Help! I Found a Lump on My Dog

I often get asked by pet owners what to do when they find a lump on their dog.  So I thought I would share some tips of the trade for you, that I learned while I was working as a vet tech.

  1. First:  mark the area with a black sharpie if you have a light colored dog, a silver sharpie for a dark colored dog or, (my favorite) shave the area

    2 Lumps Marked and Shaved

  2. Next: make note of the size of the lump by measuring it and writing it down, you can also take a photo for your records
  3. Then: schedule an appointment to see your veterinarian

Often people feel lumps on their dog, but are unable to find them again when they come into the vet clinic.  Although a good vet can be adept at finding a large lump, and even some small bumps, they do not know your dog’s body like you do and stress and lack of time can make it more difficult for you to locate the area while in your vet’s office.  Shaving is my favorite way to help me locate and monitor a lump, because it is the easiest to relocate.

Why should you take your dog to the vet?

  • Lumps come in all shapes, sizes and varieties.  I have seen everything from large benign lipomas (lumps filled with fat) to small cancerous lumps, cysts and even lumps filled with larvae called a cuterebra laid by a bot fly.
  • There is no way to tell by looking at a lump whether or not it has cancerous cells
  • Your veterinarian must take a sample of the lump with a needle aspirate or totally excise the lump to diagnose it
  • It is important not to squeeze or cut lumps found on your pet because cancerous cells can be released if it is squeezed and contains cancerous cells
  • If caught early, a local anesthetic and a skin punch is all that is needed to totally remove a small lump
  • If the lump changes in size and shape, it should be rechecked by your vet

Years ago, I found a 3 millimeter lump on my 4 year old dog’s elbow.  I had the lump excised by the veterinarian that I worked with and sent it off for histopathology to have it diagnosed, when the report came back it was linked to a lump that also shows signs of cancerous lumps on the kidneys.

Although my dog did not have lumps on his kidneys, we did find through ultrasound, bladder stones and a lump on his spleen both of which required surgery.

If I had not had the lump aspirated with a needle and then removed and sent off for histopathology it could have lead to deadly consequences for my young dog.  In the past 6 years, my dog has accumulated over 20 lumps of different sizes and types, all of which are non-cancerous and I have become quite adept at locating new lumps and monitoring old lumps.

My Tricks

  • I shave new lumps as soon as I find them; it helps me to monitor them for weeks even after I have scheduled a vet appointment
  • I photograph lumps so that I can remember where they are located and I can see if they have changed size, shape or color
  • I have my vet make a chart of my dog’s lumps and I keep a copy in my records so if I forget I can look back in his records quickly

Lumps are Charted in My Dog's Medical Record

  • I examine my dog at least once a month and feel him all over while I give him his bath
  • I have my dog examined by a vet (since he is over 7 and considered a senior) at least twice a year
  • If I find a new lump I make an appointment as soon as possible because I know the sooner we catch a probable cancerous lump and have it excised the better chance my dog has to be cancer free
  • I also know that it requires a very large amount of surrounding tissue to be removed if a cancerous lump is found in order to minimize the risk of the cancer returning

I know how frightening it can be to find a lump and hear bad news, I have also seen many benign lumps in my career as a vet tech, so I arm myself with knowledge and I face the problem proactively!  Preventative medicine is always better than waiting for a problem to clearly arise.  Get to know your dog and his skin, if you find something abnormal mark it so you can find it again and call your vet!

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Comments

  1. Claire says:

    Interesting informative blog this week. I have always wondered what the rules were for finding lumps. My family had an elderly chocolate lab who in her later years started having large, medium and small lumps. They turned out to be fatty lumps, but it was always such a scare and a worry. I used to tell my mom she had to take her to the vet IMMEDIATELY, but we never thought to mark or some how save the spot to be easily shown to the vet later. Such simple things sometimes are the things easily forgotten. THANK YOU SO MUCH, i so love reading your columns every week, they are very helpful and also easy to understand and or follow through with the instructions. Thanks again!

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  2. Jessica says:

    I just found a lump on my dog. I don’t know what to do. My dad won’t take him to the vet because it costs soo much money, and we are tight with it at the moment. I was thinking that it could be from the needles he got last week as we went to the vet for his yearly needles, but I dont understand why it would show up now, sfter a week. Please help!!!

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    Minette Reply:

    If there were vaccinations given it could be local swelling from a vaccine reaction and may dissipate, but I would call and speak to your vet directly so that they can confirm what was given and if this is a possibility. They should be happy to discuss vaccination reactions and local lumps that might arise on the phone with you without incurring any costs!

    The next thing to do is to shave the area and document what size it is, this way you can keep an eye on it. If it grows, you should take it seriously and get into the vet. Also if it does not go away, or dissipate in size it is time to get into the vet and have it checked.

    Only your vet can determine what it might be! Good luck!

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    Sher Reply:

    My dog has like three big lumps and like six little lumps amd I just noticed them late last night I have no clue what they are and there all in the same area on his lower back and a little on this tail… Someone plz help… THANK YOU…

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  3. Mescal Bradey says:

    I have found 4 lumps one has been there for awhile and I have vet appointment on the 22nd.

    It is a bit scarey and I can’t get to the vet any earlier as he has no appointments. One lump is large and is growing surely but slowly. They are all along her back and either side of her spine. They don’t seem to hurt her and I check them everyday. They feel like a small cyst. My vet is involved in full time surgery and only has two hours a week now for consultations. So I am worried while I wait. But she is not in pain and they seem harmless.

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    Minette Reply:

    The only way to tell is to have them aspirated or removed by a vet…there is no way to know by looking at them. If he cannot get you in I would recommend finding another vet that can take a look!

