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Fatty Tumors on Dogs - What They Are & How They're Treated

While finding a lump or bump on your dog is bound to cause you concern, not all lumps are cancerous. Fatty tumors are common in dogs, particularly in pups that are middle-aged and older. Our North Asheville vets explain what fatty tumors are and how they can be treated.

What are dog fatty tumors?

Often seen in middle-aged and senior dogs, fatty tumors - also referred to as simple lipomas - are painless, soft, and mobile lumps made up of fat cells. Although most often found on the abdomen and chest these fatty masses can develop anywhere on your dog's body, just under the skin. 

A number of breeds that seem to be more susceptible to developing lipomas including Weimaraners, Labs, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Beagles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Dobermans. Female dogs that are overweight are also more prone to lipomas.

There are 3 types of lipomas seen in dogs:

Simple Lipomas

Simple lipomas develop in the fatty tissue layer found under your dog's skin, and tend to grow slowly. They are movable and do not cause your dog any discomfort or pain. This type of lipoma is typically found on the dog's tummy, chest or abdomen.

Infiltrative Lipomas

This type of lipomas can be firm and fixed in place, or soft and mobile, and tends to be 'locally aggressive' meaning that it may spread to surrounding tissues. In some cases, these lipomas grow between muscle layers which can lead to discomfort.


Myelolipomas are also benign, but these fatty tumors in dogs are made up of both fat cells and hematopoietic cells and typically develop on the dog's adrenal glands, liver, or spleen.

How can I tell if my dog's lump is a fatty tumor?

If your dog develops a lump or bump it is extremely important to book an appointment with your vet to have it investigated. While your dog's lump may be a harmless lipoma, if the lump does turn out to be a form of cancer early detection and treatment are essential for good treatment outcomes. 

Lipomas are characterized as small, hemispherical lumps that can be felt just under your dog's skin. The lump will likely feel somewhat soft and you will be able to move it a little, although it's important to keep in mind that firmer, stationary lipomas are also fairly common.

Your vet will perform a fine needle aspiration, to suction out a sample of cells which will be examined under a microscope by a veterinary pathologist. If your pup's results are unclear, your vet may recommend a biopsy or histopathology in order to determine a more clear diagnosis of your pet's condition.

What causes fatty tumors in dogs?

Lipomas are thought to occur due to a number of factors including diet, genetics, chemicals in the environment, drug interactions and more. Although it may not be possible for your vet to determine the cause of your dog's lipoma, maintaining your dog's weight at a healthy level may help to prevent lipomas from occurring.

Will my dog's fatty tumor continue to grow?

While these fatty tumors are not malignant and will not metastasize (spread to other parts of your dog's body), they may continue to grow and start to cause discomfort depending on their location.

Each dog is unique and lipomas can grow at varying rates. While many grow very slowly, and may never become a real concern, others will grow rapidly and may become problematic.

What is the treatment for fatty tumors in dogs?

The need for treatment will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Since most lipomas grow slowly your vet may suggest simply monitoring the lump for changes. If it suddenly begins to grow, becomes painful for your dog, or changes texture let your vet know right away.

If your dog's lipoma is in an uncomfortable location, such as near a joint, your vet may recommend having the lump surgically removed.

Infiltrative lipomas can prove more challenging to remove since they typically grow quickly and surround nearby tissues leading to discomfort for your pup. Your vet may recommend surgery to remove as much of the lipoma as possible followed by radiation therapy to deal with the remaining lipoma tissue.

In some cases lipomas can be treated by injecting the lump with a steroid in order to help shrink the tumor, however many lipomas return in as little as 6 months when this treatment is used.

Speak to your vet in order to determine the best treatment for your canine companion.

How much does dog fatty tumor removal cost?

The cost of removing your dog's fatty tumor will depend upon a number of factors, including the location of the lipoma, size and the complexity of the removal process. To get an accurate estimate of the cost for removing your dog's fatty tumor speak to the team at your veterinary office. Most vets are happy to provide clients with a breakdown of the costs associated with procedures such as fatty tumor removal, and will be able to answer any questions you may have.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your pup have an unexplained lump or bump? Contact Animal Hospital of North Asheville today to book an examination for your dog with one of our experienced vets.

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