Can A Fatty Tumor Burst On A Dog?

What are fatty tumors in dogs?

Fatty tumors, also called lipomas, are benign lumps composed of fat tissue that commonly develop in middle-aged and older dogs (VCA Animal Hospitals). Lipomas usually appear as soft, rounded lumps under the skin and are most often found on the dog’s torso, upper legs, upper back, and shoulders, though they can develop anywhere (Denver Vets). The lumps are typically painless, freely movable under the skin, and covered by normal fur. Lipomas have definite margins but rarely have distinct capsules surrounding the lump.

Though the tumors are composed of fatty tissue, they feel different from the normal fat deposits under the skin. Lipomas have a rubbery or doughy texture rather than feeling soft or fluid-filled. The size of lipomas ranges considerably, from small bumps the size of a pea to large masses several inches in diameter. Though lipomas can develop internally, most are external tumors that are easy to find and diagnose.

The vast majority of fatty tumors are benign and harmless to the dog. However, in rare cases, they may cause discomfort if they compress internal organs or put pressure on nerves or blood vessels due to their location or large size.

What causes fatty tumors in dogs?

The exact cause of fatty tumors in dogs is unknown. However, there are some potential contributing factors that may lead to their development:

Genetics – Some breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, and Schnauzers seem predisposed to developing fatty tumors, suggesting there may be a genetic component.

Obesity – Overweight and obese dogs have a higher risk of fatty tumor development. Excess fat cells may promote tumor growth.

Age – Most dogs with fatty tumors are middle-aged to older. Fatty tumors typically develop in dogs over 8 years old.

Hormones – Hormonal imbalances may influence fatty tumor development. They are seen more often in neutered or spayed dogs.

Diet – There are suspicions that diets high in carbohydrates, preservatives or other toxins may contribute to lipoma development but no definitive link has been found.

While the specific triggers are unknown, keeping your dog at a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise may help reduce the chances of developing fatty tumors later in life.

Are fatty tumors dangerous for dogs?

Fatty tumors, also called lipomas, are usually benign and harmless growths of fat cells under a dog’s skin (VCA Animal Hospitals). Many dogs develop fatty tumors over the course of their lives, most often once they reach middle or senior age. In most cases, these fatty tumors cause no troubles for the dog.

However, while these tumors are generally benign and non-threatening, fatty tumors can become problematic depending on their size, rate of growth and location on the dog’s body (Windsor Vet). Large tumors can interfere with movement or physical activity. Lipomas growing on the joints, chest or belly can cause discomfort. Quickly growing fatty tumors can mechanically disrupt tissue. Very large lipomas may need to be surgically removed.

Fatty tumors near vital organs like the heart, lungs or abdomen can also cause complications. Dogs prone to multiple lipomas need regular vet monitoring to ensure none become problematic. So while lipomas are usually harmless lumps, owners should still keep an eye on their dog’s fatty tumors and alert the vet to any changes.

Can fatty tumors burst in dogs?

It is very rare for a fatty tumor (lipoma) to burst in dogs, but it is possible in some cases. Lipomas are benign fat-filled growths that develop under the skin and are usually soft and movable. They are generally harmless. However, if a lipoma grows very large, it can put pressure on surrounding tissues and potentially rupture.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, a lipoma is more likely to rupture if it develops in areas with little underlying support tissue, such as the chest or abdomen. A ruptured lipoma in these areas can cause leakage of fatty material into the body cavity, potentially leading to inflammation or infection.

Another instance in which a fatty tumor may rupture is if it develops over a joint, where constant motion can put pressure on it. Or if a lipoma becomes ulcerated, the overlying skin may rupture and leak fat cells.

Signs that a dog’s fatty tumor has ruptured include:

  • Swelling, redness, pain, and inflammation around the tumor
  • Bloody or yellow discharge coming from the lump
  • Loss of distinct edges as the tumor appears to spread
  • Thick scar tissue developing around the lump
  • Changes in the skin over the tumor, like hair loss or an ulcer
  • Fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite if infection develops

If you notice any signs of rupture, take your dog to the vet right away. Treatment may involve surgical removal, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Diagnosing fatty tumors in dogs

If your dog has a new lump or bump, the first step is to take them to the vet for an examination. The vet will perform a physical exam, feeling the mass and noting its size, texture, mobility, and location on your dog’s body. They will also take your dog’s full medical history into account.

For most lipomas, a physical exam is enough for the vet to make a diagnosis. Lipomas have a very distinct feel – they are soft, movable, and fluid-filled. The vet can use a needle to aspirate a small sample of the lump to confirm it contains fat cells. Imaging tests like ultrasounds or x-rays are not usually needed except in rare cases where the vet wants to examine the extent of particularly large or invasive lipomas.

