Lump on the pup: what do I need to be researching?
March 13, 2012 11:03 AM   Subscribe

While I wait to hear results from a needle aspiration... what can you tell me about scary doggy lumps, in your experience? After getting our dog her radical spring haircut we discovered a lump, between marble and walnut-sized, on her upper front left leg, about midway above the joint, on the front of the leg. It's movable (moves around under finger pressure/movement), and doesn't seem to cause her any pain or warrant her attention at all.

But we have no idea how long it's been there, as it was completely hidden in her fall/winter shaggy state... so it could be many months (like 6 or 7), or weeks, or just days.

Normally I can spot any problem because she licks any owie like crazy, but she seems oblivious to this... even now, after the needle aspiration. She's probably a poodle/terrier/? mix, around 6 or 7 years old, we think, not overweight, and very healthy. – Superbly healthy according to the doc. we've had her for nearly four years, and know nothing about her previous history.

Of course we'll have a biopsy if the results of the needle aspiration indicate trouble, but since I can't do anything but wait right now, I'd kind of like to read up on the various likely possibilities and have some mental framework and background for the possible diagnosis. Naturally, I'm hoping for it to be a benign lipoma or something, but I want to be prepared and learn as much as possible.

(For what it's worth, from what I could see of the aspirate, it was clear – not bloody, or any particular color. I'd provide an image of the lump, but there's almost nothing to see, you can really only notice it by touch, even though it's not terribly small.)
posted by taz to Pets & Animals (28 answers total)
The fact that the aspirate was clear is usually indicative of a benign cyst, rather than a malignant tumor, as is the fact that the lump is movable.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:06 AM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

In my experience, moveable is good. It's the very hard, unmovable ones that are scary.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:11 AM on March 13, 2012

My older dog has a few movable lumps, including lumps around the size you describe and including one on his upper front leg towards the bottom of his shoulder. He has had them for a while now. The vet says they are nothing to worry about and they haven't increased in size or given him any trouble or pain. My thoughts are with you and your pup - hope all is well.
posted by Cocodrillo at 11:19 AM on March 13, 2012

One vote for lipoma - a benign fatty tumor.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:22 AM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

A lot of times this sort of thing turns out to be a benign lipoma -- nothing to worry about. That's probably the case with your dog.
posted by rhartong at 11:23 AM on March 13, 2012

Anecdotally I don't know of many dogs who, especially in later years, did NOT have these lumps . . .
posted by eggman at 11:29 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yup, benign fatty tumor. My dog has had several of them for years (he's 15).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:33 AM on March 13, 2012

Please let us know the results of the test.

I had a dog with something that sounds similar, turned out to be a Mast Cell Tumor. She had that for many years with no changes (marble to quarter sized).

Multiple doctors said that these things typically do not cause problems, but if they are bumped, can rupture and cause significant problems.

If it is small enough to be removed so that the wound will be able to heal (position on the leg is important - not close to a joint is good), I would recommend being proactive, and having it removed.

If you want more information about my situation, let me know.
posted by bonofasitch at 11:35 AM on March 13, 2012

Our dog has the same thing, our vet said the same thing. So basically +1 to what others are saying. Good luck with the results.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:39 AM on March 13, 2012

Is it squishy or hard?

Squishy is good, our 10 year old dog has lots of squishy lumps of various sizes and they're all benign. One of them is HUGE - it's getting to be fist sized, but it doesn't bother her, it's benign, and the surgery to remove it would be both risky (anesthesia for older dogs is not, as I understand it, without some risk) and expensive, so we're just letting it be.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2012

As everyone else has said, it is VERY likely to be a benign lipoma. What to do and think in the minimal chance it's not? Well, at that point you are looking at some kind of cancer, and it is really in your best interest to at least get a consult with a veterinary oncologist. I'm not sure what the options for veterinary specialists are like where you are, but I suspect there is some sort of advanced referral hospital in a major city like Athens. I am acquainted with some veterinary oncologists here in the US, and if you need it, I can ask them if they know anything about practitioners in Greece. The reality is that sort of thing won't be necessary, because I bet your dog just has a harmless little lipoma. Stay positive.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2012

She's pretty adorable. My terrier, about the same age, also very healthy, got one of those lumps on her upper front leg last year. I flipped out, my vet was completely unconcerned and I didn't think too much of it after he saw her.

