Do Lipomas In Dogs Burst?

What are lipomas in dogs?

Lipomas are benign fatty tumors that form under a dog’s skin. They are soft, movable lumps located right underneath the skin, often protruding up from the tissue beneath (Mayo Clinic).

Lipomas usually feel doughy or rubbery, and they can form anywhere on a dog’s body where fat is located, though they are most commonly found on the torso, upper legs, upper back, and shoulders (Cleveland Clinic). They range in size from very small, barely noticeable lumps to large masses over 4 inches across.

Lipomas are extremely common in dogs, especially as they age. It’s estimated that around 2% of dogs develop at least one lipoma, with some sources estimating this number could be as high as 6% (WebMD). Older and overweight dogs tend to be the most susceptible.

What causes lipomas in dogs?

The exact cause of lipomas in dogs is not fully understood, but research suggests both genetic and environmental factors likely play a role. According to WebMD, most healthcare professionals believe that lipomas are caused by different environmental and genetic factors combined[1].

Lipomas are tumors made up of fat cells. Some researchers believe there may be a genetic predisposition in some breeds that causes these fat cells to proliferate and form lumps under the skin. Breeds like Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, and Miniature Schnauzers seem more prone to developing multiple lipomas.

Hormones also appear to influence lipoma development. Lipomas usually show up in middle-aged to older dogs. Both male and female dogs can develop them, but some studies show males may be at higher risk. The hormones associated with aging could stimulate fat cell growth.

Obesity is another risk factor. Obese dogs tend to have higher circulating levels of insulin and other hormones that promote fat cell proliferation. Excess carbohydrates in processed dog foods may also contribute by spiking blood sugar and insulin levels[2]. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight may help reduce lipoma risk.

Do lipomas in dogs need treatment?

Lipomas in dogs are often benign fatty masses that do not require treatment. According to PetMD, lipomas usually appear as soft, movable lumps under the skin, and most do not change in size or cause problems[1]. Since they are typically noncancerous, many lipomas in dogs can be left alone without intervention.

However, in some cases veterinary treatment may be recommended. Rapid growth, ulceration, interference with mobility, or location in certain areas like the eyelid or groin may warrant removal. Surgery is often effective in extracting lipomas. The vet will make an incision in the skin over the lipoma and then excise the fatty mass. Though invasive, this provides a permanent solution and prevents regrowth. The risks and benefits of surgery should be weighed carefully.

Other modalities like steroid injections, laser therapy, and alternative treatments have also been studied, but surgical excision remains the standard recommendation for problematic lipomas requiring intervention[2]. Overall, observation is generally the first approach unless the lipoma poses health risks or quality of life issues for the dog.

Can lipomas in dogs burst?

No, lipomas generally do not burst or rupture on their own. Lipomas are benign fatty tumors that form under the skin and are typically soft, movable, and painless. The fat cells that make up a lipoma are contained in a thin connective tissue capsule that helps keep the lipoma intact.

While extremely rare, it is possible for a lipoma to rupture if it sustains significant trauma or injury. Some potential causes of lipoma rupture include:

  • Being hit by a car or other forceful blunt trauma
  • Being bitten or scratched in the location of the lipoma
  • Repeated self-trauma from licking, chewing or scratching at the lipoma
  • Very rapid growth of the lipoma causing the capsule to weaken and burst

According to veterinarians, spontaneous rupture without preceding trauma is highly unusual. So while possible, it’s not something owners generally need to worry about with their dog’s benign lipomas.[1]

Signs of a ruptured lipoma

If a lipoma ruptures, it will result in an open wound and bleeding. The area around the ruptured lipoma may become inflamed and tender to the touch. Other signs of a ruptured lipoma include:

  • Sudden appearance of a skin wound where the lipoma used to be
  • Bleeding from the wound site
  • Swelling around the area
  • Redness and inflammation around the wound
  • Discharge or pus coming from the wound
  • Your dog licking excessively at the site
  • Pain when you touch the area gently

A ruptured lipoma requires quick veterinary attention. Left untreated, it can become infected or abscessed. Clean the wound gently with saline solution and apply light pressure with a clean towel to stop bleeding. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, as these can damage healthy tissue. Carefully monitor your dog for signs of increasing pain, redness, swelling or discharge until you can get to the vet. Treatment may involve flushing the wound, medications, sutures and antibiotics (PetMD).

Treating a ruptured lipoma

If a lipoma ruptures, it’s important to get prompt veterinary treatment. The open wound left when a lipoma bursts needs to be cleaned and monitored to prevent infection. Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or treat infection.

