Can I Drain My Dogs Lipoma?

What is a Lipoma?

A lipoma is a benign (noncancerous) fatty tumor that develops just under the skin of dogs, usually in middle-aged to older dogs (source: Lipomas are made up of fat cells and feel soft and movable under the skin. They are usually oval or round in shape.

Lipomas commonly occur on the torso, upper legs, upper back, and shoulders in dogs, but they can develop anywhere. Most lipomas grow slowly over time and rarely reach sizes over 2-3 inches in diameter. Dogs can develop single lipomas or multiple lipomas throughout their body (source:

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of lipomas in dogs is not fully understood, but there are some possible contributing factors:

Genetics – Certain breeds like Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, and Schnauzers are more prone to developing lipomas, suggesting there may be a hereditary component. The tendency to develop lipomas can run in certain family lines (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Diet – There are theories that consuming high carbohydrate kibble and treats may contribute to lipoma development, though no definitive link has been established. Some vets recommend reducing carbs and feeding high protein or raw diets to prevent lipomas (Embrace Pet Insurance).

Obesity – Overweight and obese dogs appear to be at higher risk for lipomas. Excess fat cells may multiply rapidly and form lipomas. Maintaining an ideal body condition score may help prevent lipomas (WebMD).

Age – Most dogs develop lipomas between ages 6-10. The risk increases as a dog ages. Though lipomas are usually benign, regular vet monitoring is important as dogs age (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Injury or Trauma – There are anecdotal reports of lipomas developing after blunt injury, though the connection is not proven. Minimizing injury through proper exercise, play, and handling may be wise.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common and visible symptom of a lipoma is the formation of a lump or mass under the skin, which you can easily feel with your hands. According to WebMD, lipomas often feel soft and movable under the skin.

Typically, lipomas develop just under the skin, so they present as raised lumps. They are often dome-shaped or hemispherical when you feel them. The lumps are generally not painful or itchy for the dog.

However, WebMD notes that lipomas can cause discomfort or pain if they press on nearby nerves or organs. For example, a lipoma in the leg could put pressure on nerves and lead to limping. A lipoma in the abdomen could push on internal organs.

Lipomas usually grow slowly over time. Pet owners may first notice a small lump that gradually increases in size. Larger lipomas may need surgical removal, but many small lipomas can just be monitored.

According to the Thornton Veterinary Clinic, lipomas often form on the torso, legs, and shoulders. But they can develop anywhere on the body where fat tissue is present.

Diagnosing Lipomas

To diagnose lipomas, your vet will first perform a physical exam of your dog. They will look for lumps under your dog’s skin and feel them to determine if they seem fluid-filled or more solid. Often a vet can make a presumptive diagnosis of a lipoma based on the location of the mass and the feel of it. Lipomas tend to be soft, movable, and located just under the skin.

However, to confirm the diagnosis, the vet may recommend tests like a fine needle aspirate or biopsy (1). A fine needle aspirate involves inserting a small needle into the mass and suctioning out some cells. These cells can then be looked at under a microscope to determine if they appear consistent with a lipoma, which is made up of fat cells. The biopsy removes a small piece of the mass with a larger needle so it can also be examined under a microscope.

These tests help differentiate lipomas from other tumors or masses like cysts or fatty tumors called liposarcomas that may require different treatment. While most lumps on dogs end up being harmless lipomas, it’s always best to have them properly diagnosed by a veterinarian.

Draining or Removing Lipomas at Home

While you may be tempted to drain or try removing your dog’s lipoma at home, this is generally not recommended. There are significant risks with attempting to drain or remove a lipoma without professional veterinary training.

Some of the at-home methods that dog owners may attempt include:

  • Lancing or puncturing the lipoma with a sterile needle to drain fluid
  • Trying to cut open and drain the lipoma
  • Attempting to surgically remove the lipoma
  • Using topical herbal remedies or essential oils on the skin over the lipoma

However, these methods come with risks such as infection, bleeding, trauma to surrounding tissue, recurrence of the lipoma, and failure to fully remove the growth. Damage caused at home could also make it more difficult for a vet to properly treat the lipoma later on.

It’s best to avoid manipulating or interfering with a lipoma at home. Only your veterinarian has the proper training, sterile equipment, and experience to drain or remove a dog’s lipoma safely. Home treatment could end up being painful for your dog while also delaying proper veterinary care.

Getting Veterinary Care

Taking your dog to the vet is the safest way to get a lipoma removed. Lipoma removal should always be performed by a licensed veterinarian.

The most common method for removing a lipoma is surgical excision. The vet will surgically cut out the lipoma through an incision over the tumor. The incision is then closed with stitches or staples. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, surgical removal is the most effective lipoma treatment when the tumors are small. 1

After surgery, you’ll need to keep the incision site clean and dry. Your vet will provide instructions on caring for the incision area. This may include the use of an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking, as well as monitoring for signs of infection. Pain medication may also be prescribed for a few days after surgery.

