When you run your fingers over your golden retriever and – uh-oh – find leg lumps and shoulder bumps, your heart might skip a beat. So when you rush to the vet and he says, “It’s just lipomas,” be glad.
Lipomas are fatty cell tumors. Often appearing on older dogs, these benign tumors grow on the skin and, more rarely, deep in tissue between muscles. These soft-tissue tumors are painless and slow growing, although they may become large enough to interfere with your dog’s movement and comfort. Most lipomas appear on a golden retriever’s torso, such as her chest or sides, or at the top of the leg where it joins the body. Lipomas are more common in overweight female dogs. When one lipoma occurs, others usually show up as she ages. Lipomas can show up at any age and in male or female dogs. Veterinarians use a slender needle to remove cells inside the tumor and identify the fatty cells of a lipoma.
Medical treatment is usually not required for lipomas, although surgical removal is an option if the tumors affect your dog’s quality of life. When a lipoma is large, such as a softball-size pendulous chest lump, you may have it removed from a young or mature golden for the dog’s comfort. When she is a senior or has health issues, your vet may advise against surgery. Your golden probably does not notice a little extra fat padding on her body. Even if one lump is removed, others are likely to form. You must decide if you want the expense and risks of surgery every time a fatty cushion forms on her skin. If she is under anesthesia or undergoing surgery for another reason, the lipomas may be removed at that time.
Factors Affecting Lipomas
Because these fatty tumors appear more often on obese dogs, a diet high in carbohydrates may be a factor in lipoma growth. Changing to a high-protein, grain-free diet can reduce carbs and help your golden girl lose weight. If the lipomas are simply fatty deposits because your dog is overweight, reduce her food intake and treats while bumping up the exercise. Switch her treats to fresh fruits such as blueberries or veggies such as carrot sticks. As her weight shrinks, the lipomas may disappear as quickly as they appeared.
Caring for Lipomas
Groom your golden, bathe her, exercise and pet her as if the lipomas did not exist. Use caution with sharp-tooth grooming tools that can damage her skin. Sometimes lipomas build up pressure until the cell cracks open and the fatty fluid oozes out. Your vet may tell you to keep the skin area clean to avoid infection, but a ruptured lipoma often flattens and disappears. When you pet or massage your golden, run your fingers over her skin to check for lipomas. Then give her a hug and take her for a walk.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Phyllis Benson is a professional writer and creative artist. Her 25-year background includes work as an editor, syndicated reporter and feature writer for publications including "Journal Plus," "McClatchy Newspapers" and "Sacramento Union." Benson earned her Bachelor of Science degree at California Polytechnic University.