If the lump has an unusual feel or appearance, the vet may recommend getting a biopsy to analyze a tissue sample. This is done using a special surgical needle to extract a small piece of the lump for examination. Biopsies allow the vet to determine if the mass is cancerous. Catching tumors early is crucial, so biopsy any questionable or rapidly growing lumps without delay.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 50% of skin tumors in dogs end up being benign fatty tumors. However, it’s important to get an official diagnosis from your vet instead of assuming. Some malignant cancers like liposarcomas can appear similar to lipomas at first. Your vet will determine if any additional tests are needed based on the exam and biopsy results.


Treating ruptured fatty tumors in dogs

If a fatty tumor ruptures, it can leave an open wound on the dog that requires first aid and veterinary treatment. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the initial first aid for a ruptured fatty tumor is to clean the wound with a saline solution or mild antiseptic to prevent infection.

The most effective treatment is surgical removal of the ruptured fatty tumor. As the Whole Dog Journal reports, surgery may require sedation and local anesthetic for small tumors, while large or multiple ruptured tumors may need full anesthesia. The veterinarian will surgically remove all damaged tissue to leave healthy margins around the wound.

Complications like continued bleeding or infection may arise after surgery to remove a ruptured fatty tumor. According to Embrace Pet Insurance, the veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics, recommend an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking, and provide detailed home care instructions for cleaning the surgery site to avoid complications. Monitoring the dog closely after surgery is important to ensure proper healing.

Preventing fatty tumors in dogs

Although the exact cause of fatty tumors in dogs is unknown, there are some steps owners can take to help prevent their development. One of the most important is maintaining a healthy weight for your dog. Research shows overweight and obese dogs are more prone to developing fatty tumors [1]. Keeping your dog at an optimal weight by properly measuring food portions and providing daily exercise can help avoid excess fat accumulation under the skin.

Providing good nutrition from high-quality commercial dog foods or balanced homemade meals is also recommended. Foods rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals can support skin health. Some owners also choose to add supplements like fish oil, vitamin E, and selenium after consulting a vet [2].

Limiting sun exposure may also be beneficial, as some research indicates sunlight could play a role in tumor growth. Using dog-safe sunscreen, avoiding peak sun hours, and providing shade can help reduce sun damage to the skin [3].

When to see a vet about a fatty tumor

Fatty tumors are usually benign, but you should take your dog to the vet if you notice any concerning changes in an existing tumor. Signs that a fatty tumor may need veterinary attention include:

Rapid growth or change in the tumor. Fatty tumors typically grow slowly over time. Sudden enlargement or alteration in the tumor could indicate a more serious issue like cancer, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.

Impairing movement or functions. Fatty tumors can sometimes interfere with mobility, breathing, eating, urination, and other vital functions if they develop in certain locations. See the vet promptly if the tumor seems to be restricting your dog’s normal activities.

Signs of rupture. Ruptured fatty tumors may leak fluid, appear red or inflamed, or develop a scab or open wound. Take your dog in right away if you notice any indications the tumor may have burst, recommends Denver Veterinary Clinic.

While most fatty tumors are benign, it’s always a good idea to have new growths examined by your veterinarian. Catching problems early maximizes treatment options. Your vet can determine if the tumor is a simple fatty mass or a potential malignancy requiring intervention.

Caring for a dog with fatty tumors

If your dog has fatty tumors, it’s important to properly monitor and care for them. Here are some tips for caring for a dog with fatty tumors:

Monitor the tumors closely for any changes in size, shape, texture, or color. Sudden growth or alterations may indicate the tumor is becoming problematic. According to the experts at VCA Animal Hospitals (, fatty tumors that grow quickly or reach a large size should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

Protect the tumors from trauma. Fatty tumors can rupture if they are hit or bumped forcefully. Try to avoid activities that could put pressure on or impact the tumors. Use a padded harness or vest to keep pressure off tumors on the chest or body when walking your dog.

Ensure your dog can move comfortably. Multiple fatty tumors or large tumors may restrict movement or impede joint function. Ask your vet about pain medication, joint supplements, or mobility assistance devices that can help your dog move freely and comfortably. According to WebMD (, surgery to remove problematic fatty tumors can restore mobility.

With monitoring and care, most dogs can live comfortably with fatty tumors. But be alert for any changes and discuss any concerns with your veterinarian.

Outlook for dogs with ruptured fatty tumors

With prompt veterinary treatment, the overall prognosis for dogs with a ruptured fatty tumor is generally good1. However, it’s important to watch for potential complications and provide proper follow-up care.

If the ruptured tumor becomes infected, dogs may require antibiotics and wound care. In severe cases, dogs may need surgery to fully remove the ruptured fatty tumor and prevent further infection2.

Dogs that have surgery will need to limit activity while recovering. Owners will need to keep the incision site clean and watch for signs of infection. Follow-up vet visits are crucial to monitor healing.

In cases where the tumor was cancerous (liposarcoma), dogs will require ongoing monitoring and treatment. Chemotherapy or radiation may be recommended after tumor removal.

While ruptured fatty tumors can be concerning, the prognosis is often positive if treated promptly. Stay vigilant of complications and maintain any follow-up care advised by your veterinarian.

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