My Pet Has a Lump - What Do I Do?
Finding a lump on your pet can be a concerning discovery for any pet owner. Lumps can come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be caused by a number of things including, but not limited to:
1. An allergic reaction
4. A foreign body
5. Blocked glands or hair follicles
6. Benign growths
Some of these causes can be harmless and self limiting while others can be more serious. Heading to your vet should be your first point of call. Your vet can help you determine the next steps to take and whether any treatment is required.
1. Visual examination
Some lumps such as warts can be diagnosed based on their appearance.
2. Fine needle aspirate
A short procedure that can often be performed in the consultation room. The vet places a small needle into the lump and aspirates cells. These cells can then be viewed under a microscope.The vet may also choose to send the sample away to the lab and have them examined by a specialist pathologist.
3. Impression smear
If the lump is moist in nature then a glass slide can be pushed up against the lump to collect a sample of cells. The cells can then be viewed under a microscope.
This is where the whole lump or a piece of the lump is surgically removed and sent to the lab for diagnosis. This is the most accurate way to determine what a lump is however, typically it does require an anaesthetic and a short stay in the clinic.
Lumps can be treated in a variety of ways and depending on the results of the above tests your vet will formulate a plan for your pet.
Treatment options include:
- Medications to treat the underlying cause, for example, antibiotics if an infection is causing the lump.
- Monitoring. This is often a chosen option for benign lumps that aren't causing your pet any pain or discomfort. Measurements and photos of the lump can be taken and monitored for any changes over time.
- Surgical removal. This involves an anaesthetic and the lump is either removed fully (the ideal scenario) or the lump is partially removed (debulked). Debulking is often chosen if the location or size of the lump makes full removal difficult.
- Cryotherapy. This is where liquid nitrogen is used to freeze off the lump. This is generally only possible for small, superficial skin lumps.
- Immunotherapy. These are medications given as injections that stimulate the pets immune system to disrupt the survival of or destroy cancer cells. These can only be use for a few specific type of cancers.
- Chemotherapy or Radiation Therapy. These treatments are reserved for cancerous lumps and are often used as a follow up after surgical removal/debulking.
- Laser Therapy. This is a new area of veterinary medicine but some studies that have shown that therapeutic laser may help in some cancerous growths.
Some lumps such as those caused by foreign bodies like grass seeds can be prevented by regular grooming and inspection of your pets coat. Keeping their coat in top shape also helps prevent other conditions such as dermatitis. Check out our articles on how to groom your dog or cat for more tips and helpful products.
The best prognosis for lumps of any kind is early detection so, it's important to check your pet regularly for any changes. Many lumps and bumps are picked up during annual vaccinations or routine health checks so it's important to see your vet at least yearly for young pets and twice yearly for seniors.
To check for lumps at home run your hands over every surface of your pet's body. Be sure to check under the ears and tail. For long haired pets ensure to feel the skin under the coat. Any lumps should be photographed, location noted and checked over by your vet.