Quick Guide to Senior Dog Lumps and Bumps

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As a dog ages, they often develop spongy lumps, called lipomas, on their bodies.  These lumps are usually fatty tumors and no reason to worry.  If the lump in question is soft and round with well defined edges, this is a good indication that the lump is not cancerous.  If the lump has a little wiggle room, meaning it doesn’t feel tightly attached to your dog’s skin, this is another indication that the lump is benign. Lipomas can occur anywhere on a dog’s body but are commonly found on the trunk.


Listen sonny…  lipomas are a natural part of aging

It’s a very good idea to monitor lumps, even before they appear. Getting your dog accustomed to your touch through canine massage is a great way to do this. When your dog is comfortable with your touch, they will allow you to handle and examine more sensitive areas of their bodies, such as their mouth, ears, paws, sides and belly.  Canine massage is also a great bonding activity.

To introduce your dog to canine massage, first start with your dog in a calm, relaxed environment. I tend to do massage while I am lying in bed watching tv or hanging out on the couch. Bring your dog into your lap or sit beside your dog and calmly begin to massage them all over their body, paying special attention to often-neglected areas, such as the arm pits, chest, flanks and sides. Use long, soothing strokes with gentle pressure, ensuring that you are pressing in deep enough to feel down into the skin beyond their fur. If you find a lump or a skin abnormality, feel around it and work your fingers over it to confirm that it is in fact a skin lump and not matted fur or debris. If you do find a lump, do not panic. Not all lumps are signs of impending doom. Many lumps may be benign non-cancerous fatty tumors, they may be ticks that need to be removed, skin tags/moles, or they may just be a swollen area where your dog bumped into something.

If you find a mysterious lump or bump, you should make an appointment to have it examined by your dog’s veterinarian. Continue to observe it and monitor its progress so you can answer questions like, when did the lump appear? Has it grown in size? How quickly?

If your vet is concerned about the nature of the lump, he may decide to aspirate or biopsy it. Aspirating involves numbing the area with a local anesthetic and withdrawing a small amount of fluid from inside the lump (officially called a Fine Needle Aspirate). A biopsy is when your vet removes a small piece of the tissue. The fluid or tissue is then sent off to the lab to be examined and depending on the results, you should have an answer whether or not the lump is a cause for concern, or indeed a fatty benign tumor that can be left alone.  If the lump contains cancerous or pre-cancerous cells, it may need to be surgically removed.

Overweight female dogs are more prone to developing lipomas, so prevention is a great reason to get out there and walk your dog a little more.

Other types of lumps and bumps include:

Hematomas: fluid-filled pockets on the inside of the ear-flap. Usually caused by trauma to the ear such as shaking or banging on a table, etc. Your dog’s ears are filled with tiny blood vessels and when the blood vessels burst, your dogs ear will fill with blood or fluid. See your vet right away if you suspect your dog has a hematoma.


Hematomas can also occur farther down the ear.

Papillomas: or warts, to the rest of us. Warts are caused by the papilloma virus and result in cauliflower-like skin and mouth lesions in dogs. These viruses tend to affect three groups of dogs: young dogs who were exposed to the virus, immune-suppressed dogs, and older dogs who grow warts as they age.

Follucitus: or infected hair follicles. In mild folliculitis you will commonly find numerous small pustules with a fur shaft protruding through the center of each. In mild cases a small ring of scales may form around the infection. Once the follicles are infected, this condition can quickly worsen. You should see your vet right away if you suspect this condition.

Sebaceous Cyst: These start out as a small benign bump under the skin and can grow to be around 1 inch in diameter. They develop when a hair follicle or skin pore gets clogged with dead skin cells, dirt, foreign or infectious matter or excess oil  and are not unlike acne in humans, just usually much larger.  Certain breeds including schnauzers, yorkies, poodles, and spaniels are predisposed to cysts (perhaps another reason to adopt a mixed breed dog). You may be able to relieve sebaceous cysts through frequent warm compresses but it isn’t pretty. You should consult your vet to determine the best course of action and to eliminate the chance for infection.

Just like with humans, lumps and bumps are a natural part of growing up!

Do you have anything to add? Leave a comment below.

