If your pet develops a lump anywhere on its body, it is very important to have this examined by a vet as soon as possible.
Your vet will require certain information from you such as:
- How quickly the lump has grown?
- When did you first notice the lump?
- Does your pet seem to be bothered by the lump?
- Is your pet otherwise well?
All of this information alongside examination of the pet will enable the vet to determine what may be the likely cause of the lump.
Lumps can be caused by many different things such as:
- A bite: this could be an insect bite or from another animal. Generally these are easy to diagnose based on the history and examination and can be treated with a course of anti-inflammatory medication and in some cases may require antibiotics.
- An abscess: these are most commonly caused by bites from other animals, infection around the root of teeth or anything that could have introduced infection into the area. These are usually easy to diagnose based on the history and examination and can be treated with a course of anti-inflammatory medication and in some cases may require antibiotics.
- An allergic reaction: These can cause multiple small raised lumps all over the body. These are normally very fast to develop and respond rapidly to either steroid or anti-histamine treatment.
- A hernia: These can occur in various places on the body but the most common are umbilical hernias in kittens and puppies. Hernias may or may not require surgical treatment to repair them.
Whilst all of the above are usually visible, there is another group of masses such as cysts and tumours (both benign and malignant) which can be very difficult to differentiate by examination alone.
Benign tumours tend to be slow growing and do not spread to other areas of the body. However, they can still become very large and can cause the skin to ulcerate or interfere with limb movement. The most common type of benign mass is called a lipoma. These are lumps formed from fat and can occur on any part of the body under the skin. They are seen most commonly in overweight dogs.
Malignant lumps can be much more aggressive. They tend to grow more quickly and unless removed rapidly can spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs.
If the vet suspects that the lump could be a tumour a good way of checking this is with a fine needle aspirate (FNA). This is when a needle and syringe are used to extract some cells from the mass. These can be looked at under a microscope to see if they are abnormal and require further investigation.
Occasionally the vet may want to take a larger sample of the lump for further investigation and in some cases the whole lump can be removed at this time. It can then be sent off for histopathology so the exact type of cancer can be identified.
It is very important that lumps are checked out early so the vet can assess the best course of action. The sooner a lump or bump is checked the better!