The full recovery period is usually around 2 weeks. Sutures or staples will need to be removed 10-14 days after surgery. Your vet will schedule a follow-up appointment to check the incision site. According to the Animal Surgical Center, there should be minimal scarring after the incision heals. 2

It’s important to note that not all lipomas need surgical removal. Your vet will be able to determine if the lipoma is benign and can be safely left alone. They will also advise you on any potential risks or complications from surgically removing the specific lipoma.

Aftercare at Home

After your dog has surgery or drainage for a lipoma, proper at-home care is crucial for recovery. Here are some tips for caring for your dog after lipoma removal:

Keep the incision site clean and dry. Use an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking or biting. Check the incision site twice daily for signs of infection like redness, swelling, discharge, or odor. Contact your vet if you notice anything abnormal. Give any prescribed antibiotics or pain medication as directed.

Restrict activity for 10-14 days after surgery to allow the incision to heal. Take your dog on short, leashed walks for bathroom needs only. Prevent running, jumping, swimming, and rough play. Confine your dog when you cannot directly supervise.

Follow your vet’s instructions on changing bandages and sutures. Sutures may need to be removed 10-14 days post-op. Watch for any opening of the incision.

Your vet may recommend cold compresses on the surgery site to help with pain and swelling. Provide a comfortable, safe space for your dog to recover.

Monitor your dog closely for signs like appetite changes, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, or depression which could indicate complications. Alert your vet immediately if you have any concerns.

With proper at-home aftercare following professional drainage or surgical removal, most dogs recover fully from benign lipomas. However, monitor the site long-term as lipomas can potentially reoccur. Contact your vet if you notice any new lumps or bumps.

Outlook and Monitoring

After having your dog’s lipoma removed or drained, long-term monitoring by a veterinarian is important. Lipomas can reoccur, so your vet will likely want to examine your dog periodically to check for any new lumps developing under the skin.

The prognosis for a dog after a lipoma is properly treated is generally good. If the lipoma is completely removed by surgery, there is a low chance of it growing back in the same area. However, dogs prone to developing lipomas may grow new ones over time. Your vet may recommend checking your dog once or twice a year to monitor for any new lumps.

With proper monitoring and care, most dogs recover well after lipoma treatment. Catching and addressing any new lipomas early provides the best chance for a straightforward removal and recovery.

Preventing Lipomas

There is no guaranteed way to prevent lipomas from developing in dogs. However, there are some steps you can take to help reduce your dog’s risk of getting them:

Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and obese dogs are more prone to developing lipomas, so keeping your dog at a healthy weight is important. Feed an age-appropriate dog food in proper portions and make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise.

Feed a high-quality diet. Some research suggests that feeding a diet high in carbohydrates may increase a dog’s risk for developing lipomas. Choose a dog food low in carbs and high in protein and healthy fats.

Consider supplements. Some supplements like fish oil, vitamin E, and turmeric may help reduce inflammation and support skin health. Talk to your vet before starting any new supplements.

Provide enrichment. Keeping your dog mentally and physically stimulated may help lower the chances of lipomas developing. Provide interactive toys, take them on walks and hikes, and practice training sessions.

While you can take steps to reduce the risks, there is no guaranteed way to fully prevent lipomas in dogs. Monitor your dog closely and take them to the vet promptly if you find any lumps or bumps.

When to See a Vet

In most cases, lipomas in dogs are benign and do not require immediate veterinary care. However, there are some signs that indicate it’s time to take your dog to the vet:

Rapid growth of the lipoma – A quickly enlarging lump could indicate a more serious issue like a malignant cancer instead of a benign fatty tumor. You’ll want your vet to evaluate and test it (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Lipoma is inflamed, bleeding, or ulcerated – This could be a sign of infection or that the lump is interfering with normal body functions. Seek veterinary care to treat the inflammation and prevent complications (Denver Vet).

Lipoma is rapidly growing and impairing movement – A lipoma that develops in joints like the armpits or groin can make movement difficult for a dog. A vet should evaluate if surgical removal is necessary (ToeGrips).

Lipoma is located in a sensitive area – Lipomas around the eyes, ears, genitals, or anus can irritate sensitive nerves and tissues. Seek treatment before it impacts your dog’s comfort.

Overall changes in your dog’s health – If your dog seems lethargic, loses appetite, or shows other signs of illness along with the lipoma, a veterinary exam is needed to check for underlying conditions.

In an emergency, take your dog to the vet right away if the lipoma is bleeding profusely, impairing breathing or bowel movements, or causing acute pain. Fast veterinary attention is crucial in these situations.

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