- Is there a reason for the lump? If your pet was recently vaccinated the lump could be due to a small vaccine reaction. Similarly, mild trauma might result in slight swelling.
- Does the lump seem to bother your pet? If the area is painful it needs to be addressed. Signs of pain or discomfort include favoring the area, licking at the spot or hair loss around the area, or general signs that your pet is not his or herself including decreased appetite or activity level.
- What does the lump look like? If the area is red, scabbed, or oozing it should be seen by your veterinarian. These are all signs of potential infection or a more aggressive mass. If the skin appears normal it is more likely a benign fatty tumor or impacted oil gland.
- Is the lump changing? Masses that change in size, color, or general appearance should be investigated.
If a lump is identified on your pet there are several steps that may be taken. Often we can perform a fine needle aspirate during the exam; this collects a small amount of tissue for microscopic examination that can often give us an idea of what type of mass we are dealing with. Often surgical removal and histopathology are required to determine exactly what a mass is and what behavior we can expect from it. The general guideline is "if in doubt, cut it out". Hopefully we get good results saying that the mass was completely removed and not expected to cause additional problems, but even if results indicate that the mass may have spread we will have a better idea on the next steps to take to keep your pet comfortable.
As always, if you have any questions about your pet, we are here to help!