It started getting a little bit bigger over the past year or so and my parents took her in to their vet for a second opinion, and he said the same thing, that it wasn't uncommon and that it was moveable so very likely fine. He did say that since it was on the outside of her leg it was more likely to get caught and ripped open, and that he would take it out if we wanted. For size perspective, hers is very visible (she doesn't have much hair there) - it looks like a giant grape is under there, although it was far smaller when I first noticed it. Second vet, according to my parents, was pretty unconcerned also.

If it comes to the point where you want to talk to a specialist, I can give you the number of the specialist clinic we used for our pet a few years ago - I swear they took better care of her than most humans get. They are here in the US but they might be able to point you in the direction of resources closer to you. (On preview, Rock Steady probably has a better connection than I do.)

The waiting sucks - thinking good thoughts for you.
posted by mrs. taters at 11:51 AM on March 13, 2012

Sounds like a normal old dog lump. My last dog had one in his belly... alright, in his crotch next to his doggy pecker for at least four years without incident. My vet didn't even bother to aspirate but recommended I keep an eye on it in case it got big enough to cause discomfort. So I wouldn't worry about it for the time being.

On reflection, I think there was one on his leg as well. No issues from that one either. Lumps are very little to worry about.

When he turned out to have actual (and completely unrelated) cancer, I and my wife needed to think about how aggressively we wanted and could afford to treat him. My decision, supported by my wife and strongly encouraged by my vet, was to treat what was making him uncomfortable and not treat the cancer. This includes, as some friends of ours did in their case, amputating a cancerous leg. Dog had another happy couple of months. I swear they'd lose their legs if they weren't attached. Neither of us went with chemo or radiation or other treatments with uncomfortable side effects.

My thinking is that a dog can't understand that it's suffering to get better so I don't want to put them through that. It's not really something to research in the traditional sense, but you might have to make the decision in a decade or so. Estate planning, basically.

In summary, you almost certainly have nothing to worry about and I'm going to go pet my puppy now.
posted by stet at 11:52 AM on March 13, 2012

My vet used to call them Ice Cream Tumors.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:04 PM on March 13, 2012

Another thing to look into for your very long term planning is that, in my area at least, there are vets that will perform in-home euthanasia rather than doing it in the vet's office.

Your dog is superbly healthy, of course, but you asked to learn as much as possible.

Also, Ice Cream Tumors is the best name ever. And eponysterical.
posted by stet at 12:14 PM on March 13, 2012

lumpenprole, please elaborate. My curiosity is piqued.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:15 PM on March 13, 2012

hey, our doc actually just called us... after 9 pm (wow), and says that it looks like it's probably basal cell carcinoma, so I'm fairly freaking out. We have an appointment Friday, and there will be some sort of specialist there who will also check her out, and I'm sure we will get a biopsy then. Ack. (I am going to take Rock Steady up on his offer of asking his connections if they know of a specialist in Athens.)
posted by taz at 12:31 PM on March 13, 2012

My dog has a squishy belly lump and a harder between the shoulder blades lump at the ripe old age of 9 (the first I found after finding out that my friend's dog had cancer, so I was not calm about it). My parents' dog has all kinds of lumps. None of them have been a problem. I've had both my dog's aspirated and one was fatty lipoma (the squishy one), the other was something else benign that I've forgotten the name of by now. Dogs get lumps as they get older, most of the time they are nothing to worry about. It's great to get them checked for peace of mind, but don't stress until the results say you should.
posted by katers890 at 12:35 PM on March 13, 2012

Another vote for lipoma here. Our cat has one in the same spot as your dog. Our daughter's dog has one, also.
posted by Lynsey at 12:44 PM on March 13, 2012

Oh gosh, on preview, sorry Taz! Wishing you and your doggie the best.
posted by Lynsey at 12:46 PM on March 13, 2012

Fingers crossed for you and the pup, Taz. Our staffy had a fist sized lump on his hip that the vet advised against removing. He lived happily onwards for years without anything untoward happening from it.
posted by arcticseal at 12:59 PM on March 13, 2012

Anecdata: We talked about basal cell carcinomas in dogs in a lecture a few weeks. Apparently, although malignant, they rarely metastasize and are usually removed surgically. A student's dog had been diagnosed with one, and was scheduled for surgery, so my professor (who is a DVM) talked to us about them in that context. She said she's removed several and that's it's a fairly easy surgery if there's not a lot of vascularization of the tumor, and there rarely is.

