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Lumps and Bumps

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We all touch our pets every day – petting, grooming, play times and just hanging out together. Have you ever been spending time with your pet and felt a lump or bump? Uh oh, now what? The first thing is to record the information you have about the lump. Record the date you found it, what it looks like, where it is, and measure the size of it and record that as well. If you can take a picture of it that is great and very helpful to monitor changes over time. If it is very small you can mark over it with a marker (if your pet has lighter colored fur) or even shave some of the hair over it so that you can find it again.

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We’ll come back to this in a moment….

What could the lump be? Lumps and bumps come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. Sometimes these lumps or masses could be an infection (think of cats that go outside and get bit by another cat or some other animal and get an abscess). There are other types of infections that can cause masses as well such as fungal infections and even some types of viruses. Sometimes these masses are a cyst or sebaceous cyst – these are things that do not “spread” or metastasize to other locations like the lungs, lymph nodes, or other organs. Pets can get multiple cysts but they are not spreading; they are just getting new cysts in new places. They can also be a type of cancer that is benign like a lipoma or fatty tumor. These can get big and many pets get more and more of them as they get older; but, they do not spread the way a “bad” cancer spreads. Masses can also be cancers or tumors that are more dangerous because they do spread to other tissues and other places by traveling through the lymph system or even through the blood (malignant cancers). Some spread more locally and invade into muscle tissue or bone too. Some lumps can even be from parasites!

You cannot tell just by looking at a lump what kind of cells are making the lump. The best thing to do is to get a sample of the cells and look at it under the microscope. This is called a “Fine needle aspirate and cytology”. Aspirates often help us know if the mass is caused by an infection, a cyst, a lipoma or a more serious cancer. We can’t always determine the exact cancer but what it does tell us is that this mass should be removed vs. this mass does not need to be removed. AND, if it needs to be removed, do we need to take a lot of area around the mass out or not. Most pets will tolerate a fine needle aspirate very well and sedation is rarely needed.

Once it is determined that a mass is a concern we can do surgery to remove the entire mass (most of the time) and send a bigger tissue sample for a pathologist to look at. That helps us know exactly what kind of cancer it is, what can be done to protect your pet and gives us a prognosis (how serious is the problem).

It can be very frightening to find a lump. The recording of the information noted above all helps us know what the next step needs to be and to monitor changes in lumps and bumps so bring this information with you to your pets appointment. The sooner we address a mass the better chance we have to give peace of mind or to treat it early and have a better long term outcome if it is cancerous. Plus, it is always easier to remove a small mass then it is to remove a large mass.

Get to know your pet and check for lumps and bumps routinely. You can ask us to print our “mass sheet” which is our record of your pet’s masses if you think that will help you keep track of them (especially if your pet has a lot of masses). A lot of our clients even bring in the mass sheet for their preventive care exams each time so that we can see what they have found and changes they have noted since the last exam. We can then update the sheet and reprint it for you so that we are all on the same page!

If you find something abnormal, be proactive and give us a call!

Want some more information; this is a pretty good article/video from Pet MD. The “needle biopsy” they discuss is the same as the Fine Needle Aspirate.

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