You notice a round, soft lump on your senior dog under the skin of his belly. It doesn't seem to be bothering him, but just to make sure it isn't something serious, you take him to your veterinarian who diagnoses an adipose (fatty) lipoma tumour and recommends surgery. Consulting with your vet and educating yourself about lipomas can help you make a qualified decision regarding this surgery and the health of your pet.
A veterinarian diagnoses an adipose tumour by performing a small needle biopsy of the lesion and squirting the contents of the needle onto a glass slide. If, after being stained, the slide shows no cellular remnants, the vet assumes the tissue aspirated belonged to a fatty, benign tumour called a lipoma. Your vet might opt to send a tissue sample to a pathology laboratory to make a concrete diagnosis.
According to PetPlace.com, lipoma tumours reside under the skin typically on your older dog's chest, abdomen and legs where they feel like unattached, soft balls and cause no pain to your animal. Some lipomas develop in the deeper, muscle layers and have a tendency to be firmer and less defined. The less common, infiltrative lipomas expand into your dog's muscle tissues and may cause pain as they grow.
Your veterinarian might recommend surgical excision of the benign lipoma if it becomes large enough to inhibit your dog's movements or interfere with his lifestyle. Dr. Roger L. Welton of Maybeck Animal Hospital says, "In a minority of lipoma cases in large breed dogs, retrievers in particular, the lipomas can get very large, some even as large as basketballs."
If you decide on surgery for your animal, your vet will probably suggest pre-surgical blood testing to rule out any unknown diseases that could place your dog in jeopardy while under general anaesthesia. Your fully-asleep dog will be intubated during the surgery and the area of the lesion shaved and sterilised. The vet cuts through the skin layer to expose the lipoma, excises the tumour and ties off any blood vessels that may be bleeding. Once the tumour is removed, the vet sutures the various skin layers together, bandages your dog and awakens him. You can make the decision at this time whether to send the tumour for histology testing at a pathology lab to confirm your vet's diagnosis, if this procedure has not yet been performed.
Contraindications for Surgery
Because lipomas are generally benign, some vets will opt not to operate on animals that are very old, have heart disease, or have been diagnosed with kidney or liver disorders, due to the inherent dangers of placing at-risk dogs under general anaesthesia. The doctors at PetEducation.com say that the rarer infiltrative lipoma tumour is more difficult to remove and tends to recur--"just another reason that veterinarians are often reluctant to remove these tumours."
While the exact cause of lipomas is idiopathic (unknown), veterinarians consider them to be part of the canine ageing process, state the vets at VetInfo.com. Overweight, older female dogs develop lipomas more often, with Labrador retrievers, miniature schnauzers, Doberman pinschers and mixed breeds appearing more susceptible to the disorder.
You need to watch your dog for any surgical complications after lipoma surgery. including swelling and redness around the incision site, any discharge or any bad smell coming from the area. Your pet may need to wear an Elizabethan collar (e-collar) if he licks or chews at his sutures.
Veterinarians urge that you seek immediate veterinary care for any strange lumps or bumps on your animal because not all soft, round tumours are benign lipomas---a medical diagnosis is necessary to prevent certain cancers that appear similar to the lipoma from remaining untreated.