If you come across a lump on your emotional support animal’s skin, try not to get overwhelmed right away. Lumps are actually quite common, particularly in older dogs. They can appear for a variety of reasons, and most times are not detrimental to your emotional support animal in any way.
Do not speculate on lumps you find on your pet; any strange masses should prompt an immediate visit to your dog’s veterinarian for an evaluation so they can determine the next steps. Remaining calm and acting quickly will benefit your emotional support animal greatly in the event that the lump is serious. It is important that every owner be well-educated on the subject of lumps, how to spot them, and their potential dangers. In this article, I will go over the symptoms of lumps, the most common types, what to expect post-diagnosis, and how certain lumps and masses can be prevented.
Signs and Symptoms of Lumps
Lumps on your emotional support animal can be found in a variety of places and come in a variety of sizes as well.
Here are some signs to look out for:
- Skin discoloration
- Itching/irritation surrounding the lump/bump
- Limping (due to swelling of affected bone or joint)
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Most Common Lumps
There are two categories that these can be divided into, skin growths, and tumors. Skin growths are benign lumps of tissue that poke out from your emotional support animal’s skin. Tumors are masses of tissue formed by the gathering of abnormal cells, and not all tumors are cancerous. I will also be discussing oral growths since they are significant as well. Many oral growths are not easily spotted, however, their symptoms are very much like that of dental disease: bad breath, trouble chewing, pawing at the mouth, etc, and should be brought to your vet’s attention immediately.
A. Skin Growths
An abscess is a lump that forms from infection. This infection can be due to a bite, or an open wound, for example. These will cause your emotional support animal a lot of pain and are often at risk of rupturing due to the large amounts of blood and pus inside of them.
A Hematoma is concentrated bleeding under the skin following disease or trauma. These can also be quite painful for your emotional support animal.
3.) Apocrine Cysts
Caused by obstructed skin glands, these cysts are quite like a pimple that a human would get.
4.) Injection-Site Reactions
After receiving a shot, your emotional support animal could grow a small knot under their skin. They typically fade within a few days and shouldn’t cause any pain.
Hives are due to an allergic reaction, they manifest themselves as itchy and inflamed bumps on your emotional support animal’s skin.
Small, hard, dome-shaped, and benign, these masses typically appear on younger dogs’ heads, ears or legs, and often go away without any sort of treatment.
2.) Malignant Skin Tumors
These are cancerous and quite noticeable sores that won’t get better with time. The most common type is called a mast cell tumor. Spotting this quickly will benefit your emotional support animal immensely.
3.) Sebaceous Gland Hyperplasia
This mass forms when sebum glands (sebum is what keeps your emotional support animal’s skin lubricated) grow too quickly. They are benign and resemble warts. Typically, they will be found on the legs, torso, or eyelids of your dog.
Lipomas are mostly found in overweight dogs, and this mass is also benign. They are smooth clumps of fat that appear on the chest, abdomen, or front of the legs.
C. Oral Growths
These are warts that can be found on your emotional support animal’s face and inside the mouth. They come from the papillomavirus and while benign, are very contagious. These typically will heal on their own and may not need medical attention unless your emotional support animal is experiencing discomfort.
This forms in the tissue of the gums around a particular tooth. Most are benign, but it is possible they can be malignant, your veterinarian will need to perform tests.
3.) Gingival Hyperplasia
Gingival Hyperplasia is a benign gum tissue overgrowth, and it will only need to be removed if it causes your emotional support animal any stress or discomfort. Your veterinarian might have the tissue tested just to be safe.
4.) Oral Melanoma
This is the most common malignant oral tumor in dogs, and might appear black from discoloration.
5.) Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This is an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells, meaning Squamous Cell Carcinoma is cancerous. It might appear as a white mass or a raised lump of tissue in the mouth of your emotional support animal.
When you bring a lump to your veterinarian’s attention, this will prompt a physical examination. If they see that the lump is newer, or they deem it temporary, (a bug bite for example) your vet will typically suggest an observation period. However, they will collect a sample from the lump or mass on your emotional support animal and run additional tests in order to determine the cell type and ensure it is not harmful to your pet.
Samples can be collected in two ways: fine needle aspirate or a biopsy (if the fine needle aspirate is not effective or appropriate for your pet). Once the samples are collected by your vet, they are then sent over to a veterinary pathologist for evaluation. The pathologist will be able to determine if your emotional support animal has cancerous cells and what type of cancer it is.
If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, your veterinarian will want to run more diagnostics in order to determine the best path forward. They might even have to call in a specialist if more complex tests are needed.
These are the diagnostics
- Lab Tests: Blood chemistry, blood cell count, and urinalysis
- X-Rays: Can show any growths that may be present in your emotional support animal
- Ultrasound: This can also show growths while providing a better look at your dog’s internal organs
- CT/MRI: Provides a better look at the structure of a tumor as well as your emotional support animal’s organs
After diagnosing your dog, your veterinarian will discuss the appropriate treatment plan with you. A cancerous mass does not mean that your emotional support animal has no hope. If the mass is caught quickly and treated aggressively, your dog can experience a full recovery.
Not every lump or mass you may find on your emotional support animal can be prevented but some of them can be. For instance, the chances of developing mammary tumors (most common in female dogs) can be decreased significantly if you spay your dog before her first heat cycle. You should visit the vet for a checkup at least once a year, and in-between visits make sure to keep a close eye on your emotional support animal. The quicker a lump is spotted, the better.
Here are some other steps you can take to ensure your emotional support animal is healthy
1.) Nutritious Diet
A proper diet can help keep your pet’s skin healthy and avoid irritation and bumps. Fatty acids can calm sensitive skin, keep it healthy, and make your emotional support animal’s coat shine.
2.) Physical Activity
You should exercise your dog at least once a day (not just potty breaks) to keep their body and immune system strong.
Keeping your emotional support animal’s coat trimmed and clean will allow you to see their skin more clearly, hence, noticing any strange or new lumps/bumps that may arise on your pet.
As you can see there are many steps you can take to ensure the health and safety of your emotional support animal. The best way to combat a lump, however, is early detection which equals early treatment from your veterinarian. Even if the growth or mass ends up being harmless, getting into the habit of regularly checking your pet’s coat and noting anything new, will be very helpful in the long run if anything serious arises. Remember, don’t speculate, not all growths or masses are cause for panic, and even the dangerous ones can be treated and even fully recovered from.
Being aware and educated on all of the signs, symptoms, types of lumps, and the diagnosis/treatment process will help you be prepared in the event that your emotional support animal needs you to be. The best care is preventative care, so doing all you can in between check-ups to keep your pet in tip-top shape such as healthy eating, staying active, and regular grooming, all aid in preserving your dog’s health and wellbeing. This includes keeping your eyes open to your pet’s appearance and behavior at all times. Not every growth is easily spotted, oral growths for example, but your pet will often show you what is wrong through their actions before there is any physical proof.
If your pet is not acting like their normal self, having trouble eating, displaying signs of pain, limping, or anything else that I mentioned earlier- contact your veterinarian immediately. Even something that seems minor can make all the difference for your dog if it is caught in time.