Can Exercise Reduce Lipoma In Dogs?

What are Lipomas?

Lipomas are benign fatty tumors that commonly develop between a dog’s skin and muscle layer. They are soft, movable lumps made up of fat cells that clump together in a capsule (1).

In dogs, lipomas most often occur on the torso, upper legs, upper back, and shoulders. They can range in size from a marble to a softball, and some dogs may develop multiple lipomas. While lipomas can develop anywhere on a dog’s body, they are not typically found on the head or lower legs (2).

Causes of Lipomas

The main cause of lipomas in dogs is hereditary. Certain breeds, like Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Weimaraners, are genetically predisposed to developing lipomas (WebMD). The specific genes involved are not fully understood, but the inherited tendency is clear.

While genetics plays a major role, other factors may contribute to lipoma development as well. Possible secondary causes include obesity, poor nutrition with excessive carbohydrates and toxins, hormonal imbalances, and trauma to the tissue (VCA Animal Hospitals). However, the links between these factors and lipoma formation require more research.

Overall, heredity appears to be the primary underlying cause in susceptible dog breeds. But other influences like diet, hormones, and injury may also promote lipoma growth in some cases.

Risk Factors

Certain dog breeds seem to be more prone to developing lipomas than others. According to the Veterinary Ireland Journal, breeds with the highest odds of lipomas include Doberman Pinschers, Weimaraners, Labrador Retrievers, and Springer Spaniels. The Denver Vet also notes that Weimaraners and Labradors are more susceptible to lipomas.

While lipomas can develop in dogs of any age, they tend to occur most often in middle-aged and older dogs, usually around 8 years of age or later. As dogs get older, they become more likely to develop fatty tumors like lipomas.

Symptoms of Lipomas

The main symptom of lipomas in dogs is the appearance of lumps under the skin. According to the Denver Vet (https://www.denvervet.com/site/blog/2022/08/31/fatty-tumor-lipoma-dog), these lumps are usually soft, hemispherical, and can be easily felt just under the skin’s surface. Lipomas tend to be painless in most cases, although some dogs may show signs of discomfort if the lipoma interferes with joint movement.

As noted by Embrace Pet Insurance (https://www.embracepetinsurance.com/health/lipoma), lipomas can range in size from very small to quite large. Giant lipomas that grow rapidly may impede a dog’s mobility by restricting joint movement. According to WebMD (https://www.webmd.com/pets/dogs/what-to-know-lipoma-in-dogs), lipomas commonly develop on the torso, upper legs, upper back, and shoulders in dogs.

While lipomas are usually benign, it’s important to have any new lumps examined by a veterinarian to rule out the possibility of a malignant tumor. Lipomas generally continue to slowly enlarge over time.

Diagnosing Lipomas

If a lump is suspected to be a lipoma, the vet will first do a physical exam, feeling and inspecting the mass. Lipomas have a soft, movable texture under the skin. The vet will note the location, size, texture, and whether it seems to be attached to any underlying structures (1).

To confirm the diagnosis, the vet may recommend tests like a fine needle aspiration or biopsy. A fine needle aspiration involves inserting a small needle into the mass and suctioning out some cells for examination under a microscope. If the results are inconclusive, the vet may take a tissue biopsy – surgically removing a small piece of the lump for biopsy (2). These tests allow the vet to analyze the cells to confirm that the mass is just a benign lipoma, and not another type of tumor.

Imaging tests like x-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans may also be used to get a better view of the size and location of the lipoma. These help determine if the lipoma is affecting any other structures before considering removal (3).

With a combination of a physical exam, diagnostic tests, and imaging, vets can definitively diagnose lipomas in dogs.

Sources:
(1) https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/adipose-lipoma-tumors
(2) https://www.webmd.com/pets/dogs/what-to-know-lipoma-in-dogs
(3) https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/skin/c_multi_lipoma

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options for lipomas in dogs depending on the size and location of the growth:

Observation – For small lipomas that are not bothering the dog, vets may recommend monitoring the lipoma and observing for changes. Lipomas often grow slowly and may not require treatment unless they impact mobility or quality of life.[https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/adipose-lipoma-tumors]

Surgical Removal – Surgical removal is the most common and effective treatment for lipomas in dogs. Especially for large, fast growing, or problematic lipomas, surgery can remove the entire mass and prevent recurrence. The surgery is minimally invasive for small accessible lipomas. Risks include infection, bleeding, reactions to anesthesia, and recurrence if margins are not clean.[https://www.webmd.com/pets/dogs/what-to-know-lipoma-in-dogs]

Lipomas attached to deeper structures or in tricky locations may require more complicated surgery and recovery. Vets will assess surgical risks vs benefits for each individual dog.

