet owners ask veterinarians is what are these lumps and bumps on my pet? Correspondingly, a question your veterinarian may ask you at every checkup: Have you noticed any new or unusual lumps and bumps on your pet?

Lumps and bumps, especially under a dog's or cat's skin are a common occurrence. In the majority of cases these lumps and bumps are not serious. However, in a few situations lumps and bumps can be a symptom of serious illness and disease and therefore should always be examined by your veterinarian. Let's look at some common causes of those lumps and bumps.

Injection-site Lumps

When your vet examines your pet, if a lump or bump is found, she will pay close attention to the type. For example, if your pet was recently vaccinated, reactions at the site of the injection are not uncommon. Typically these injection-site lumps gradually go away without treatment. It may take a few days to a few weeks and varies from animal to animal.

Obstructed Glands

Another common cause of a lump under the skin is an obstructed gland. Called apocrine cysts in medical terms, these lumps present as hard firm masses and may crack open and gradually disappear without intervention. Bumps above the skin can indicate an obstructed sebaceous gland. The normal function of a sebaceous gland is to secrete sebum to lubricate the skin and help protect against bacteria. These types of glands can become clogged. Sebaceous cysts are common and normally harmless.

Bumps from Insect Bites

If your pet has recently suffered insect bites, this can cause a painful abscess that fills with pus and blood, making the area tender to the touch. However, more often than not, this type of lump is not serious and will rupture and go away without treatment.

Lumps from Hematomas

Bruises under the skin cause localized hematomas, also painful to the touch. This can result from fights and tumbles with other animals, often when play is simply too rough.

Fatty Tumors

Unusual lumps and bumps in obese pets are common as obese animals are more susceptible to benign tumors resulting from a mass of fat cells that can grow to a painful size. Called lipomas in medical terms and fatty tumors in everyday language, these masses are most common on the chest and abdomen of obese animals. Lipomas are also more common in senior dogs and although typically harmless, if left untreated, this type of mass can grow into a size that causes pain for your pet.

Malignant Tumors

Malignant skin tumors can start out looking like several of the harmless lumps described above. That's why is so important to get any lump or bump checked out by a professional immediately after you notice it. Your veterinarian knows the difference between common lumps and any that requires further testing.

Early detection of malignant growths is vitally important. One way to accomplish this is with daily petting and regular grooming. For example, brushing your pet's coat at least once weekly is a good way to examine his or her body for any exterior abnormalities.

Remember if you have a Boxer or a mixed-breed dog with obvious Boxer ancestry, this breed is subject to cancer and any lumps under, or bumps on, the skin should be checked immediately by a veterinarian.

Treatment of Malignant Tumors

If your vet says it's malignant, what then? Of course, treatments vary depending on the type and location of the tumor. Commonly, surgical removal of the tumor is the first step. This may or may not be followed up with radiation therapy and chemotherapy, all depending on location of the tumor and the stage of the cancer.

Once again, early detection followed promptly with an examination by your veterinarian is the best way to answer any questions and alleviate stress about unusual lumps and bumps in our pets.

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