Petting your dog does more than make your pup feel loved. It can also help you find fatty tumors! Fatty tumors, a.k.a. lipomas, are subcutaneous (underneath the skin) masses or tumors that develop commonly in dogs. They are easy to overlook because they often don’t have a big effect on the overall well being of your dog. However, they can be serious and quite painful if left untreated.
Fatty tumors are different than normal fat because they form lumps rather than a flat layer under the skin. They grow over time and depending on the location can cause significant irritation, especially if they develop between the legs or on the chest. They can even grow so large that they press on internal organs so keep an eye on them!
Most dogs that develop a lipoma will develop multiple tumors. You know what they say, where there is one there are more!
Please note that additional masses do not necessarily indicate malignancy or metastasis. Since other cutaneous masses may appear similar to lipomas, it is recommended that every mass be checked individually.
Signs and Symptoms of Fatty Tumors in Dogs:
- Soft non-painful swelling under the skin that slowly increases in size.
- The skin over the fatty tumor remains healthy and covered with hair unless the skin rubs against another part of your dog’s body and is damaged by friction.
- Skin over a fatty tumor normally does not bleed, does not darken due to increased melanin (hyperpigmentation), or become hot, greasy, or hairless.
- Fatty tumors tend to move freely over the muscle and bone beneath them and are not stuck or adhered to underlying tissues.
- Lymph nodes in the area around a fatty tumor do not increase in size.
- Appetite, weight, and sleep habits all remain normal.
- They usually develop in the skin over the trunk of a dog’s body or legs; they rarely develop on the head, feet, tail, scrotum, or under the tail.
The best way to find a fatty tumor is by touch. You will most likely notice them when you are petting your dog. Normally, a fatty tumor feels smooth and slides away from underlying tissues, whereas malignant tumors adhere strongly to underlying muscle and bone. Palpitation may be a great way to detect a fatty tumor, it is not a good way to diagnose one. You need to bring your dog into the vet for a check up immediately to make sure the tumor is not cancerous.
Your veterinarian will do a complete physical exam, checking for all palpable masses. They will use a fine needle to draw fluid from the mass to test if it is cancerous or not. Even if the result is inconclusive, or negative, surgery may be necessary.
Whether or not your dog needs surgery is based on tumor size, location and the health of your dog. Surgical removal does not stop other fatty tumors from forming nor does it guarantee that a fatty tumor will not redevelop in exactly the same place, but can often be necessary to treat the initial one.
Some vets may inject calcium chloride into the fatty tumor to “kill” the tumor. This can cause pain, sloughing of the skin, the death of healthy tissue outside the fatty tumor, and acute inflammation caused by dying fat cells.
Holistic therapies: Addressing the problems of stagnation and toxic materials that cause fatty tumors to form in dogs. Holistic veterinarians recommend: a change in diet, elimination of toxic wastes, and increased blood flow to prevent stagnation.
The ideal diet for a dog with fatty tumors contains fresh, whole foods including fish, meat, and pureed vegetables. An ideal diet avoids simple carbohydrates found in flour, corn meal, or rice meal because these carbohydrates are readily converted to fat. When it is not feasible to feed home-cooked or fresh whole foods, use a premium kibble with meat or fish as the main ingredient. The kibble should not contain preservatives, chemicals, dyes or materials that your dog’s body cannot metabolize because these materials leave toxic wastes in the body.
Eliminating waste products requires improved fat metabolism and the support of healthy organs including the heart, liver, and kidneys. Several products can be helpful:
Omega 3 fatty acids support the heart, liver, and kidneys.
SAMe, found in Denosyl, and supplements with milk thistle support the liver.
Enzymes are a great boost with elimination because they help metabolize fat. The Cell Tech Super E12 Enzyme supplement is ideal for pets with fatty tumors.
Red Yeast Rice is a supplement that inhibits fat cells by interfering with cellular activity and lipid accumulation may be useful for pets with fatty tumors.
Healthy blood flow prevents stagnation that leads to fat cell accumulation. Blood flow and circulation are improved with massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and supplements that benefit the heart such as antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids.
If you find a lump on or under your dog’s skin, have him examined by your veterinarian. Your vet can determine and verify if it is a lipoma. Surgical removal is the treatment, but usually is not necessary because these growths are benign and rarely become overly large. As long as the tumor is not cancerous and not painful, or too large, they can often be left alone.