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Lipoma Tumours in pets

Published on 18 Jun 2021

Cat and dog sleeping on white furry mat

Lipomas are very common tumours of cats and dogs that are benign. This is not to be confused with liposarcoma which is the malignant form of this tumour and is much less common. 

Lipomas are commonly found in the layer under the skin (subcutaneous layer) and are a slow growing accumulation of fat cells which form a lump. The cause of lipomas can vary from genetics to environment to the pet’s diet. Although they are benign tumours, they can invade neighbouring tissues which may reduce the function of nearby structures. 

In some cases, they can become quite large and depending on the location may cause discomfort or reduce mobility of the patient. Occasionally lipomas form internally. Lipomas may also become necrotic, meaning that the cells die off and the mass becomes infected and inflamed, but thankfully this is fairly uncommon. 

Who is Most Affected by Lipomas?

Lipomas can affect any breed of dog or cat but according to PetSure data, are most frequently diagnosed in pets aged between 6 and 10 years. According to PetSure data in 2020, lipomas were most prevalent in the following breeds: 

Breed Prevalence*
Doberman3.38%
Hungarian Vizsla3.01%
Rhodesian Ridgeback2.89%
Beagle2.72%
Weimaraner2.45%
Labrador 2.27%
English Springer Spaniel2.27%
Miniature Schnauzer2.24%
Australian Terrier 2.22%
Shetland Sheepdog 2.21%

*Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of Lipoma

The main sign for a lipoma is a lump that may be seen or felt under the skin. These lumps are often round, soft, smooth and are not attached to underlying tissue. 

They are usually not painful for the pet unless they are invading nearby tissues such as nerves or have grown so large that they are impeding other body parts. For example, a large lipoma in a pet's axilla region (or armpit) can cause mobility issues as well as invade the important structures in this area. 

Diagnosing Lipoma 

Diagnosing lipoma often involves taking a sample of cells with a needle and then checking this sample under the microscope. This procedure is known as a fine needle aspirate. It is not always possible to get an accurate diagnosis with a fine needle aspirate. 

In which case surgical biopsy of the mass to be sent to the pathology lab for testing may be recommended. 

Management of Lipoma 

In many cases, once a mass has been diagnosed as a lipoma, if it is not causing the pet patient any pain or interrupting normal movement, there is generally no need to remove or treat them. 

Recording the growth of the lump through regular check ups at the vet and taking regular photos is a good idea to monitor the development of the tumour. 

If the lipoma does start causing the pet a problem or grows very suddenly, surgical removal is usually the recommended action. 

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data from 2020 (calendar year), the average, single treatment cost relating to lipoma was $347, with the highest, single treatment cost being $5,776. The overall treatment cost of managing lipomas will vary depending on the treatments that have been recommended by your veterinarian.

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

References

  1. Brister, J, Vincyclopedia, 2017, Lipoma, accessed on 17/05/21
  2. Pet Health Network, “Lipomas in Dogs, accessed on 14/04/21
  3. VCA Hospitals, ‘Adipose (Lipoma) Tumors, accessed on 14/04/21

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Kylie Mitchell

Kylie Mitchell

Veterinarian

Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie Mitchell's Pets

  • MeekaMeeka
  • Bei BeiBei Bei
  • NoahNoah