    My experience as a vet tech has taught me to take these things seriously, because if it is a cancerous tumor it needs to be removed as soon as possible…if it is not then you just feel lucky that you know!

    Good luck to you!

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  4. Bella says:

    I have 4.5 month old Australian sheperd mix. I found a lump today on her left side. I showed my mom and she didn’t seem at all concerned not even to take a look at it herself. I told my aunt and she suggested putting the dog up for adoption but I would never do that. We are a very low income family and I am really hoping she is not sick. What is the vest way to deal with this, also my pup has bloat and is constantly thirsty, not sure if this has anything to do with her lump but I am very sad about it.

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    Minette Reply:

    I recommend taking her to a vet, as no one else can diagnose it.

    However beyond that, shave the area and mark it so that you can keep an eye on it and see if it is growing.

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  5. Jonathan says:

    Some off these sites make me laugh take your dog to the vet etc etc……I live in Ireland and to bring my dog to the vet is around 70euro then if the dog needs anything it’s more money why is it so dear for people to bring there dogs to the vets tell me that

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    Minette Reply:

    Because the vet can save my dog’s life and extend his life, for that money isn’t much of a forethought!

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    Joan Reply:

    unfortunately if you can’t afford to care for a pet, then maybe you really shouldn’t have one.
    Would you have a baby if you couldn’t afford the doctor bills for it?

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  6. Debbie says:

    I have an 11 yr old black lab mix. We just found 2 lumps, one on his back and 1 on his stomach. Taking him to the vet is out of the question at the moment, money is too tight. Besides shaving the area to monitor, what else should I look for? I’m told by others that this is just part of an aging dog. If I had the money, I’d take him to the vet, but treatment is just to expensive

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    Minette Reply:

    Only a vet can tell definitely what it is. Otherwise shave it and monitor its shape and consistency (ie is it movable in the skin or is it fixed).

    They can be a sign of aging but even a small lump can be cancer. I knew a dog that died at 4 due to a cancerous tumor…only a vet can tell by looking at the cells inside.

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    Lia Reply:

    For goodness sakes people, if you have a pet who requires medical attention, YOU DO WITHOUT or do whatever you need to do to get them seen. I have gone without because I chose to take in three rescue dogs…period…do the responsible thing. Carecredit is also a possibility. It’s a credit card for medical needs that you can use for your pet. Most places accept it.

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  7. Vicki says:

    My dog is pretty old and he got a lump on him maybe a month or more ago and it keeps growing…. Right now it feels hard but before it was kinda squishy it’s on his left elbow, we can’t afford to take him in is there any symptoms that will show if it is cancerous?!?

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    Minette Reply:

    no, cancer has no signs or symptoms but obviously is deadly if not caught soon enough!

    I suggest speaking to your vet about payments or going without something to get him in and have it evaluated.

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  8. dan says:

    Hi Minette,
    I have a 11 year old Eng Lad, in the last 3 months 2 lumps poped up. I took him to the Vet yesturday, for removal it going to cost over 900. I’m not sure if I undersatnd the point of having them removed…if there are not cancerous why touch them? if they are cancerous, why touch them? From my understanding they will count. to come back, why should I put my dog through the removal and spend the money?

    Any info would be great…thank you!

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    Minette Reply:

    If they are cancer and the cancer has not spread to other body parts (lungs etc) then the lump and cancer can be removed.

    Imagine you have a cancerous lump, the doctors would want to remove it. As long as they get good margins the cancer can be completely removed.

    Sometimes you don’t know until you remove the lump and send it to a pathology lab if it is cancerous or not. So this is often why vets recommend removing them, so they can be sent in and tested. The vet (if he suspects cancer, will get a large tissue margin making sure to get all of the tumor and some healthy tissue).

    If it is absolutely not cancer (fatty tumors) they can grow and impede the dog’s movement and therefore sometimes need to be removed.

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  9. noo says:

    Minette

    Very interesting article you wrote. I have a 7 year old chocolate lab who started having really bad seizures 18 months ago. The vet was convinced it was epilepsy (without doing any tests!) and wanted to put him on permanent epilepsy meds which we refused. She said if it wasn’t epilepsy then it could be a brain tumour. A year ago the fits stopped and he’s been fine since apart from occasionally looking like he has a really bad headache. However, we recently discovered a lump on his chest, about 2 cm. This hasn’t grown at all. Today I discovered a large lump on his abdomen, the size of a golf ball, that seems to have appeared very quickly. We have noticed on odd occasions over the last three weeks he starts breathing very rapidly – not breathless, just fast.

    Obviously I was relieved to read that lumps are common, but having gone through the seizures and with the vet mentioning a brain tumour, I’m now concerned about these lumps being more tumours. I will be making an appointment next week with the vet, but in the meantime, any suggestions?

    Thanks.

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    Minette Reply:

    Only a vet can diagnose.

    Vets, like people drs have to give you the worst case scenario and then also discuss other things.

    My dog started having seizures at 11 and we suspected a brain tumor as well because of his age.

    I paid the 3000 to have the MRI for him and we found that he had meningitis. If it wasn’t for the MRI and the seizure medications he would not have lived the extra year and a half I got out of him!

    With breathing problems I would recommend xrays and whatever other diagnostics your vet recommends.

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  10. Aracelis says:

    I have a 5 month old shit t su male a find a medium size lump on his bely very soft to the touch. Wath it means I don’t now hoping is hustle fat since he is over wAith…….can’t you tell me Wath is it. Please

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    Minette Reply:

    only a vet can

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  11. Inda says:

    My dog is 11 and has 2 lumps on his throat and that are not hard and he pants heavy I went to my vet and his on sterords and antidotes and I got to take him back soon for a chack up again his had a needle and she tested and told me she carnt see no Cancer

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