Not-so-simple fatty tumours

Lipomas are fatty tumours that are commonly diagnosed in middle-aged to older dogs of any breed, but particularly breeds such as labradors, beagles, weimaraners and schnauzers. However, there can be more to these lumps than what first meets the eye! Here are a few lesser-known facts about lipomas.

There are different types of lipoma
The majority of lipomas that we see in dogs are simple lipomas. These benign (harmless), slow-growing masses most commonly form beneath the skin on the body or legs. They generally don’t cause issues unless they grow big enough to cause general discomfort or in a location that impedes walking.

On occasion, simple lipomas can actually develop and grow within the chest or belly. If the masses in these tricky areas grow large enough, they can cause breathing problems or abdominal pain.

As well as simple lipomas, dogs can develop infiltrative lipomas. These tumours don’t spread to distant areas of the body, but can invade and cause disruption of surrounding tissues (such as the muscles in the legs), almost like large tree roots. They can also be difficult to remove surgically, often requiring more invasive surgeries and having a higher likelihood of regrowth.

Lastly, lipomas can form as myelolipomas, which are fatty masses within the spleen or liver. These are mostly harmless, insignificant findings but, rarely, can cause bleeding within the belly.

Even if it feels like a lipoma, not every mass beneath the skin is a lipoma!
Some other tumour types, such as mast cell tumours occurring beneath the skin or soft tissue sarcomas, can feel similar to lipomas. Unfortunately, mast cell tumours and soft tissues sarcomas can actually show malignant (harmful) behaviours, so are best diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Remember: not all fatty lumps can be lumped together!

If you notice any masses beneath your dog’s skin, it’s best to book a consultation so that our experienced vet team can take a look.