My vet didn't even bother to aspirate but recommended I keep an eye on it in case it got big enough to cause discomfort.

The DVM I work for nearly always aspirates mystery bumps and lumps, and either does her own cytology or sends them out to the lab. I would encourage anyone who reads this thread to have any lumps or bumps they find on their dogs and cats thoroughly investigated as Taz has). Fine needle aspiration is easy and relatively painless. Lipoma’s show up all the times, but it’s never safe to assume!
posted by OsoMeaty at 1:09 PM on March 13, 2012

My Boston terror turns 10 years old in the next week or so. He's extremely healthy — he runs about 15 miles a week with me in the Houston heat, and has for years (humblebrag). In the last year or so he's developed a few lumps like this — some big, some small, some soft, some hard. Doc has told us it's just basically old age. Warts 'n' all.
posted by Brittanie at 1:30 PM on March 13, 2012

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in humans, and rarely causes problems. I think it acts somewhat differently in dogs, but according to the Merck Veterinary Manual, basal cell carcinomas rarely metastasize.

Depending on who you talk to, there's also a tendency to call certain kinds of growths in the skins of animals "basal cell tumors" (as opposed to "carcinoma"), and these would usually also be considered benign, though they're still usually removed by surgery.

I know you're freaking out a bit, but even if it is a malignant tumor, there's a very strong possibility that it can be cured with surgery alone.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:26 PM on March 13, 2012

I have no advice but just wanted to say I'm crossing fingers for your pup and you. I love her radical haircut. Very punk.
posted by kanata at 5:43 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your dog's radical haircut reminds me of my first dog. Does she still have a big crazy flag of a tail? Aww. Shaggy dogs are so great. I hope your girl is okay. And as infinitywaltz says, there's an excellent chance that surgery will solve the problem.

Even though it's not a lipoma, I wanted to add a tidbit my vet told me, once - another dog had been prone to getting them. The way the vet explained it to me was, "You know how sometimes there's a little fatty lump on the end of a steak? It's just like that." He then went on to warn me that if a lipoma grew in or near a joint, it could "put out legs like a jellyfish and get into the joint," so it was best to have them removed before they... jellyfished.

That guy could turn an interesting phrase... and he was right about the lipomas, as far as I know.
posted by cmyk at 8:26 PM on March 13, 2012

Hey, a not terribly newsy update: we had an appointment with our vet and the specialist who did the analysis of the aspirate today and it absolutely does look cancerous. We have an appointment Wednesday to remove the lump, after which a biopsy will be done. They are very optimistic because it seems the mass hasn't spread any "roots," etc. I'm happy with this, and it's what I actually wanted to suggest, since I figured that whatever the results of any test we'd have it removed anyway, so why double the doggy trauma – plus this means getting it out quicker.

So, not that there's that much knowledge to share at this point, but I've definitely decided to keep her coat trimmed shorter and not let it grow out to full-on Wookie in the winter months. The thing that bugs me a lot is that we noticed the lump immediately after her super short cut, and I have no idea how long ago it would have been noticeable to us if her coat hadn't been so long. Also, just insofar as her fine and curly and ridiculously generous coat mats easily, this can also cause irritation to the skin, so I want to eliminate that. And I'll certainly be doing regular checks for future bumps and lumps.

For others looking for info, I'll just echo OsoMeaty above and say it's probably a good idea to have any mystery lumps checked. I was aware of how relatively common lipomas are in dogs (though usually older and/or more overweight that ours, I think), and fully expected that it would be nothing more than that, but unfortunately this was not the case.

(and just for anyone who might be worried, I also wanted to mention that our vet has a great reputation, has practiced for many years – and is also our neighbor... and we actually have to force money on him most of the time when we go for visits, so definitely not a situation of assembly-line care or anything.)
posted by taz at 12:17 PM on March 16, 2012

10 months later, and the update is that the lump was removed, and there has been no trouble since then, and we are very glad! She's tucked up on a rug beside my desk as I write this, all snoozy and healthy and sound. :)
posted by taz at 11:55 AM on January 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

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