How Are Lipomas Removed From Dogs?

What are Lipomas?

Lipomas are benign tumors made up of fatty tissue that commonly form under a dog’s skin [1]. They develop between the skin and muscle layer, feeling like soft, movable lumps when examined. Lipomas can form anywhere on a dog’s body, but frequently appear on the torso, upper legs, and shoulder area.

Certain breeds are prone to developing lipomas, like Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, and Weimaraners [2]. While generally non-threatening, lipomas can occasionally cause discomfort or mobility issues if they compress on muscles, nerves, or organs underneath the skin.

Diagnosing Lipomas

Lipomas are typically diagnosed through a physical exam by a veterinarian. The vet will feel for lumps under the skin that have a soft, movable, well-defined shape characteristic of a lipoma tumor. Often a lipoma can be confidently diagnosed just by feel.

If the vet is unsure or suspects the lump may be cancerous, they may use a needle to extract cells for examination under a microscope. This procedure is called a fine needle aspirate and cytology exam (VCA Hospitals). The extracted cells can confirm a lipoma diagnosis if they appear normal.

Other diagnostic tests like an ultrasound or surgical biopsy may also be used if the vet suspects cancer instead of a benign lipoma. These tests allow closer examination of the lump to differentiate between a lipoma and something more malignant.

Deciding If/When to Remove

Lipomas are usually benign fatty masses that may not require removal [1]. However, surgical removal may be recommended if the lipoma is affecting your dog’s mobility, is prone to bleeding or ulceration, or is growing rapidly [2].

Some signs that surgical removal may be warranted include [3]:

  • The lipoma is over 2 inches in diameter
  • The lipoma is impairing mobility or joint function
  • The skin over the lipoma is ulcerated or bleeding
  • The lipoma is growing quickly or interfering with bodily functions
  • The lipoma is located in areas like the armpits or groin where it can easily be irritated

Your veterinarian will be able to determine if surgical removal is the best course of action based on the lipoma’s size, location, and your dog’s symptoms.

Surgical Removal

Surgical removal is the most effective way to get rid of lipomas in dogs [1]. The procedure requires general anesthesia so the dog is fully unconscious during the surgery [2]. The veterinarian will make an incision over the lipoma and then carefully excise the entire tumor. It is important to remove the whole lipoma to prevent regrowth [3]. The incision is then closed with stitches or surgical staples.

After surgical removal, the dog will need to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking or biting at the incision site while it heals. Pain medication may also be prescribed for a few days after surgery. Limiting activity during initial recovery is recommended to allow proper healing. Follow up appointments with the vet will be required to monitor healing and remove any sutures or staples once the incision has closed.


Recovery from lipoma removal surgery in dogs is typically quick, with most dogs able to go home the same day as the procedure. The incision site will be closed with stitches or staples that need to stay in place for 10-14 days. An Elizabethan collar is usually recommended to prevent the dog from licking and irritating the incision site while it heals. Pain medication may be prescribed for a few days after surgery to keep the dog comfortable.

Within a couple days, most dogs are back to their normal selves and increased activity can gradually be resumed over the following weeks as long as the incision site is healing properly. Stitches are removed 10-14 days post-surgery. Full recovery takes approximately 2-4 weeks depending on the location and size of the lipoma.


After a lipoma removal surgery, it is important to properly care for the incision site to allow for proper healing and prevent infection. According to Greencross Vets, the incision site should be monitored for signs of infection such as swelling, redness, discharge or the dog excessively licking the area. The sutures and surrounding tissue should be checked to ensure proper healing is occurring.

Activity should also be limited to short, leashed walks for the first 48 hours to allow the incision site to begin healing. Off-leash activity and play should be avoided until the sutures have been removed, as too much activity can cause damage or reopen the incision. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, swelling and redness should subside within 2-3 days after surgery.

It is recommended to schedule a follow-up appointment with the veterinarian around 10-14 days after surgery to check the incision site, remove any sutures/staples, and ensure proper healing has occurred. The veterinarian will also examine for any signs of complications or concerns with the surgery site at this visit.

Non-Surgical Options

There are some non-surgical options to remove or shrink lipomas in dogs. Two of the main ones are steroid injections and liposuction.

Steroid injections can help shrink lipomas over time. In a 2012 study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 30 dogs with lipomas were treated with steroid injections. The lipomas decreased in size by 50% or more in 17 of the dogs after an average of 2.5 injections. The researchers concluded steroid injections could be an alternative to surgery for some lipomas.

Liposuction is another non-invasive way to remove fatty lipomas. In this procedure, a small cannula is inserted into the tumor and the fat is suctioned out. Liposuction allows the lipoma to be removed without surgically cutting into the skin. It may be an option for some superficial lipomas that a vet can easily access.

While steroid injections and liposuction are less invasive than surgery, they may not fully remove the lipoma or prevent regrowth. More research is still needed on their long-term effectiveness. But they provide alternatives to surgery that may work well for some small, superficial lipomas that are not problematic.


The cost of surgically removing a lipoma can vary quite a bit depending on factors like the location of the lipoma, whether any testing is needed, the surgical procedure used, and your geographic location. According to sources, the average cost range for surgical removal is $200 to $500 per lipoma. For a large or difficult to remove lipoma, costs may exceed $800. Non-surgical options like steroid injections or lipoma dissolving medications are less expensive, with costs typically ranging from $30 to $250 per treatment. However, these options may require multiple treatments over weeks or months to shrink the lipoma, making the total costs comparable or possibly more than surgery. Discuss all options with your vet to determine the best approach based on your dog’s specific case.


Unfortunately, there are no known prevention methods for lipomas in dogs. However, since overweight dogs tend to get lipomas more frequently, maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise may help reduce risk. Regular vet checkups are also important to monitor for any new lipoma growths.

While no specific diet or supplement has been conclusively shown to prevent lipomas, feeding your dog a high-quality commercial dog food formulated for their life stage, size, and activity level can help avoid obesity. Providing ample daily exercise appropriate for your dog’s health and fitness level is also key. Having your vet evaluate your dog’s body condition score at annual wellness exams will help catch weight gain early.

Bring your dog to the vet promptly if you notice any new lumps or bumps. Your vet will palpate all over your dog’s body during annual exams to identify any lipomas that may be developing. Routine skin checks and noticing changes in existing lipomas at home are also important.

Though unproven, some veterinarians recommend supplementing with antioxidants, fatty acids, and enzymes to support overall health. Always consult your vet before giving any supplements.


The prognosis for lipoma removal in dogs is generally excellent. Lipomas are benign fatty tumors, meaning they do not spread to other areas of the body and are not cancerous (Source 1). Surgically removing lipomas is usually curative. However, lipomas can sometimes recur at the original site or new locations (Source 2). Therefore, owners should monitor their dog after lipoma removal and report any new lumps or growths to the veterinarian. With close monitoring, the prognosis remains good.

Scroll to Top