What to Know About Lipoma in Dogs

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on December 09, 2021
3 min read

lipoma is a benign (noncancerous) tumor of fat in middle-aged or older dogs. Lipomas can grow anywhere on the dog's body, even inside their abdomen. But the most common growth is under their skin near the fat.

This condition is likely to happen more in overweight dogs as they age. Some lipomas are usually unnoticeable, while others can cause discomfort when your pet walks. 

A lipoma is a common type of benign skin tumor found in dogs

It is identified by the collection of fat cells on the outside or inside the dog's body. Lipomas usually grow on the pet's abdomen, chest, or legs.

Some dogs don't have a lipoma in their entire life, while others can have multiple lipomas throughout their life.

When these tumors grow between the dog's muscle layers, the condition is known as an infiltrative lipoma. The malignant, or cancerous, form of lipoma is called liposarcoma. These tumors typically don’t spread to other body parts.

Even so, a lipoma has no growth limits. A fast growing lipoma can affect a dog's blood supply and cause pain. Lipomas can also affect the daily activities of dogs, including their mobility.

A lipoma is different from a lymphoma. Lymphoma is a dangerous tumor of lymph nodes in canines, while lipomas are benign tumors.

All types of dog breeds are vulnerable to developing lipoma, but Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers, Cocker spaniels and Golden retrievers are more at risk for lipomas.

There is no specific cause for lipoma in dogs. Most health care professionals believe that cancers, including lipoma, are caused by different environmental and genetic factors combined.

The most visible symptom of a lipoma is the formation of lumps or fatty tumors on dogs, which you can easily feel with your bare hands. The vet checks these lumps underneath your dog's skin where the fat is present.

The shape and texture of a lipoma vary from dog to dog. Some lipomas are round or oval, while the others can be irregular or more bulging. They can feel either "squishy" or "firm" in texture. Some lipomas are also firmly stuck in their places but can be moved around a little if they are not attached to the surrounding tissues.

The best treatment for lipoma in dogs is surgical removal, but some vets also opt for monitoring their growth.

The majority of lipomas don't cause a problem. Still, the lumps can begin to affect mobility. If you are concerned about your dog's health, it's better to get them checked before the lipoma grows and becomes enlarged.

If the lipoma is small, the surgery is usually less invasive, and the incision is less painful to your pet. 

There is a chance that your dog has recurring infiltrative lipomas and liposarcomas after the surgery. The vet will likely recommend surgical removal again, followed by radiation therapy.

If you and your vet decide to follow the monitoring approach, pay attention to the size and growth of the lumps. Apart from size, watch for changes in shape and firmness of the lipoma. Use your phone to capture images or note the size of the lump at least every six months. You can also keep a record of photos to compare the growth easily.

If your dog seems unaffected by the lump, don’t worry. If you observe them being irritated or struggling to walk properly, you should talk to your vet about surgery.

You can also develop a diet plan for your dog to maintain their weight. This helps in controlling the growth of lipomas and avoiding their development in the future. Some lipomas shrink with weight loss.