The Ultimate Dog Guide To Understanding Lumps And Bumps

Although it can be frightening, rest assured though, lumps and bumps are common in older dogs, and sometimes even younger dogs. 

Sometimes, when you’re snuggling with your pet or giving them a well-deserved pat or massage, you may suddenly feel a lump or bump on your pet that wasn’t there yesterday. This can be frightening if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Rest assured though, lumps and bumps are common in older dogs, and sometimes even younger dogs. 

Most of the time, these are benign (non-cancerous), however, sometimes, they can be more sinister. The good news is, if found early enough, cancerous lumps can be treated, which increases the chances of a cure. 

The different types of lumps

Your vet will be able to determine what kind of lump your dog has by conducting a series of tests. Here’s what you need to know about lumps and bumps on your dog. 

Benign (non-cancerous) 

The vast majority of benign lumps are nothing to be concerned about. However, if they continue to grow and change — then they may become an issue. 

The good news about benign lumps is that they cannot invade other tissues meaning they cannot spread. Problems that may occur if not treated include restricting movement or breathing due to the location of the lump. 

Lipomas (fatty lumps)

These are the most common lumps that dogs can get and are most common in older and obese dogs. They’re often found under the skin and either very slowly or don’t spread at all. This means it may take a while for you to notice any changes. If they become very big, the mass may hinder movement. 

Skin cysts

These are generally harmless and are most commonly caused by blocked skin glands. Sometimes, the swelling can become red and sore and they may cause irritation to your dog. Usually, they are left alone unless the cyst becomes infected. 


Swollen lumps that contain pus under the skin, abscesses are caused by an infectious agent. Commonly, they’re caused by a bite from another animal which may cause a build-up of bacteria in the wound.

A vet will usually drain an abscess and then flush the site with an antibacterial solution. At times, you may need to then give your dog some antibiotics to help clear up the wound. 

Malignant (cancerous) 

Malignant lumps can spread through the body, impacting organs such as the liver, lungs, brain, or bones. Normally, cancerous masses spread by destroying the nearby tissues or metastasis, where the tumor cells enter the bloodstream and spread to other cells. 

Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be required, even after the removal to avoid the tumor from spreading further. Of course, there are many more types of lumps and bumps that may impact your dog, so it’s always best to check anything with your vet. 

How does the testing procedure work?

Just like your own body, it’s critical to assess your dog’s on a regular basis. There are four main tests that vets will use to determine the type of lump. Here is how the testing process works.

  1. Fine needle aspiration: This may be performed with or without sedation, depending on your dog, and the look and feel of the lump. A small needle will be inserted into the lump, the cells are retracted and then studied. About 95% of lumps can be diagnosed using this method. 
  2. Impression smear: This is used if the lump discharges fluid. The fluid is rubbed off the lump and then examined. 
  3. Biopsy: This is usually used if the fine needle aspiration doesn’t find anything. The test is done under a sedative or anesthetic and either a small part of the full lump will be removed and examined. 
  4. Lab test: Fluid is collected from the lump and sent to a lab for a culture check for infectious agents. 

Final remarks

In fact, this is most likely the only way you will discover any abnormalities in your dog’s body. While lumpy tissue can form for many reasons, and most of the time will end up being nothing to worry about, getting your dog promptly checked out when the lump is discovered, or when you notice a change in an existing lump, may just save its life.

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