Petting your dog and noticed a new lump or bump on their neck? You’re probably wondering what it is – and whether it needs any treatment. As a vet I see many different neck lumps and bumps; in this article we’ll review the most common ones and when you should see a vet.
What are the top reasons for neck lumps and bumps in dogs?
Infections are associated with various types of lump an bumps. These include hot spots – superficial skin infections that can cause a localized sore, thickened bump in your dog’s coat, usually with discharge; cellulitis (inflammation of tissues) and abscesses, often secondary to small wounds or foreign bodies like grass seeds; and even deeper abscesses related to sticks penetrating the back of the throat. Skin infections can often be easily managed with topical and oral medication and bathing, but abscesses in this region may well need further investigation. Learn more about hot spots (with pictures) or skin infections in dogs.
Just like the rest of the skin, the neck area can commonly be affected by cysts. These cause discrete, non-painful bumps or lumps either on or within the skin and are filled with fluid or thick greasy material that can be aspirated by your vet using a small needle. They’re typically benign so don’t need treatment, unless they cause inflammation, in which case surgery is curative. Learn more about cysts often found on a dog’s neck.
3. Skin growths
Small lumps are common on dogs’ skin, including warts, benign masses like sebaceous adneomas (‘old dog warts’) and lipomas (fatty lumps), as well as occasionally cancerous tumors. Benign lumps usually grow slowly and don’t cause irritation – but any new, persistent lumps should be checked as further tests may be recommended to rule out cancer.
4. Enlarged lymph nodes
Lymph nodes are part of the immune system, often referred to as ‘glands’ and swell as a result of inflammation, infection or, rarely, cancer. The main lymph nodes in the neck are the submandibular (just under the angle of the jaw) and the prescapular (just in front of the shoulder). These are relatively deep under the skin so are rarely felt by owners. The submandibular lymph nodes are often enlarged due to dental disease while the prescapular ones commonly enlarge if ear disease is present. If you notice a lump that could be an enlarged lymph node, it’s important to get your vet to check it.
Ticks are a common ‘lump’ found on the skin and can be mistaken for growths. If you notice a suspected tick, check for small black legs near the skin. If you’re certain it’s a tick, use a tick remover to gently twist and pull the tick out, or alternatively using tweezers gently pull straight out.
6. Salivary mucoceles
More rarely, we see salivary mucoceles, or sialoceles. These consist of saliva that has leaked from a damaged salivary gland or duct and accumulated. They’re usually soft, painless and grow slowly larger with time. Diagnosis is relatively simple but treatment frequently requires surgical removal of the affected gland. If left untreated a large mucocele may cause further problems.
Signs that you need to see your veterinarian
Any persistent lump present for more than a few weeks should be checked by a vet.
If your dog is irritated, painful or the lump or bump is getting worse quickly, you should see a vet more urgently – infections, for example, can worsen rapidly without treatment.
Any large swelling near the throat should be seen urgently as it could affect your dog’s breathing.
What will happen at the vet
Diagnosis is often based on clinical exam but may require a sample like a fine needle aspirate to be taken to examine the contents of any lump. This usually costs $150-200. Occasionally, further diagnostics may be required.