There are many types of lumps and bumps that can be found on our pets. It is difficult to determine the cause of a lump without examining it in person. We highly recommend that you have your pet’s lump examined by your veterinarian. Most lumps are harmless but in the worst case of scenarios some lumps can be dangerous and may be cancerous.

Types of lumps

Lipoma ‘Fatty Growth’

The lipoma is the most common benign (noncancerous) growth seen in pets. It can affect any pet regardless of their age or breed. These growths are an accumulation of fat cells that form cysts in the subcutaneous part of the skin. The subcutaneous skin is the area between the last inner layer of skin and the muscle. The cyst can grow larger over time and depending on where it is located it may or may not impede their mobility.

There are no specific symptoms associated with a lipoma except that you can feel and notice an obvious lump underneath the skin. In some cases smaller lipoma’s can grow around the original growth but they generally do not spread any further.

Mast cell tumours – Cancer

These types of lumps have no specific appearance and can spread rapidly. We consider these lumps the most dangerous and should be removed.

Breast cancer – Mammary tumours

Mammary tumours can be very aggressive and potentially life threatening if not removed. They can appear as a single lump or multiple smaller lumps and are detected by palpating the tissue.

These lumps can grow quickly and double in size in a matter of months. In some cases these lumps can bleed and become ulcerated and your pet may have a habit at licking them. Mammary tumours can grow and spread into the surrounding lymph nodes allowing for a rapid spread of the cancer cells to other parts of the body. This is why it relevant to have the lumps removed as soon as they have been detected.

It is rare to find mammary tumours in male pets however when detected they are often quite dangerous and spread rapidly.

Warts

Warts do not need to be removed unless they are causing discomfort for your pet. Your pet may scratch or lick a wart causing it to become inflamed and infected. In this case we would recommend removing it. Warts are often found on older dogs.

Histiocytoma

These are benign tumours and will often appear as a small round button shaped lump. Histiocytomas will usually go away by themselves over time.

Diagnosis

Unfortunately you cannot tell if a lump is cancerous by simply looking at it. Your veterinarian will need to perform some tests to determine the true nature of the lump.

Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s entire body to ensure there are no unidentified growths that you are unaware of. They will perform a test called a fine needle aspirate, which involves removing some of the growths cells with a very fine needle and looking at them under a microscope.

This is a simple procedure and it does not involve any form of sedation or anaesthetic. If the vet identifies any abnormal cells they may need to take a sample of the lump through a biopsy. This involves removing a small piece of the lump under anesthetic to send away to a pathologist for further testing. They will then send it to pathology for further examination.

Treatment

Removing the lump is not always required, many pet’s can live comfortably with a lump, however when it affects your pet’s health and mobility then it should be removed.

It’s important to recognise that other growths can have similar characteristics to each other, so we highly recommend if you ever find a lump on your pet to have your vet examine it.

If your vet recommends that the lump be removed, your pet will require a general anaesthetic to do so. The size of the lump and its location will affect how difficult the procedure will be to remove it. Your vet will discuss their plans to remove the lump with you and address any concerns your may have.

Solar Dermatitis and Squamous Cell Carcinoma

What is solar dermatitis?

Solar dermatitis (or actinic dermatitis) is a skin disease which is caused by exposure to the sun.  It occurs mainly in cats with white non-pigmented areas and the ear flaps, nose and lower eyelids are most commonly affected.  In the early stages the skin may look pink and scaly with some degree of hair loss but as the condition progresses the area becomes crusted and eroded.  The cat is often irritated by the lesions and if the ears are affected it may shake its head and cause bleeding from the ear tips.  If left untreated some cases progress and a malignant tumour (squamous cell carcinoma) can develop at the site.

What can be done to prevent the condition progressing?

