Should Fatty Tumors be Removed?

photo 2006 Heather Kennedy | more info (via: Wylio)My dog has a fatty tumor that was aspirated last year. It seems much bigger now, about...


Nigel Intentphoto 2006 Heather Kennedy | more info (via: Wylio)
My dog has a fatty tumor that was aspirated last year. It seems much bigger now, about 2′ round. It is on the top of his back near the spine. He had it for about 4-5 years. Do you recommend removing it?

Phila., PA

I generally do not recommend removing lipomas (some vets call lipomas fatty tumors; I don’t like the term because the T-word is scary and lipomas are not dangerous).

I am guessing that you meant to say the mass on your dog’s back is now about two inches, rather than two feet around. A two foot lipoma (and I have seen them get that large) might start to impede mobility, so you may want to talk to your vet about options. However, I often don’t recommend removing lipomas when they are that massive.

Perhaps you have heard the expression that sleeping dogs should be left to lie. Or that the boat shouldn’t be rocked. Or if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Or if you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it. All of these generally apply to lipoma removal.

Surgical excision of lipomas can lead to pain, swelling, infection, hematomas, seromas, and surgical incision dehiscence. The surgeries involve sedatives and anesthetic drugs that rarely lead to complications. All of the the above listed problems (except for postoperative pain) are uncommon. However, why take any risks at all to remove a harmless mass? Since lipomas don’t generally harm dogs’ self esteem, there’s no good reason to perform cosmetic surgery (which is what lipoma removals really are) on them.

Monitor the lipoma carefully. Have it aspirated repeatedly every six months. Make sure it’s not something serious. But don’t remove it if it’s harmless.

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