What is Canine Lipoma and is it serious for your dog?, Deborah Shores, DVM, September 27th, 2013

What is Canine Lipoma?
Canine lipoma is one of the most common benign tumors found in dogs. These fatty growths are most frequently found on middle-aged to older dogs, particularly overweight females. Breeds with a predisposition for lipomas include Doberman Pinschers, Schnauzers, Labrador Retrievers, as well as mixed breeds.(1) 

If your dog has a tumor under the skin that seems fatty, it is important to have it evaluated by the veterinarian. Unfortunately, both owners and veterinarians have been fooled by malignant cancerous tumors and misdiagnosed them as lipomas. Mast cell tumors are the most common form of cancerous tumors, and sometimes fatally diagnosed as lipomas. For more information on mast cell tumors in canines, please refer to our previous article: Mast Cell Tumors. Liposarcomas, another form of fatty tumor, are malignant and can metastasize (spread) aggressively to other parts of the body. Thankfully, these tumors are far less common than lipomas.

What is the Cause of Canine Lipoma?

Veterinarians and experts are not sure what causes lipomas but genetics, chronic inflammation and environmental toxins may play significant roles.(2,3)
What are the Symptoms of Canine Lipoma?

Lipomas are fatty lumps found underneath the skin. They are typically soft and movable. Many dogs develop several lipomas over the course of their life. The presence of multiple lipomas is not an indication of malignancy. 

What are the Treatment Options for Canine Lipoma? 

We recommend contacting your local veterinarian for a complete diagnosis. The optimal way to determine what type of tumor your canine has is to perform a fine needle aspirate. This is a form of biopsy where a sterile needle is inserted into the tumor and cells are suctioned from the lump. These cells are then viewed under a microscope. If the cells have a normal appearance, then the tumor is benign. If the cells have an abnormal appearance, then the tumor is malignant. In some cases, the cells are not clearly defined, the aspirate should be sent to a veterinary pathologist for further evaluation or surgical removal of the lump may be recommended. 

The majority of dogs won’t need to have their lipomas surgically removed. However, if the tumor is restricting movement or causing your dog discomfort, your veterinarian may recommend removal. 

If the fatty lump is found to be a malignant tumor, then surgery is recommended. If caught early enough, your dog’s prognosis should be positive. 

What are the Alternative Treatment Options for Canine Lipoma?

It is best to locate a holistic veterinarian in your area who can suggest treatment options specifically tailored to fit your dog’s case. 

As with all types of cancer, feeding your dog a low-carbohydrate diet is best for maintaining a healthy immune system and combating cancer.(3,4) There are many raw and commercially produced dog foods that are filled with a variety of ingredients to ensure a well-balanced diet. If you choose to prepare a diet at home, we recommend that you contact a veterinary nutritionist for balanced recipes. 

Homeopathy can also help to either stop the tumors from growing and spreading, or help to decrease them in size. 

An omega fatty acids supplement is recommended for increasing blood flow, reducing inflammation and supporting a healthy immune system. 

Lastly, elimination of toxins in your dog’s environment can be a great help. Health supplements can also help your dog’s body detoxify. The herb Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) is an herb that protects the liver from damage by toxins, as well as having strong antioxidant properties.(5) Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, giving your dog a boost of energy. 

References:

(1)  Foil, S. 2004. Overview of Small Animal Cutaneous Neoplasms. LSU SVM Annual Dermatology Seminars Proceedings. Veterinary Information Network. 

(2)  Reimann, N. et al., 1999 June, Cytogenetic Investigation of Canine Lipomas. Cancer Genet Cytogenet. 111(2):172-4. 

(3)  Wallis, C. 2011. The Use of Chinese Herbal Medicine to Treat Cancer in Dogs. Wild West Veterinary Conference Proceedings. Veterinary Information Network.

(4)  Silver, R. 2013. Integrative Oncology: Blending the Best of Conventional with Evidence-Based and Supportive Complementary Therapies. Holistic Veterinary Medicine Club Symposium. Veterinary Information Network.  

(5)  Hackett, ES., Twedt, DC, Gustafson, DL. 2013 Jan-Feb. Milk Thistle and its Derivative Compounds: A Review of Opportunities for Treatment of Liver Disease.  J Vet Intern Med. 27(1):10-6.

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