Sunlight should be avoided. This is best achieved by keeping the cat indoors between the hours of 9.00 am and 4.00 pm on sunny days.  If this is not possible then one can try using sun block cream on the affected areas.  Unfortunately cats will rapidly groom or lick this off.  Some products may actually be toxic to cats so it is advisable to check with your vet before you start using a cream.  There is one sunblock cream available specifically formulated for cats.

How will I know if my cat has squamous cell carcinoma?

If your vet is at all concerned that the condition may be progressing to squamous cell carcinoma he will advise that a biopsy (a small tissue sample) is taken from the affected area.  The cat will need to have a general anaesthetic in order to do this.  The biopsy will be sent away to a histopathologist who will examine it under a microscope to see if malignant cells are present.

How is squamous cell carcinoma treated?

The treatment of choice is surgical removal of the affected area and a wide surrounding margin.  This usually straightforward if the ears are affected.  Complete removal of the ear flaps may be necessary; this has no detrimental affect on the cat and the final appearance is usually quite acceptable.  Surgery can be more difficult if the nose or eyelids are affected.  Where it is not possible to remove all the diseased tissue additional forms of therapy may be needed such as radiotherapy or cryosurgery.  Early cases are more amenable to these latter therapies.  In advanced cases with nose involvement, removal of the nose is possible as a last resort.

What is the likely outcome following surgery for squamous cell carcinoma?

The prognosis is usually good especially when the ears are involved and particularly if the disease is discovered early.  If all the diseased tissue is not adequately removed the tumour will recur at the operation site; this can be a problem if the nose or the eyelids are affected and is the reason why additional therapies are often used in these cases.  This type of tumour doesn’t spread very rapidly to other parts of the body.

What is solar dermatitis?

Solar dermatitis (or actinic dermatitis) is a skin disease which is caused by exposure to the sun.  It occurs mainly in cats with white non-pigmented areas and the ear flaps, nose and lower eyelids are most commonly affected.  In the early stages the skin may look pink and scaly with some degree of hair loss but as the condition progresses the area becomes crusted and eroded.  The cat is often irritated by the lesions and if the ears are affected it may shake its head and cause bleeding from the ear tips.  If left untreated some cases progress and a malignant tumour (squamous cell carcinoma) can develop at the site.

What can be done to prevent the condition progressing?

Sunlight should be avoided.  This is best achieved by keeping the cat indoors between the hours of 9.00 am and 4.00 pm on sunny days.  If this is not possible then one can try using sun block cream on the affected areas.  Unfortunately cats will rapidly groom or lick this off.  Some products may actually be toxic to cats so it is advisable to check with your vet before you start using a cream.  There is one sunblock cream available specifically formulated for cats.

How will I know if my cat has squamous cell carcinoma?

If your vet is at all concerned that the condition may be progressing to squamous cell carcinoma he will advise that a biopsy (a small tissue sample) is taken from the affected area.  The cat will need to have a general anaesthetic in order to do this.  The biopsy will be sent away to a histopathologist who will examine it under a microscope to see if malignant cells are present.

How is squamous cell carcinoma treated?

The treatment of choice is surgical removal of the affected area and a wide surrounding margin.  This usually straightforward if the ears are affected.  Complete removal of the ear flaps may be necessary; this has no detrimental affect on the cat and the final appearance is usually quite acceptable.  Surgery can be more difficult if the nose or eyelids are affected.  Where it is not possible to remove all the diseased tissue additional forms of therapy may be needed such as radiotherapy or cryosurgery.  Early cases are more amenable to these latter therapies.  In advanced cases with nose involvement, removal of the nose is possible as a last resort.

What is the likely outcome following surgery for squamous cell carcinoma?

The prognosis is usually good especially when the ears are involved and particularly if the disease is discovered early.  If all the diseased tissue is not adequately removed the tumour will recur at the operation site; this can be a problem if the nose or the eyelids are affected and is the reason why additional therapies are often used in these cases.  This type of tumour doesn’t spread very rapidly to other parts of the body.

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