According to VCA Hospitals, the wound should be gently cleaned with an antiseptic solution to remove debris and prevent infection [1]. The area may be bandaged and the dog’s activity restricted to allow healing. Oral antibiotics like amoxicillin may be prescribed for 5-7 days.

In some cases, surgical repair of the rupture may be recommended. According to the Whole Dog Journal, surgery allows examination of the ruptured tissue to check for malignancy [2]. During surgery, any damaged or necrotic tissue is debrided and the wound is closed. This helps ensure proper healing.

Post-surgical care includes rest, antibiotics, and monitoring the incision site. Elizabethan collars may be used to prevent licking or irritation. Follow up appointments allow the vet to check healing progress.

Preventing lipoma rupture

While it’s not always possible to prevent lipomas from forming in dogs, there are some steps you can take to help prevent existing lipomas from rupturing:

Monitor the size and location of any lipomas. Keep an eye on lipomas to ensure they are not rapidly growing in size. Lipomas in locations that receive more frequent trauma, like the legs, may be at higher risk of rupturing.[1]

Protect lipomas from trauma. Use soft bandages or wraps to cushion lipomas that are at risk of being bumped or struck. Avoid activities that could put pressure on or irritate lipomas.[2]

Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a risk factor for developing new lipomas. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight may help prevent additional lipomas from forming.[3]

Provide nutritional support. Some supplements and foods contain compounds that may help inhibit lipoma growth. Talk to your vet about options that could help prevent rupture.[2]

With regular monitoring and preventative steps, many dogs can live comfortably with lipomas. Talk to your vet about the best ways to protect existing lipomas and lower your dog’s chances of developing new ones.

When to see a vet

You should take your dog to the vet if you notice any of the following signs related to a lipoma:

  • The lipoma appears red, inflamed, or oozing, which could indicate infection or ulceration (Denver Vet, 2022).
  • The lipoma is rapidly growing or changing shape, which could mean it is a more serious tumor (WebMD, 2021).
  • Your dog seems to be in pain or bothered by the lipoma.
  • The skin over the lipoma has become ulcerated or opened.
  • The lipoma is interfering with your dog’s movement or quality of life.
  • You notice bleeding from the lipoma.

Rapid growth, ulceration, bleeding, or other changes can indicate the lipoma may have ruptured or transformed into a more serious tumor. It’s important to get any unusual lipomas checked by a vet right away. Even if the lipoma hasn’t ruptured, a vet can recommend the best treatment options if it appears infected, is growing quickly, or is causing your dog discomfort.

Lipoma removal surgery

Lipoma removal surgery is usually recommended for large lipomas that interfere with movement, rupture, or cause discomfort. The procedure involves surgically removing the fatty tumor and is done under general anesthesia.

The veterinarian will make an incision over the lipoma and dissect it away from the tissue around it. The lipoma is then removed entirely through the incision. If the lipoma is very large, the incision may need to be longer to facilitate removal. The vet will then suture the incision closed.

Recovery time for a lipoma removal is usually 1-2 weeks. The dog will need to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking and infection of the incision site. Activity should be restricted during the recovery period to allow proper healing. The incision site should be monitored for swelling, redness, or discharge which could indicate infection. Sutures or staples will need to be removed 10-14 days after surgery.

Most dogs recover fully after lipoma removal surgery. Complications like seromas, infection, or dehiscence are uncommon but can occur. Your vet will provide detailed at-home care instructions for your dog after surgery.

Living with a lipoma

Lipomas are generally benign, slow-growing masses, so many dog owners choose to simply monitor the growth rather than surgically remove them. If the lipoma is small and not causing discomfort, it may be perfectly fine to leave it alone. However, lipomas should be regularly checked to ensure they are not growing rapidly or interfering with your dog’s mobility or quality of life.

To monitor a lipoma, feel it periodically to check for changes in size or consistency. Mark its edges with a pen so you can track growth over time. Take photos to compare as well. Record the lipoma’s measurements in a journal. Contact your veterinarian if it grows significantly larger than its original size.

Make sure a lipoma does not restrict your dog’s movement or cause rubbing and irritation. Keep the overlying skin clean and dry. Use padded bedding and harnesses to prevent pressure over the lipoma. Restrict activity if the mass becomes bothersome. Pain medication may provide relief if the lipoma becomes tender.

While most lipomas are benign, any rapid change in size warrants veterinary assessment to confirm it has not become malignant. Schedule regular veterinary rechecks every 3-6 months. Surgical removal may become necessary if a lipoma impedes mobility or quality of life.

With careful monitoring and attention to your dog’s comfort, many lipomas can be managed conservatively at home. However, be alert for any changes and ready to pursue treatment if needed. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best course for your dog.

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