Don't panic if your Labrador retriever starts sprouting lumps on his body. You should have these lumps checked out by a vet, but they may not be tumorous. Benign cysts and lipomas are common in Labs. While they may strike you as cause for alarm, they don't harm the dog.
Sebaceous cysts, small lumps under the skin, can manifest several ways. A cyst might come to a head, a sort of canine zit, and break open. If your Lab's cyst appears to be coming to a head, resist the urge to pop it. Such cysts are filled with fluid or matter not unlike cottage cheese. Squeezing one can lead to infection. Or the cyst may resolve itself on its own, eventually disappearing. It can also wall itself off, with the material inside it hardening. These cysts might appear on your Lab at any age. Some dogs are prone to cysts, so you'll frequently find them on the body.
If a benign cyst breaks open, while it might look and smell gross, cleaning it isn't a big deal. Wash it out with soap and water, getting all the "cystic material," better known as gook, out of it. Clip the hair around the cyst. Use hydrogen peroxide to kill off the bacteria. Depending on the cyst's location, you can pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide on it or use a cotton ball. Follow up with antibacterial cream. Do this several times a day. If your dog can reach the cyst, wrap it so she can't lick or chew it. Your vet can remove the cyst. If it isn't removed, it may grow back. If the burst cyst becomes infected, your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics to clear it up.
Benign Fatty Tumors
These lumps that appear on middle-age and old Labs are called lipomata or lipomas. The odds are that your Lab will get at least one as he ages. Of course, it's unwise to assume that a lump or bump on your Lab is benign, so have your vet check it out to make sure. You might want to make a note of the size and location of the lump when you find it. That way you can tell if it's gotten bigger, or, if your Lab has lots of lumps, whether a particular lump is something you've noticed before. While lipomas are common in all Labs, overweight females are the most likely to get them.
Lipomas and cysts lie just beneath the skin. You can move them around a bit with your fingers. Malignant tumors are generally hard and don't move. However, your vet can't make a definite diagnosis just by feel. She'll aspirate the lipoma or cyst with a fine needle to determine the contents, or perform a biopsy.
You can have your Lab's lumps removed, but it's usually not necessary unless it it's in a place that interferes with the dog's movements or eating. While removing cysts and lipomas makes your dog look better, remember that there's a variable risk extant with putting your dog under anesthesia. Most lipomas are small and grow slowly, but large ones that cause your Lab discomfort might be candidates for removal. And you might want to remove a cyst that recurs and becomes infected.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.