Do Lipomas In Dogs Appear Suddenly?

What are Lipomas?

Lipomas are benign (noncancerous) tumors made up of fat cells. They are soft, movable lumps that form under the skin, usually on the dog’s trunk or limbs (WebMD).

Lipomas are commonly located on the chest, abdomen, legs, and armpits. They range in size from the size of a pea to the size of a softball, though most are smaller than 2 inches across (VCA Hospitals).

Certain breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, and Miniature Schnauzers are more prone to developing multiple lipomas, while mixed breeds tend to get single lipomas (WebMD).

Causes and Development

The exact causes of lipomas in dogs are unknown. However, there are some potential contributing factors that may lead to their development:

Genetics – Certain breeds like Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers seem predisposed to developing lipomas, indicating there may be a hereditary component [1].

Obesity – Overweight dogs tend to get more lipomas, as excess fat cells can more readily multiply and clump together [2].

Age – Most lipomas develop in middle-aged to older dogs between the ages of 6-10. As dogs naturally gain fat as they age, they may be more prone to lipoma development [3].

Ultimately lipomas form from fat cells multiplying and clumping together to form a soft, moveable lump under or on top of the skin. While the exact trigger is unknown, contributing factors like genetics, obesity, and age likely play a role.

Do Lipomas Develop Suddenly?

Lipomas typically develop slowly over a period of weeks or months. They often start out small and can go unnoticed by owners until they reach a larger size. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, “every lipoma is different; some may grow rapidly and some may take years to grow large enough to be of concern” (

Since lipomas tend to grow gradually within the fatty tissue layer under a dog’s skin, owners frequently don’t notice them until they become sizable lumps. The slow-growing nature of lipomas means they do not appear overnight or develop suddenly.

According to the Tucson Emergency Vet, “Simple lipomas develop in the fatty tissue layer found under your dog’s skin, and tend to grow slowly. They are movable and do not cause your dog pain or discomfort. Most dogs live comfortably with these fatty tumors” (

While some lipomas may grow more quickly than others, it is not typical for them to appear abruptly or develop overnight in dogs. Careful monitoring for changes in existing lipomas or new growths is recommended, but rapid onset is uncommon.


The most common symptom of a lipoma is the appearance of a soft, movable lump under the dog’s skin (Denver Vet, 2022). Lipomas are often painless, so they may go unnoticed for some time. The tumors are usually soft and pliable, allowing them to be moved around under the skin with relative ease.

Lipomas can develop anywhere on a dog’s body, but they are most commonly found on the torso, upper legs, and shoulder areas. As the lipoma grows larger in size, it may become more noticeable visually as a bulge under the skin. Owners may also notice the lipoma more by feeling it when petting or brushing their dog.

While small lipomas generally do not cause any issues, larger tumors can become problematic. A lipoma that grows too large in size may obstruct movement or impede other functions. Large lipomas may also droop and become irritated in the skin folds of certain breeds. In some cases, a lipoma that was previously painless may become tender and bothersome when it reaches a certain size (Embrace Pet Insurance, n.d.). Any lipoma causing interference or discomfort should be evaluated by a veterinarian.


If you find a lump on your dog, the vet will first do a physical examination of the mass. They will check the location, size, texture, and whether it seems fixed to underlying tissues or freely movable. The vet will also take your dog’s full medical history into account.

Often, a vet can make a preliminary diagnosis of a lipoma based on the appearance and feel of the lump during the physical exam. Lipomas tend to be soft, movable masses that are located just under the skin, usually on the torso, limbs, or head/neck. They have defined edges and often feel like a rubbery bulge under the skin.

To confirm the diagnosis, the vet may recommend a fine needle aspiration (FNA). This involves inserting a small needle into the mass and suctioning out some cells for examination under a microscope. Finding fat cells confirms that the lump is a benign lipoma rather than another type of tumor (

If the lump’s characteristics are unclear, additional diagnostic imaging may be recommended, such as an ultrasound or x-rays. These imaging tests can help determine the extent of the mass and whether it is affecting any underlying structures.


