Lipomas in Dogs

Lipomas are large fatty lumps that form under the skin and cause an occasionally deformed appearance, as well as in some cases discomfort and difficulty in movement depending on the precise location. Lipomas are also commonly found in pets and particularly dogs and are the most common form of benign tumors in dogs. Most dogs as they reach advanced years, or when they are overweight.

Lipomas are generally harmless and most vets will disregard them in the majority of cases except where they are very large and causing discomfort or restricting movement.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Lipomas are made of fatty adipose tissue – in other words they are simply unusual deposits of fat around the body that are most common in older or overweight dogs. They are also more common in certain species those being Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers and Miniature Schnauzers – though any dog can get them. Female dogs may also be at higher risk. They reside under the skin and can be found anywhere around the body (though some sources claim that they are slightly more prevalent at the site of trauma). They are soft to touch and can range in size from that of a marble to a golf ball or just slightly smaller than a tennis ball. There are no other symptoms and the lipomas themselves are not painful. The only time they might cause a problem is when they occur in places that damage discomfort or cause mobility – such as under the shoulder blade or knee cap. They might also be removed where the progression is very rapid. They almost always occur in subcutaneous tissue (under the skin).

However even if your pet seems unaffected by the lipoma you should nevertheless have all lumps and growths checked out at your vet when they form to eliminate the possibility of cancer. Your veterinarian will then use fine needle aspirate (withdrawal of some of the core of the lipoma) or biopsy (removal of a small portion of the growth) in order to ensure that it is indeed a lipoma and not a more dangerous growth. In some cases pet owners will want their vets to remove the lipomas for health reasons.


Treatment when necessary involves the simple surgical removal of the fatty tissue. This can be performed when the lipomas grow quickly or when they cause discomfort for the dog. In most cases they will be painless and the vet will try to advise against surgical intervention. The reason for this is that there is a small but significant risk involved in any surgical procedure and anesthetic and particularly with smaller dogs. It also puts the dog through unnecessary stress and pain which is particularly unnecessary as they reach older age. Another reason not to remove the lumps for aesthetic reasons is that they can grow back meaning that the discomfort for the dog really was in vain. Take your dog to be checked out at the vets’ if you notice any kind of growth or tumor, but listen to their advice on the best course of action. If you think about it it can be kind of cute…

1 comment

  1. Michele Reply
    October 7, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Very reassuring article with sound advice however why does the vet do an ultrasound first on a lipoma?

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