Bump, Lump or Tumor?

A Labrador Retriever has a suspicious growth.

By | Posted: Sat Apr 14 00:00:00 PDT 2001

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Q. My 5-year-old Labrador Retriever has had a large lump beneath the skin on his chest. This lump has more than doubled in size. Recently we found another small lump on his side. Neither seems to bother him even though they are very hard. My veterinarian says they are fatty deposits and nothing to worry about. A friend of mine had a Golden Retriever with several of these lumps, which their veterinarian also described as fatty deposits. That dog lived only 8 years and died suddenly after a week-long illness. Should I get a second opinion?

Q. My 8-year-old Border Collie/Labrador mix, Bonnie, was recently diagnosed with mastocytoma (mast cell tumor) after having two tumors surgically removed. One tumor was near her eye, the other under the skin on her abdomen. Bonnie has not shown any signs of discomfort other than is natural after surgery. My veterinarian recommended she be put on aggressive chemotherapy treatment. I am reluctant to put my dog through that. If you have more information, please let me know.

A. I chose to answer these two letters together to highlight the importance of correctly identifying lumps and bumps. Unfortunately, many veterinarians trust their experience and intuition when diagnosing skin and subcutaneous (beneath the skin) masses. While they are often correct, mistakes are sometimes made.

Veterinarians have two options to learn more about a lump:

  1. Extract cells from the lump with a needle and syringe and evaluate them under a microscope.
  2. Remove lumps surgically and examine them. If they still cannot be diagnosed, submit them for microscope examination.

Generally, I recommend quick surgical removal of all lumps to allow diagnosis and treatment in one procedure. Some normal tissue is taken with the lump and evaluated by a pathologist to determine if the cancer was completely removed.

Removing lumps while they're as small as possible reduces the chance of malignant tumors spreading and minimizes postoperative discomfort and surgical cost and risk. It also provides more healing time.

Mast cell tumor or mastocytoma, as diagnosed in Bonnie's case, is common. Surgical removal is usually the best treatment. If the tumor has not spread to the lymph nodes or the bloodstream, removal may be a cure. Moreover, complete removal - with no evidence of spreading - can avoid chemotherapy.

Ask your veterinarian for a consultation with a veterinary oncologist if you are not comfortable with a cancer diagnosis or rendered treatment.

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Dianna   Hurst, Texas

7/29/2013 9:19:43 PM

I'm reading everyone's posts because I have a 6 yr old dachshund who has a lump at the bottom part of his breast bone or rib cage. There seems to be a spot on the top part of the bump that could resemble a bite, maybe small spider or a bee sting. The bump moves slightly and is firm but not hard. I was really worried before I started reading up here. But now, thanks to all of ya'll I realize there could be a number of different things it could be. So I'm not overly worried, but now I am concerned and will pay close attention for any changes. And I can put my son's mind at ease. I want to say thanks to everyone who participates because you never know who or when (2 years later) you will help another dog lover.

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Mathew   Mississauga, International

1/25/2013 8:14:30 PM

If you end up surgically removing the lump and it happens to be just a fatty deposit, or something that has no affect for my golden retriever. Will it provide any discomfort or future incidents in the long run?

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Great Pyrenees parent   Richmond, Illinois

9/29/2012 9:35:24 AM

I have a 9 year old Great Pyrenees with a hard lump on the left side closer to underbelly the size of an egg.

He whines everyday and has been diagnosed with arthritis in his knee. My sons dog (I'm taking care of while he's away at school) has been on and off of steroids since he had been diagnosed with chronic ear infections since puppy hood and skin allergies (hot spots) I'm unable to pay for vet costs due to being unemployed for over a year. I worry about him he's strong headed stubborn and yet; a real sweetheart for a dog.

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Scolvin1267   Culver, OR

6/26/2012 8:38:23 PM

I have a six year old lab retriever mix and she forms these small bumps on her hips and back, never neck or abdomen. The thing is that they go away after about a day or so and then show back up a couple days later in a different spot. They are small never bigger than a dime and her skin color. Im very concerned. Is this Cancer?

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