What to Do When You Find Lumps on Your Pet

(Photo by Veronika Homchis)

A Note From Dr. Ed:

I see dogs and cats daily with a wide variety of lumps and bumps.  Many times clients have located lumps and are simply keeping an eye out for changes in size or appearance.  Unfortunately, you cannot assume that a mass is a safe or benign growth just because the outward appearance is unchanged.  It is impossible for anyone, including veterinarians, to evaluate a mass on appearance alone.  I have seen very small masses that are malignant and very large masses that are benign.  So lets make this really simple and straightforward.

First, allow your veterinarian to evaluate the mass or lump carefully.  He or she will be able to make an educated guess as to the nature of the mass.  More than likely, your veterinary professional will then suggest a very simple diagnostic test– what is called a fine needle aspirate.  The aspirate allows your veterinarian to evaluate the general cell type found in the mass.  Then and only then can an assumption be made as to the potential risks to your pet.  If a diagnosis cannot be made after a careful examination and a fine needle aspirate of the bump, have the mass removed or biopsied.  Your veterinarian will then have the biopsy examined- we send biopsies to the local veterinary university for a histopathologist to examine.  

Rarely do we have a situation when a definitive diagnosis cannot be made from either a fine needle aspirate or biopsy.  Once that diagnosis is made, a treatment protocol can be implemented for your pet.  So remember: evaluate, aspirate, and if necessary biopsy, but never just watch a lump or bump on your pet.  

Our information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.  Do not use this information for diagnostic purposes. Always take your pet to your veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and course of treatment.