Finding a lump or an unusual bump on a pet can be a scary moment. So can all the moments spent waiting for answers and wondering what it means for a pet’s health. If you find lump or bump on your pet, before you panic, see your veterinarian immediately for diagnosis. There are several types of lumps and bumps, and not all mean cancer.

Types of Lumps and Bumps

Many types of lumps and bumps can appear on pets. Some turn out to be no big deal, and others are cause for concern.

One common lump is a lipoma. Lipomas are soft, fatty masses and are usually benign. They can remain one size or grow large over time.

Cysts are also common. Sebaceous cysts are generally harmless and caused by clogged pores and oil glands. Dead cell or sweat buildup can also cause cysts. Sometimes they rupture or disappear on their own. Even if they don’t go away on their own, and we must remove them, they aren’t necessarily harmful. Still, they can be tender and uncomfortable for pets.

Other bumps we see are warts, ingrown hairs, blood blisters, and even calluses. These just need monitoring for signs of infection or discomfort for pets.

Some lumps and bumps are, of course, cancerous tumors. These are either benign or malignant.

Benign tumors can either stay one size or grow, but they don’t spread to other parts of the body. Like other lumps, when they grow they can become large and uncomfortable for pets, sometimes reducing easy mobility.

Malignant tumors spread to other parts of the body, often quickly. Early diagnosis is imperative for increasing the chance of successful treatment.

Early Detection

Whether they turn out to be harmless of harmful, the best way to deal with lumps and bumps is to find them early. Know your pet’s body well, watch for bumps or skin abnormalities, and get them examined as soon as possible. Feel around your pet during baths and grooming, and during snuggles and rubs. Keep regular checkups with your pet’s veterinarian.

How Common Are They?

According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, 1 in 4 dogs will get lumps during their life. Nearly 50% of dogs over 10 will get cancer.  Unfortunately, there isn’t as much information about cancer rates in cats as there is in dogs. Tumors and growths are more common in dogs than in cats; however, tumors are more likely to be malignant in cats than benign.

How Do We Know if It’s Cancer?

The only way to be positive about the nature of a lump is with a biopsy. Sure, we see a lot of lumps and bumps and can have an idea about some (such as cysts, warts, and calluses) by the look and feel. However, for the most part, we have to biopsy a lump to know whether it’s cancerous and/or malignant. Depending on the practice and the lump, veterinarians will decide to either watch the lump for a bit, biopsy a part of it, or remove and biopsy all of it.


Diagnosing lumps begins with a physical exam and a conversation about patient history, behavior, and mobility. We’ll want to know when you noticed the lump, if it has grown or changed, and if there has been any changes in your pet’s behavior or any signs of illness.

When it comes to biopsies, veterinarians have a few options from which to choose:

  • Needle aspirations involve taking a sample of a lump with a small needle inserted into the mass.
  • An incisional biopsy cuts out a portion of the lump.
  • An excisional biopsy cuts out the entire lump.

At Sandia Animal Clinic, we send 95% of our lumps out for biopsy. We send 100% of lumps in cats out due to the high rate of malignancy.

Other Symptoms of Cancer

Often, cancer doesn’t have any symptoms in its early stages. Some that may occur include:

  • Lethargy or depression
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Stiff or painful gait
  • Swelling
  • Appetite/weight loss
  • Joint discomfort
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Blood/discharge

When you find a lump or bump on your pet, not worrying is difficult, but it’s best not to panic. Many growths turn out benign. Keep an eye out for anything abnormal, keep up with annual visits to the veterinarian, and get an immediate consult if you find anything concerning.

If your pet has developed a lump or bump, call us at 505-299-9533 for a check.

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