As dogs age, they become more at risk for certain health disorders. Lipomas frequently occur in senior dogs, and although unsightly, normally pose little health risk. While prevention isn't possible, preparation is, and understanding lipomas may help dog owners approach their canine's golden years with less distress.
Bumps in the Aging Road
The canine lipoma is an easily felt bump beneath the dog's skin. These fatty masses or tumors are normally found on the trunk or abdomen, but can be located anywhere on your dog's body. They are normally not life-threatening, and are more a bump in the road of aging, as lipomas are typically seen only in senior dogs.
Differentiating the Lipoma
Most lipomas are benign in nature, and most dogs with one lipoma will develop more. As disconcerting as this is to the human companion of an aging dog, the presence of multiple lipomas doesn't necessarily mean a life-threatening situation exists. A subclass of the lipoma is the infiltrative lipoma, which will normally spread, or "infiltrate," into the surrounding muscle mass. The infiltrative lipoma, while is also benign, may require surgical intervention and removal. More dangerous to the life of your canine is the liposarcoma, a rare and malignant lipoma, which may spread to the muscle, bone and organs of the dog's body.
The Lipoma as an Individual
Only a veterinarian can properly diagnose a lipoma, and all masses should be examined individually. To determine treatment, the veterinarian likely will aspirate each mass with a fine needle. Inconclusive test results may give cause for surgical removal and histopathology to determine the correct course of treatment. Infiltrative lipomas are normally diagnosed with CT scans or an MRI, and may require surgery if the mass can be removed safely.
Surgery Only When Necessary
Treatment varies depending on the type and size of the lipoma. Most lipomas do not require surgical intervention unless they grow so large in mass that they limit the dog's movement and agility. Surgical removal is most often necessary in the case of an infiltrative lipoma, or a liposarcoma. Both may be treated with radiation, and a dog suffering from liposarcoma may need chemotherapy treatments. Liposarcoma is the most difficult to treat, and many elderly dogs cannot withstand treatment. The only option for treating liposarcomas may be pain management, and these tumors may cause death.
Living with Lipoma
While there are no know preventative measures to reduce the occurrence of lipomas, frequent geriatric wellness visits will give your veterinarian the opportunity to thoroughly examine your dog. Multiple benign lipomas, while somewhat unsightly, are not life-threatening. With continued good health, and close monitoring by a health professional, your dog can live a long and comfortable life.