This article was updated on September 1st, 2023
Lipomas are very common tumors in dogs. These tumors are benign (not cancerous) and are typically seen in middle-aged and older dogs.
Although many veterinarians consider these fatty lumps a normal part of the aging process in dogs, they can also be a sign of certain health conditions: dogs who are overweight are more prone to developing them. Dogs with hypothyroidism and other metabolic problems are also at an above-average risk of having lipomas.
Pictures of Lipomas
Lipomas vary widely in size and rate of growth. Because the tumors are comprised of fat cells, overweight dogs are more likely to develop them and more likely to have rapid growth of the tumors.
Below are a few example pictures of lipomas on a dog:
NOT a Lipoma
On the picture below, the lump on the dog is NOT a lipoma. The lump is attached to the skin as opposed to under the skin (see our page featuring common dog lumps and bumps).
Do Lipomas Grow or Change Over Time?
Sometimes lipomas will stop growing and stay the same size, but they don’t often disappear or get smaller. Some will keep growing slowly and enlarge over time.
Luckily most lipomas are benign. However, they may continue to grow and lead to health issues if not removed. A dog with a lipoma that gains weight is likely to experience an increase in the size of the lipoma.
Depending on where they are located, lipomas can cause also cause put pressure on internal organs. In very rare cases, more concerning tumors can be embedded within or beneath the lipoma. Therefore monitoring these growths and having then assessed by a veterinarian is important.
Once a dog develops one lipoma, there is a tendency for them to develop more over time, whether or not the initial one is removed surgically.
Do They Eventually Go Away On Their Own?
Lipomas in dogs may shrink if the dog loses weight, but they will not go away without surgery. No at-home remedies will shrink or get rid of a lipoma, including diet changes, food, or supplements.
Can I Do Anything To Prevent My Dog from Getting More of Them>?
Managing your dog’s weight is the best way to prevent lipomas as overweight dogs have a higher tendency to develop them. Unfortunately, there is no other effective way to prevent lipomas in dogs.
Though true lipomas are benign, there are cancerous fat cell tumors in dogs. These malignant variations are called liposarcomas. When palpated, these tumors feel very similar to lipomas, but they have more aggressive behavior. This typically includes rapid growth and recurrence after surgical removal.
Problems Caused by Lipomas
Though benign, lipomas can cause health issues for dogs, depending on their location on the body. If it is formed in the axillary (underarm) or inguinal (groin) area, it may inhibit the dog’s movement. Lipomas located near the penis, anus, or vulva can interfere with the dog’s ability to urinate and defecate.
Almost all lipomas are located just beneath the dog’s skin, making them easy to feel. However, some form under the muscle or even in the chest or abdominal cavity. When they are found in-between or under the muscles, they are termed infiltrative lipomas. Because of where they grow, they are more likely to cause issues for the dog as opposed to lipomas located just under the skin.
Veterinary opinion on the best treatment options is varied, and your veterinarian will likely have their own take on this.
Considerations for treatment should include a determination of whether or not the tumor is causing the dog any discomfort. Some owners elect to remove unsightly lipomas for cosmetic reasons. However, consideration should be given to the risk of post-surgery complications.
Lipomas that arise in the underarm, groin, and around the genitals should likely be removed as soon as possible, because the larger they grow, the more difficult complete surgical removal will be.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Smaller lipomas require smaller incisions to remove and require much less invasive surgical techniques. Below is a picture of a dog recovering from surgery:
Veterinary Cost Estimates
You will find below an estimate of the costs typically associated with treatment. Keep in mind that costs will vary based on location and your dog’s particular situation:
- Sample test: $30 to $100.
- Surgical removal : $250 to $500 (up to $1,000 for rare cases where the growth is invasive)
How Often Do Dogs Get Lipomas?
Clinically, lipomas are one of the most commonly diagnosed tumors in dogs. They were found to have a 1.94% one year prevalence in a study population of dogs in the UK. A one year prevalence is the proportion of the studied population that has a particular condition at some time during a year.1
The owner is often the first to notice a lipoma on their dog. These tumors are typically located on the dog’s trunk and are squishy and freely moveable.
If a lipoma is suspected, the owner should consult a veterinarian. The doctor will likely start by gathering a complete history, examining the pet, and performing a sample test.
- Sample test: A fine needle aspirate is a simple procedure that can be done in the veterinarian’s office, most often without the need for sedation. A small needle is inserted into the suspicious tumor, and a syringe is used to draw out some of the cells. The cells from the tumor are placed onto a slide and then examined under a high-power microscope. If the veterinarian has any doubts about what he or she is seeing, the slides may need to be sent out for review by a veterinary pathologist.
- Biopsy: If the diagnosis still isn’t clear after a veterinary pathologist’s review, a biopsy or simply removing the entire tumor may be recommended. It is important to remember that a fine needle aspirate only takes a very small number of cells and may lead to inconclusive results.
If the tumor is taken off in its entirety, it should be sent for review by a veterinary pathologist. This will allow for accurate diagnosis of the tumor type as well as a determination of the margins of the tumor. Measuring margins will ensure the entire tumor has been removed.
As is the case with all cancers, the exact cause of lipomas in dogs is largely unknown. It is likely multifactorial, meaning that there are many factors at play. Genetics, age, heredity, health status, and environmental exposure all likely play a role in the formation of lipomas in dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most frequent locations for lipomas to be found in dogs?
They are most frequently found on the trunk in dogs. This includes both the chest and abdomen. It is possible, but less common, for lipomas to form on the neck and limbs.
Which dogs are most likely to develop lipomas?
Overweight and older dogs are much more likely to have lipomas.
Also, lipomas are more common in Weimaraners, Dobermann Pinschers, German Shorthair Pointers, Springer Spaniels, and Labrador Retrievers.1
Does a lipoma on a dog need to be removed?
The majority of dog lipomas are harmless and do not need to be surgically removed, unless the lipoma is:
- creating discomfort to your dog or inhibiting essential movements
- preventing bodify function. For example if it is located near the penis, anus, or vulva where it can interfere with the dog’s ability to urinate and defecate
- located in an area where future growth will become problematic
Read More About Dog’s Lumps and Bumps:
1. “Lipoma in dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK: prevalence and breed associations.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6161450/.
Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.