Why I Don't Remove Lipomas - Unless They Do This

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October 01, 2014 • 572,841 views

Story at-a-glance

  • A lipoma is a lump or bump that is actually a benign fatty mass. Lipomas are the most common type of noncancerous growths in dogs, and typically grow just under the skin on the neck, upper legs, underarms, or torso.
  • Dr. Becker has found there is often a correlation between the number and size of lipomas, the dog’s overall vitality, and his ability to metabolize fat. Dogs with metabolism problems tend to have more lipomas.
  • A fine needle aspirate will determine whether a lump or bump on your dog is something to be concerned about, or a harmless fatty mass. If it is a lipoma, unless it is interfering with your pet’s mobility or quality of life, there’s no need to remove it. Going forward, the mass should be routinely monitored for changes in its size or shape.
  • To give your pet the best chance to avoid lipomas, we recommend keeping him at a healthy weight and feeding a balanced, species-appropriate diet that is minimally metabolically stressful. Also offer fresh, filtered drinking water, and take care not to over-vaccinate or over-medicate your dog.

By Dr. Becker

Lipomas are benign fatty masses enclosed in a thin capsule, and are the most common type of noncancerous soft tissue growth in dogs. Any dog, regardless of breed, gender or age, can develop a lipoma (or multiple lipomas).

These bumps typically develop just under the skin on the neck, upper legs, underarms, or torso. However, they can occur anywhere on a dog's body, and they can also grow in muscle tissue. If your dog's lipoma is under the skin, you'll be able to move it around beneath the skin, and it will feel soft and squishy. If it's in muscle tissue, it may feel very firm.

Dogs with Metabolism Problems Tend to Develop More Lipomas

Traditional veterinarians will tell you there is no breed, sex or age predisposition for the development of lipomas. And it's true any dog can grow a lipoma – young, old, spayed, neutered, obese or thin.

But in my experience, there is a connection between the number and size of lipomas on a dog, his ability to metabolize fat, and his overall vitality. Dogs with an under-performing metabolism have a greater tendency to develop lumps of fat.

Some holistic veterinarians also believe that lipomas and other fatty tumors are a sign that a dog's body is not able to eliminate toxins through normal processes involving the liver, kidneys, and intestines. And according to Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, lipomas are a manifestation of "stagnant Qi," or "phlegm" (not the expectorated kind Westerners are familiar with, but more of an "energetic blockage" that eventually manifests in a physical, benign mass). Regardless of what viewpoint you have on how and why lipomas occur, it's important to know they are usually not worth panicking about, but worth keeping track of.

Why Most Lipomas Don't Require Removal

Many traditional veterinarians recommend removal of every lump, bump and skin tag you point out to them (or they show you), but many of us in the holistic veterinary community prefer to leave confirmed benign lumps (like lipomas) alone unless they are seriously interfering with a dog's quality of life.

Your veterinarian should perform a fine needle aspirate to determine whether the mass is something to worry about or simply a benign lipoma. If it comes back as a harmless fatty mass, it should be noted on your dog's body chart, including its size and the date. Then it can be watched for any changes in size or shape. 

If your dog's lipoma begins to grow, then depending on the location it may be medically necessary to remove it before it's big enough to impinge on your pet's quality of life. This might include a growing lipoma located in a dog's armpit, which may cause an abnormal change in her gait, or one on her sternum that rubs on the carpet every time she lays down, creating irritated skin.

Some lipomas remain the same size throughout a dog's life. They're nothing to worry about, and it's only necessary to watch them for growth or any sort of change.

I very rarely surgically remove lipomas. Those that I have removed were because to do so would dramatically improve the quality of life of the dog. When a lipoma is affecting range of motion or a dog's gait or comfort level, it's best to remove the mass, and sooner rather than later, because the bigger the lump, the bigger the incision.

How to Help Your Pet Avoid Lipomas

To give your pet the best chance to avoid lipomas, it's important to keep her in good physical condition while also supporting her metabolism, immune and lymphatic systems, and organs of detoxification.

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