Can Exercise Reduce Lipomas?

There is no concrete scientific evidence that exercise alone can reduce existing lipomas in dogs. However, regular exercise may help prevent obesity, which is considered a minor risk factor for developing lipomas.

Some anecdotal reports indicate that activities like walking, swimming, or massage may help shrink lipomas by improving circulation and reducing inflammation around the fatty tumors. However, there are no veterinary studies confirming exercise as an effective lipoma treatment. According to WagWalking.com, “The exercise and fresh air can go a long way toward helping to improve the health … lipoma development can be avoided or the size of an existing tumor reduced.”

While exercise cannot cure or eliminate lipomas, keeping your dog active and maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise is still an important part of caring for a dog prone to developing fatty tumors. Consult your veterinarian about safe and appropriate exercise plans for your individual dog.

Lifestyle Changes

Making lifestyle changes can be an effective way to reduce lipomas in dogs. Two of the most important lifestyle factors are weight management and monitoring growth.

If a dog is overweight or obese, reducing body fat through diet and exercise may help shrink existing lipomas and prevent new ones from developing (Source). Gradual weight loss is recommended, as crash dieting can be harmful. Feeding a high-protein, low-carb diet and ensuring the dog gets regular, moderate exercise like walking can assist with weight management.

It’s also important to monitor any lipomas closely and watch for rapid growth. Measuring the lipomas periodically with calipers and tracking the dimensions can reveal if they are enlarging quickly (Source). Sudden growth may indicate the lipoma is at risk for infection or other complications, requiring veterinary care. Catching changes early allows for earlier intervention.

While lifestyle changes may not eliminate lipomas completely, managing weight and monitoring growth can help control their progression and prevent associated health issues.

Outlook for Dogs with Lipomas

Lipomas are typically benign fatty masses that develop under the skin of dogs 1. They are usually slow growing tumors comprised of fat cells that clump together in a capsule in between the skin and muscle layer 2. While a single lipoma can develop, it is also common for some dogs to develop multiple lipomas over time.

The outlook for dogs with lipomas is generally good since these fatty tumors tend to be benign. Lipomas typically grow very slowly over a period of months or years. Most will remain small, around 1-2 inches in diameter. While they may continue growing, lipomas do not normally impair a dog’s health or quality of life. Some lipomas may shrink slightly in size on their own as well.

In rare cases, a lipoma may grow rapidly or become quite large, over 10 inches wide. Giant lipomas can restrict movement or impede other tissues. Though uncommon, a lipoma could also obstruct vision or breathing if it develops in certain locations. These scenarios warrant removal. Overall though, the prognosis is positive for most dogs with lipomas with early detection and periodic monitoring.

When to See the Vet

While most lipomas are benign and do not require removal, there are some instances when you should have your veterinarian examine your dog’s lipoma:

  • The lipoma is growing rapidly – According to the experts at Denvers Hills Pet Hospital, rapid growth of a lipoma may indicate it is becoming cancerous. Your vet can perform tests to determine if the cells are benign or malignant (https://www.denvervet.com/site/blog/2022/08/31/fatty-tumor-lipoma-dog).
  • The lipoma interferes with movement – Lipomas located near joints or pressure points can impede your dog’s mobility. Your vet may recommend removing the lipoma to improve your dog’s quality of life (https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/adipose-lipoma-tumors).
  • Signs of irritation – If the lipoma is located in an area prone to friction, such as the leg or neck, it may become irritated and inflamed. Redness, swelling, and discharge can indicate infection. Your vet can provide medication or recommend removal.

Early evaluation and treatment of problematic lipomas can prevent complications. Contact your veterinarian if your dog’s lipoma changes size, texture or causes discomfort.

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