What To Do If A Lipoma Bursts On A Dog?

What are Lipomas?

Lipomas are benign fatty tumors that commonly develop under a dog’s skin. They consist of fat cells that lump together to form a soft, movable mass. Lipomas are typically small, ranging from 1-2 inches in diameter, though they can grow much larger. They often feel rubbery or doughy to the touch. Lipomas can develop anywhere on a dog’s body, but are most commonly found on the trunk, limbs, chest or abdomen.

According to a 2018 study published in BMC Veterinary Research, lipomas were found to have a 1-year prevalence of 1.94% in dogs under veterinary care in the UK https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6161450/. Certain breeds such as Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers and Miniature Schnauzers appear to be predisposed. While benign, lipomas can sometimes impede movement or require removal if they grow too large.

What Causes a Lipoma to Rupture?

There are a few key reasons why a lipoma may rupture in dogs:

  • Trauma or injury to the lipoma – This is the most common cause of a ruptured lipoma. Activities where the dog runs into objects or scrapes their body can cause enough force to burst the lipoma. According to PetMD, lipomas that rupture are often located in common trauma sites like the torso, legs or shoulders (1).
  • Very rapid growth – Fast-growing lipomas have thinner walls and are at higher risk of rupturing. Lipomas that double in size in less than a month are more prone to bursting (2).
  • Ulceration – Lipomas that become ulcerated and inflamed have a weaker outer surface that can rupture more easily. This may occur if the lipoma becomes irritated or infected.
  • Location – Lipomas located over joints or bony prominences experience more movement and friction, increasing rupture risk.

Activities that may lead to a ruptured lipoma include:

  • Vigorous exercise like running or jumping.
  • Playing roughly with other pets or hard objects.
  • Scratching or biting at the lipoma.
  • Getting the lipoma caught on objects like fences or furniture.

Risk factors that make rupture more likely include:

  • Older dogs whose skin is thinner.
  • Overweight dogs with increased skin folds and friction.
  • Dogs with multiple or rapidly growing lipomas.

Signs of a Ruptured Lipoma

There are a few key signs that a lipoma has ruptured on a dog:

Visible oozing, bleeding or discharge from the lump – If you see any fluid oozing from your dog’s lipoma, it likely means the fatty tumor has ruptured. This fluid may be blood, pus, or a yellowish discharge. According to PetMD, a ruptured lipoma may leak a thick, fatty, yellowish fluid.1

Sudden change in size or shape of the lump – A lipoma that was once small and round may suddenly become larger, misshapen, and irregular if it ruptures. You may notice the edges are less defined as well. A ruptured lipoma can increase inflammation and cause localized swelling.

Redness, swelling or inflammation around the lump – Look out for any redness, heat, and swelling around your dog’s lipoma, as this can indicate the fatty tumor has ruptured. There may be generalized inflammation of the area around the ruptured mass.

First Aid for a Ruptured Lipoma

If your dog’s lipoma ruptures, it’s important to provide proper first aid to help stop bleeding and prevent infection. Here are some tips for first aid while you wait to see the vet:

Clean the wound – Use a saline solution or plain water to gently flush away any dirt, debris, or discharge from the ruptured area. Be very gentle when cleaning, as the area will be sensitive. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, you may see a creamy material coming from the ruptured lipoma – this is benign fat tissue so don’t try to scrub it away (Source).

Apply pressure – After cleaning, apply gentle, even pressure on the area with a clean cloth or piece of gauze to help stop any bleeding. Hold sustained pressure for 5-10 minutes and do not remove the cloth to peek – removing pressure could disrupt clotting. Check after 10 minutes, and reapply pressure if needed.

Bandage/cover the area – Once bleeding has slowed or stopped, loosely wrap the area with a clean bandage or piece of cloth to protect the ruptured lipoma site. This helps prevent contamination or trauma to the sensitive area as it starts to heal. Check the bandage frequently to watch for bleeding or discharge.

When to See the Vet

While small ruptures can often heal on their own, there are certain signs that indicate a visit to the vet is necessary after a lipoma rupture. These include:

Signs of infection like pus or odor: If the rupture site is oozing fluid or develops a bad smell, this indicates infection is present. Infections need to be treated with antibiotics prescribed by a vet to prevent them from worsening.

