What To Do If Your Dog Has A Lump

What To Do If Your Dog Has A Lump
Learn what to do when you discover a lump on your dog. The most common lumps are discussed, including tumors and oral growths and preventative care information. Descriptions of common growths may help to identify lumps and common treatments and related information is discussed.

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If you come across a lump on your dog’s skin, try not to panic. Lumps are actually quite common, particularly in older dogs. They can appear for a variety of reasons, and most times are not detrimental to the dog.

Do not speculate on lumps you find on your pet; any strange masses should prompt an immediate visit to your veterinarian for an evaluation so they can determine the next steps. Not all growths or masses are cause for panic, and even the dangerous ones can be treated and even fully recovered from. Remaining calm and acting quickly will benefit your dog greatly in the event that the lump is serious. 

It is important that every owner be well-educated on the subject of lumps, how to spot them, and their potential dangers. In this article, we will go over the signs and symptoms of lumps, the most common types, what to expect post-diagnosis, and how certain lumps and masses can be prevented.

Signs and Symptoms of Lumps

Lumps on your dog can be found in a variety of places and come in a variety of sizes as well.

Signs To Look For

  • Skin discoloration
  • Itching or irritation surrounding the lump or bump
  • Swelling
  • Limping (due to swelling of affected bone or joint)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Most Common Lumps

There are two categories that these can be divided into, skin growths, and tumors. We will also discuss oral growths since they are significant as well. 

Skin growths are benign lumps of tissue that poke out from your dog’s skin. Tumors are masses of tissue formed by the gathering of abnormal cells. Not all tumors are cancerous. 

Many oral growths are not easily spotted, however, their symptoms are very much like that of dental disease: bad breath, trouble chewing, pawing at the mouth, etc, and should be brought to your vet’s attention immediately.

Skin Growths

Abscesses: An abscess is a lump that forms from an infection. The infection can be due to a bite, or an open wound, for example. These will cause your dog a lot of pain and are often at risk of rupturing due to the large amounts of blood and pus inside them.

Hematomas: A Hematoma is concentrated bleeding under the skin following disease or trauma. These can also be quite painful for a dog. The skin will often be swollen when a hematoma is formed.

Apocrine Cysts: Caused by obstructed skin glands, these cysts are similar to pimples that a human would get.

Injection-Site Reactions: After receiving a shot, your dog could grow a small knot under their skin. They typically fade within a few days and shouldn’t cause any pain.

Hives: Hives are due to an allergic reaction. They manifest themselves as itchy and inflamed bumps on your dog’s skin.


Histiocytomas: Small, hard, dome-shaped, and benign, these masses typically appear on younger dogs’ heads, ears or legs, and often go away without any sort of treatment.

Malignant Skin Tumors: These are cancerous and quite noticeable sores that won’t get better with time. The most common type is called a mast cell tumor. Spotting this quickly will benefit your dog immensely.

Sebaceous Gland Hyperplasia: This mass forms when sebum glands (sebum is what keeps your dog’s skin lubricated) grow too quickly. They are benign and resemble warts. Typically, they will be found on the legs, torso, or eyelids of your dog.

Lipomas: Lipomas are mostly found in overweight dogs, and this mass is also benign. They are smooth clumps of fat that appear on the chest, abdomen, or front of the legs.

Oral Growths

Papillomas: These are warts that can be found on your dog’s face and inside the mouth. They come from the papillomavirus and while benign, are very contagious. These typically will heal on their own and may not need medical attention unless your dog is experiencing discomfort.

Epulis: This forms in the tissue of the gums around a particular tooth. Most are benign, but it is possible they can be malignant. Your veterinarian will need to perform tests. These can look like warts or other cylindrical growths in the mouth and along the gums.

Gingival Hyperplasia: Gingival Hyperplasia is a benign gum tissue overgrowth, and it will only need to be removed if it causes your dog any stress or discomfort. Your veterinarian might have the tissue tested just to be safe. The gums will seem to be overgrown or swollen and too large for the teeth. 

Oral Melanoma: This is the most common malignant oral tumor in dogs. These are generally manifest as lesions on the gums., and might appear black from discoloration. 

Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This is an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells, meaning Squamous Cell Carcinoma is cancerous. It might appear as a white mass or a raised lump of tissue in the mouth of your dog.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnostic Process

When you bring a lump to your veterinarian’s attention, this will prompt a physical examination. If told the lump is new, or they deem it temporary such as a bug bite, your vet will typically suggest an observation period. However, they might collect a sample from the lump or mass and run additional tests in order to determine the cell type and ensure it is not harmful to your pet. 

Once the samples are collected by your vet, they are then sent over to a veterinary pathologist for evaluation. The pathologist will be able to determine if the cells are cancerous and what type of cancer it is.

If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, your veterinarian will want to run more tests in order to determine the best path forward. They might even have to call in a specialist if more complex diagnostic tests are needed.

One can expect to pay anywhere between $200 and $500 per mass identification and removal.

Diagnostic Tests

  • Lab Tests: Blood chemistry, blood cell count, and urinalysis
  • X-Rays: Can show any growths that may be present in your dog
  • Ultrasound: This can also show growths while providing a better look at your dog’s internal organs
  • CT/MRI: Provides a better look at the structure of a tumor as well as your dog’s organs


After diagnosing your dog, your veterinarian will discuss the appropriate treatment plan with you. A cancerous mass does not mean that your dog has no hope. If the mass is caught quickly and treated aggressively, it’s possible your dog could make a full recovery.

Preventative Care

Not every lump or mass you may find on your dog can be prevented but some can be. For instance, the chances of developing mammary tumors (most common in female dogs) can decrease significantly if you spay your dog before her first heat cycle. 

You should visit the vet for a checkup at least once a year, and in between visits make sure to keep a close eye on your dog. The quicker a lump is spotted, the better.

Other Steps To Ensure Your Dog Is Healthy

Nutritious Diet: A proper diet can help keep your pet’s skin healthy and avoid irritation and bumps. Fatty acids can calm sensitive skin, keep it healthy, and make your dog coat shine.

Physical Activity: You should exercise your dog at least once a day (not just potty breaks) to keep their body and immune system strong. Depending on the size of a dog, the daily recommended physical activity could range from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Grooming: Keeping your dog’s coat trimmed and clean will allow you to see their skin more clearly, making it easier to notice any strange or new lumps or bumps.

As you can see there are many steps you can take to ensure the health of your dog, but the best care is preventative care. Doing all you can in between check-ups to keep your pet in tip-top shape—such as healthy eating, staying active, and regular grooming—all aid in maintaining your dog’s health and wellbeing. This includes keeping an eye on your pet’s appearance and behavior at all times. 

The best way to combat a lump is early detection which equals early treatment from your veterinarian. Getting into the habit of regularly checking your pet’s coat and skin and noting anything new will help to spot issues before they become serious. 

Not every lump is easily spotted—oral growths for example—but your dog will often show you what is wrong through their behavior before there is any physical proof. If your pet is not acting like their normal self, having trouble eating, displaying signs of pain, limping, or anything else mentioned earlier, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Being aware and educated on all of the signs, symptoms, types of lumps, and the diagnosis and treatment process will help you be prepared in the event that your dog needs you to be.

Featured image by magdaro

Amy Adams

Amy Adams

Amy Adams is an animal lover and community outreach person for the National Service Animal Registry. She has an 8-year old yellow lab named Girl and they love to canoe together.

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