Lumps and bumps are a common finding, especially in our older pets. The majority of lumps are harmless, but even these need to monitored on a regular basis.
I divide lumps into three general categories. First are the skin bumps that grow from the skin tissue. These look like warts or skin tags, and are sometimes just a bump that you feel more than see. The second group are the lumps that grow in the fat and muscle under the skin. They often feel fatty and round, and the skin moves over them. We call them subcutaneous masses. The last group is a situation where a subcutaneous bump is attached to the skin overlying it.
There are a few factors that help me determine how serious the lump may be. During the exam, we measure and map out the position of the growth as accurately as possible. Size, shape, color and texture are all assessed. Rate of growth is important, so rechecking these parameters after a few months is often recommended. Most lumps are benign (not dangerous), but even these can grow large enough to bother your pet and need to be removed. We can do a fine needle aspirate test to help us narrow down the possibilities. This is done during the office visit, and involves using a small needle to get a sample that is checked under the microscope. Sometimes a biopsy is needed. This requires a small piece of the mass that is then sent to a veterinary pathologist. Once we have identified what the growth is, then we can predict how it will behave and can decide if removal is necessary.
Any lump you find on your pet should be brought to our attention, but thankfully most will need no further treatment than just monitoring for change.