What should I do if I find a lump on my pet?

Any lump is a cause for concern, particularly if it is growing. You should see us to have it examined as soon as possible.

What might the lump be?

There are a variety of different problems that can present as 'lumps'. These include cysts, skin tags, warts, papillomas, abscesses, haematomas, benign tumours and malignant tumours. We need to check all lumps because if they are malignant then the sooner we make a diagnosis, the better the prognosis for your pet.

How can we diagnose what type of lump it is?

Sometimes we will recognise what type of lump it is just by looking at it or feeling it, but usually we need to perform a test called a Fine Needle Aspirate (FNA) to determine what is inside the lump. Some common findings are:

  • Pus (abscesses)
  • Blood (haematomas)
  • Clear fluid (cysts)
  • Fat (benign fatty tumours)
  • No fluid (benign and malignant lumps)

To distinguish between benign and malignant lumps, we will first make a slide of the cells from the aspirate. Sometimes we can tell what the lump is just by looking at this slide, but often we still won't know for sure. The next step is to take a biopsy. Depending on the size of the lump, we may take a small part of the lump or excise the entire lump to send off for analysis.

What is the treatment for a lump?

The treatment depends on what the lump is.

  • For an abscess, we will usually lance it, flush it with antiseptic and prescribe a course of antibiotics, as well as pain relief if required.
  • For a haematoma, we will usually drain it. We may also recommend tests to make sure your pet's clotting function is normal.
  • For a cyst, we will usually drain it and may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. If it comes back, it may need to be surgically removed.
  • For a benign tumour, we will usually recommend no treatment unless the lump is physically irritating your pet (for example, a large mass in the armpit), in which case we may recommend surgical removal.
  • For a malignant tumour, we will usually recommend biopsy and surgical removal in combination with a series of tests to check for metastasis (spread to other areas of the body).