Uncontrolled bleeding: Most bleeds from a ruptured lipoma will be minor. However, if there is significant or uncontrolled bleeding that does not stop when pressure is applied, immediate vet care is needed. The vet can cauterize the wound or suture it closed to control bleeding.

Lump rapidly increasing in size: A ruptured cyst may fill up again quickly with fluid. If the lump becomes suddenly much larger right after rupture, this indicates a need for draining and potential removal by the vet.

Getting prompt vet care when any of these signs are present can help prevent complications and minimize discomfort for the dog. Even if infection or bleeding is not visible, it’s a good idea to have any ruptured lipoma checked out to be safe.

Diagnosing a Ruptured Lipoma

If a dog’s lipoma appears red, swollen or leaking fluid, a veterinarian will need to diagnose and treat the ruptured lipoma. The vet will start with a physical exam of the lump, feeling for heat, swelling or discharge which may indicate infection. They will look for any open wounds and check if the fatty tissue is protruding from an opening in the skin.

The most definitive way to identify a ruptured lipoma is to do a fine needle aspirate of the lump. This involves inserting a small needle into the mass and drawing out some cells. The cells are then examined under a microscope to confirm they are fatty tissue and benign (VCA Animal Hospitals). If infection is present, the vet may also recommend bloodwork to check white blood cell levels.

Treating a Ruptured Lipoma

There are several treatment options a veterinarian may recommend when a lipoma ruptures on a dog.

If the ruptured lipoma is large, problematic, or becomes infected, surgical removal is often the most effective treatment (Source). Surgery allows full removal of the ruptured tumor and helps prevent recurrence. It also alleviates pain and discomfort associated with the rupture.

If the rupture becomes infected, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection and prevent it from spreading. Keeping the wound clean is also important (Source).

Medications like anti-inflammatories may be given to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain related to the ruptured lipoma (Source). This can help provide relief as the dog recovers.

In less severe cases, the vet may recommend watching and waiting to see if the ruptured lipoma heals on its own. However, surgical removal is often the most effective treatment approach.

Recovery and Aftercare

After surgical removal of a ruptured lipoma, it’s important for dogs to have adequate rest and reduced activity to allow the incision site to heal properly. This usually means restricting exercise and play for 7-10 days after surgery. Keeping the surgery site clean and dry will also promote healing. The area should be checked daily for any redness, swelling or discharge, which could indicate an infection developing. The sutures or staples will need to be removed 10-14 days post-surgery, which can be done at your veterinarian’s office. Ideally, the incision area should be covered with an e-collar or bandage during recovery to prevent licking or chewing at the site. Allowing gentle massaging of the area can help reduce any fluid buildup under the skin. Pain medication may be prescribed for a few days after surgery to keep your dog comfortable. Follow your veterinarian’s specific aftercare instructions to ensure proper healing. With rest and monitoring, most dogs recover fully within 2 weeks after ruptured lipoma removal.

Preventing Ruptures

While it’s not always possible to prevent a lipoma from rupturing, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chances:

Monitor the size and shape of any lumps or lipomas. Look for any growth or changes in shape, which may indicate the lump is at higher risk for rupturing. Catching changes early allows for surgical removal before rupture occurs.

Avoid any trauma or injury to areas where lipomas are present. Don’t let your dog roughhouse or bump into things with lipoma-prone areas of their body.

Consider surgical removal for any high-risk lipomas. Large lipomas in vulnerable body areas are more likely to rupture. Your vet can advise you on removal based on factors like size, growth, location, and your dog’s activity level. According to this source, surgical removal is an effective preventative measure.

While not always preventable, being aware of changes and limiting trauma to lipomas can reduce rupture risk. Talk to your vet about monitoring or removing any concerning lipomas before they become problematic.

When to be Concerned

There are certain signs that indicate a lipoma may require veterinary attention. According to VCA Hospitals, these include if the lump is rapidly enlarging, shows signs of infection like redness or heat, if multiple lumps are developing, or if the lumps are interfering with mobility.

Rapid enlargement of a lump could mean it is becoming infiltrative in surrounding tissues or developing internal complexities. Signs of infection like discharge, odor, and redness indicate intervention is required. The development of multiple lumps may point to an underlying health condition, and any lump impeding movement or causing discomfort needs veterinary assessment.

While most lipomas are benign, it is important to monitor their size and shape. Notify your veterinarian if you notice any concerning changes or signs of complications. Early examination and treatment can help prevent ruptures and address potential problems.

Scroll to Top