Dog: Lipomas

General information

Other common/scientific names: fatty tumors

Lipomas are one of the most commonly encountered lumps found by veterinarians. A lipoma is a growth or mass of fatty tissue located under the skin in the subcutaneous area. They are usually benign and rarely cause pain or hair loss. Lipomas tend to occur in middle aged, overweight dogs but can be seen in younger dogs.


An exact cause of lipomas is not known, but they are seen more frequently in overweight dogs.

Cardinal symptom

Soft mass


Benign or simple lipomas are usually detected just under the skin on the chest, abdomen, axillary and inguinal areas. They are soft, round and moveable masses of varying size. Benign lipomas grow slowly and do not invade the underlying tissue. Occasionally, a benign lipoma will grown into a large fat deposit and interfere with a dog’s movement.

Abb. GSRCNBOC: Lipoma.

Infrequently, lipomas will invade connective tissue or muscle tissue causing pain, lameness and muscle atrophy from pressure. These lipomas are classified as infiltrative lipomas and can recur after removal.


A thin needle is used to obtain a fine needle aspirate (FNA) from the suspected lipoma. This sample is examined under the microscope. A diagnosis can be made if the sample appears oily and glistening and contains no abnormal cells. However, because a FNA cannot differentiate between a benign lipoma and an infiltrative lipoma, any mass that is suspicious of cancer or causes pain and discomfort should be biopsied and examined by a pathologist.


Surgical removal of benign lipomas is curative. However, small lipomas that are not causing any clinical signs can be left untreated but observed periodically for growth. Excision of a lipoma may be postponed until anesthesia is required for another procedure. On the other hand, if the lipoma is interfering with movement, causing pain or is rapidly growing in size, surgery to remove the mass is recommended sooner.

Infiltrative lipomas are also treated with surgery. Unlike benign lipomas, complete removal of infiltrative lipomas can be difficult because the tumor edges are difficult to detect and they may invade normal connective and muscle tissue. Radiation therapy has been used in conjunction with surgery to treat these types of lipomas to prevent recurrence.


Prognosis is excellent for benign lipomas with or without treatment. Many dogs live long, healthy lives with lipomas. Although infiltrative lipomas will recur if not completely excised, they are not considered malignant or life-threatening.


While there is no known prevention of lipomas, maintaining a healthy weight may reduce their occurrence.


All lumps and bumps should be examined by a veterinarian.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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