Finding a skin mass on your pet is a frightening experience, especially if you’ve ever lost a beloved animal friend to cancer. However, many of the nastiest looking skin masses turn out to be nothing more than a wart gone wild. Still, the seriousness at the other end of the spectrum, possibly a cancerous tumor, makes caution the best policy if you’ve discovered a lump or bump on your pet. Calling your veterinarian is first on the list, but knowing a bit about skin masses might help calm your frazzled nerves.
Benign is Best
- Despite the scary-sounding name, papillomas are simply warty growths that often appear as a dog ages. These warts have certain characteristics, they’re usually flesh-colored, but they can also be pink, black or grey. San Miguel Veterinary Clinic recommends you consider these growths “beauty marks” and not worry about removal – they are benign — unless your pet has one on his foot that makes it hard to walk or he/she becomes obsessed with licking it.
- Felt under the skin, lipomas are soft, fatty lumps that are usually benign and are incredibly common in dogs. The traditional veterinary community believes there is no breed, sex or age predisposition for the development of lipomas. And it’s true any dog can grow a lipoma – young, old, spayed, neutered, obese or thin. A lipoma in a muscle will feel very firm and might seem like a more serious situation, but chances are it’s nothing to worry about. San Miguel Veterinary Clinic recommends removal only if the fatty growths enlarge to the point of interfering with your pet’s quality of life. For instance, a large lipoma under a front leg might make it difficult for your pet to lie down.
- Sebaceous adenomas are another benign type of mass and affects oil glands in your pet’s skin. If the gland begins overproducing oil, it enlarges and forms a lump. As with other benign growths, removal might be recommended if the sebaceous adenoma is on a limb or if the dog just won’t stop licking or chewing that spot. As with other examples, removal in those cases would improve a pet’s quality of life.
- Sebaceous cysts, which many humans also experience, occur when hair follicles become blocked by surface debris. With the blockage, sebum (a material resembling cottage cheese) builds up in the follicle and causes a lump. Infection can occur with these benign cysts and your veterinarian may choose to surgically remove the mass.
Defining the Difference Your veterinarian will likely order a biopsy or skin scraping if he/she’s having difficulty identifying what condition is responsible for your pet’s skin mass. Small growths, those less than 1 inch, may be removed entirely via an excisional biopsy and can be sent for analysis at a lab. Pathologists will examine the cells under a microscope and determine whether the growth comes from a benign source, such as a papilloma, or a more serious condition, such as mast cell tumor. If your pet’s mass is larger than an inch, your veterinarian may choose to do a fine-needle aspirate. For this, she’ll insert a needle into the mass itself and use the syringe plunger to collect cells for inspection under the microscope. Another option is an incisional biopsy where just a piece of the mass is removed.
Treating Your Pet Treatment for your pet’s mass depends upon the age and overall health of your friend as well as the type of mass. San Miguel Veterinary Clinic notes that surgical removal of certain canine mast cell tumors, those that have not metastasized or spread, may result in a cure. However, having one mast cell tumor puts your pet at risk for developing more later in life, making careful monitoring a priority.
Catching it Early Whether it’s an inflamed cyst that needs draining or a tumor that requires surgical removal, discovering a skin mass early in its development and having it checked by your veterinarian often makes treatment easier and may increase the odds of a favorable outcome. This gives you one more reason to schedule a weekly at-home full body petting session for your dog or cat. Masses, lumps or bumps are easy to miss during the course of a normal day, even if your pet has short hair, but they become obvious during one-on-one time
The above article is courtesy of Purina.