Treatment for canine lipomas depends on the size and symptoms. If the lipoma is small and not bothering the dog, vets often recommend simply observing it. According to VCA Hospitals, “The single most effective treatment for lipomas is surgical removal. It is best to remove these masses when they are small; the surgery is usually less invasive…”

For larger lipomas that are growing quickly or irritating surrounding tissue, surgical removal is often recommended. Surgery allows for full removal of the lipoma and testing to confirm it is benign. According to WebMD, “The best treatment for lipoma in dogs is surgical removal, but some vets also opt for monitoring a lipoma’s growth over time.”

The surgery is usually a simple outpatient procedure done under general anesthesia. Recovery tends to be quick with few complications. Embrace Pet Insurance states, “Since the vast majority of canine lipomas are harmless, surgical removal is only necessary if they are large enough to cause discomfort, hinder normal movement, or impact your dog’s quality of life.”

Home Remedies

There are some home remedies that may help reduce or eliminate lipomas in dogs, though evidence is limited on their effectiveness. Some potential options to discuss with your vet include:

Topical oils – Applying oils like frankincense, neem, or oregano oil topically to the fatty tumor may help reduce inflammation and shrink the mass. However, research is scarce on the efficacy of these treatments. Use only a couple drops diluted in a carrier oil and monitor for skin irritation.

Herbal remedies – Some herbs like burdock root, dandelion, and milk thistle may support liver function and circulation when given orally. But again, there is minimal evidence they will shrink or eliminate lipomas specifically. Consult your vet before starting any herbal regimen.

Weight loss – For overweight or obese dogs, losing excess body fat can sometimes help shrink fatty tumors or prevent new ones from developing. Getting your dog to a healthy weight under your vet’s guidance is advisable.

While home and natural treatments may be appealing, there is limited clinical evidence they will get rid of lipomas. It’s best to consult your vet before trying them, and do not use home remedies as a substitute for medical care if the lipoma is growing quickly or causing problems.


While there is no surefire way to prevent lipomas from developing, there are some steps dog owners can take to lower the risk:

Maintaining a lean body weight is important. Overweight and obese dogs are more prone to developing lipomas, so keeping your dog at a healthy weight can help prevent them. Feed your dog a nutritious diet with proper portions and make sure they get regular exercise.

Providing good nutrition with quality dog food and plenty of exercise will also help keep your dog healthy and lower the chances of lipomas forming. Avoid feeding table scraps and foods high in fat.

Checking your dog’s body regularly for any new lumps or bumps can help detect lipomas early. Look over their body when petting or brushing them. Running your hands along their torso and limbs will help you feel small lumps under the skin that could be early lipomas.

While no prevention method is foolproof, keeping your dog fit and watching for lumps offers the best defense against developing new lipomas. Consult your veterinarian if you find any suspicious lumps on your dog.

Outlook and Prognosis

The prognosis for dogs with lipomas is generally very good. Lipomas are typically benign fatty masses that are not cancerous or life threatening 1. However, lipomas can sometimes grow quite large and interfere with movement or quality of life. In these cases, surgical removal is recommended.

After surgical removal, most dogs recover very well. However, in some cases, lipomas may regrow after being removed surgically. This tends to happen more often if the lipoma was not removed completely or if there are multiple lipomas present. According to one study, regrowth occurred in 17% of cases after surgical removal 2. So while the prognosis is good overall, owners should monitor their dog closely for potential regrowth.

With close monitoring and follow-up care, most dogs can live comfortably with lipomas. While not ideal, lipomas are one of the more benign conditions dogs can develop.

When to See the Vet

While most lipomas are benign, it’s important to have any new lumps or bumps evaluated by your vet, as there is a small chance it could be a malignant cancerous tumor. According to WebMD, some signs that warrant a veterinary visit include:

  • The appearance of a new lump or bump on your dog
  • A lump that seems to be growing rapidly
  • A lump that changes shape or texture
  • Any lump that seems to interfere with movement, range of motion, or impinges on other tissues

While most lipomas are harmless, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Early evaluation and treatment can help manage lipomas before they become problematic. Your vet will examine the lump and may recommend tests like a biopsy or fine needle aspirate to diagnose the type of tumor. Catching any lumps early on gives your dog the best chance at treatment and recovery.

Scroll to Top