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When pet parents feel a dog skin lump, their minds often go straight to cancer. Dog cancer is a scary concept for owners and dogs to face, but most lumps can be attributed to something far less serious.
Many skin lumps may even go away on their own, but that doesn’t mean pet parents should ignore them. It’s important to understand what types of lumps can appear on a dog’s skin and when it’s important to get some expert dog medical advice.
When a dog has a skin lump, it means something is growing or collecting under the skin. Sometimes the lump is just an accumulation of blood or fluid, possibly due to injury or infection. These will go away as they heal, often within a few days.
Other lumps are either cancerous or non-cancerous tumors. Tumors are abnormal tissue growths, but only the cancerous (malignant) kind will spread to other parts of the body. Non-cancerous (benign) tumors only threaten a dog’s health if they grow large enough to push on other tissues or organs, but benign tumors tend to be slow growers.
Specific types of tumors that pet parents see on dogs include:
Abscesses - Painful lumps that develop due to an infection or bite
Cysts - Blocked oil glands that resemble large pimples, often requiring drainage
Fatty tumors - Clumps of fat cells that most often develop in middle-aged and older dogs, particularly when those dogs are overweight
Hematomas - Accumulations of blood under the skin, usually caused by some kind of impact that didn't cause the skin to break
Histiocycomas - Harmless, often small tumors that typically affect younger dogs and tend to go away over time
Mast cell tumors (MCT) - The most common type of malignant skin cancer in dogs, appearing as a variety of differently-sized masses and lumps that can be swollen or red
Skin lumps are usually “wait-and-see” kinds of situations. Pet parents should take note of any new lumps on or under a dog’s skin, including what those bumps look like and when they first appeared.
Good dog care starts with taking a picture of the lump with a time or date stamp so that the pet parent can see if anything changes. The lumps should always be carefully monitored as the days go by. Sending a photo of any skin lumps to an online vet like Fuzzy’s 24/7 Live Vet Chat is a way to get a quick assessment and recommendations for at-home care solutions. It’s time to call or go in-person to a vet when:
The lump’s size, shape, or color changes. These can be the first warning signs that a skin lump has become cancerous. Rapid changes are most worrisome and may indicate a fast-spreading cancer.
When it starts to bother the pet parent. Sometimes a lump on a dog makes a pet parent uncomfortable, and that’s okay. Even if the lump isn’t dangerous, a vet may be able to surgically remove it to ease the pet parent’s mind.
When it starts to bother the pet. Painful lumps are more likely to be infected or cancerous. It’s extremely rare for a benign lump to hurt a dog unless it grows in a place that makes resting difficult.
If the lump has burst and is actively hemorrhaging, the dog should be taken to a vet immediately. Open wounds can easily become infected.
Dealing with skin lumps is just part of maintaining skin and coat health for dogs. Pet parents should never feel bad about contacting an online vet for advice about a new or different-looking skin lumps. Each lump could be dangerous, but it doesn’t hurt to check in with veterinary professionals just to be sure. A healthy coat will make it easy to feel skin lumps and growths; they won't be masked beneath matted fur, for instance.
Fuzzy members have on-demand access to dog health advice with 24/7 Live Vet Chat in the Fuzzy mobile app, and on-demand online vet chat so pet parents can consult and share photos whenever they need. Finding skin lumps can be worrisome but pet parents never have to feel alone or powerless as they pet parent when they have Fuzzy.