19 Responses

  1. Ashley says:

    Hello. I have a mixed breed dog that i rescued as a pup. She is 10 years old now. She has had to stay with my dad while ive been in school and pregnant with my first. 4-5 months ago i noticed she had a quarter sized lump on her stomach but also right beside her breast region. This lump can now fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. It moves around easily and doesnt seem to hurt her at all when touched or moved. I dont have much money to be able to afford a vet, i was wondering if anyo e could provide any type of information or advice that would help. Shes my life and my world and ive been scared/worried/concerned as of late. Im trying to find a vet in my area that would bill me and let me do payments.. if i have too i will get a loan if it means saving her life once again.

    • Estelle W. says:

      Hi Ashley – the only way to know for sure is by taking her to the vet. The first step is an initial office visit for consultation, and that should not break the bank. Call your vet’s office and find out what an office visit costs. Once you are there, the vet will tell you if further diagnostics/tests are necessary, and you can ask about the cost and payment of those items before you give consent for the vet to perform them. It’s possible the lump could be a harmless fatty deposit, but it could also be cancer. Only your vet can confirm so please do take her. Knowing what you’re dealing with will determine next steps, if any.

  2. Lindsay says:

    My ten y/o pug has a lump on her stomach my her nipples towards the bottom of her stomach. It also goes down or disappears and then comes back again. What could this possible be? My only thought would be a infected milk glad or something

  3. amanda says:

    My dog birdie nearing 8
    Showing Lumps on her belly don’t seem to hurt. And some what free moving under the skin. HELP
    She’s MY Best friend loves me and I love love her!
    I simply can not loose her ! Plz help

  4. Kenya says:

    My Mastiff has a fatty tumor that is draining through a small opening. What should I do?

  5. Tracy says:

    We have a 3 legged collie cross who is 15 years old he has a lump on his side which has been slowly growing over a couple of years it is now the size of half a rugby ball. The vet has seen it several times over the years and has said he would not operate because of his age and the weakness now in his remaining front leg. It isn’t uncomfortable for him but it is heavy so must be affecting him getting around. Is there more I can be doing apart from surgery which Is Not an option ? Thank you

    • Jesse says:

      Hello I have a 12 year old collie cross with the exact problem! A large lump, also been checked by vet and okayed as not cancerous. Have you had any information on what could help other than surgery? Also looking for answers!
      Thank You

  6. Louise says:

    First of all … What dog food company are you working for?? Grain free diets are a fad !!! All of a sudden everyone has a dog who requires special diet just like ppl who are “gluten intolerant” without any testing ?? Wow . Take you dog to the Veterinarian first please! Have some actual science done like lab work to make sure your dog is healthy. There are truly not many Veterinarian Oncologists out there . And BTW if your regular vet couldn’t diagnose a impacted anal gland and you had to read about it here….. Find a new vet – that’s highly unlikely

  7. Kathy says:

    I inherited my mom’s dog in 2012…an elderly unspayed female shin tzu who is around 13 yrs old. She has s large mass growing under her tail below her anus. It is blown up like a balloon and is black. Since she is small she has rubbed a raw spot on the underside of it. It looks horrible. She gas had it about 4 years and it as grown very large over time. Mom took her to the vet and was first told it was fatty tumor and then later told it may be cancer…since no one could say if she would live if removed, nothing was done…and 4 yrs later it is larger but she is still with us. It looks as if she has a very large set of balls…..

    • lola says:

      This sounds like she may have an infected or impacted anal gland – they can lance this and it will drain – this happened to my older mixed breed pup

    • Jocelyn dunn says:

      My shit tzu had issues with this as well. Once they are Impacted they can rupture and cause pain. The vet can clean out the glad area and let it heal. You will need to have the glands expressed to prevent the from getting like this in the future. My shit tzu continued having issues and we had her anal glands removed but this is not always nessesary is you stay on top of having them expressed. Hope this helps :)

  8. Amanda F says:

    My mom has a mini doxy that is 15 years old. I was over visiting my mom the other day and noticed Toot (mom’s dog) was having trouble getting around. I picked her up and saw she has several golf ball size lumps on her belly around where her breasts are. She’s so tiny that these are giant on her so I have been worried sick and trying to find out what these are. I’m going to go to my mom’s tomorrow and follow your directions. I pray it isn’t cancerous. We’ve had her for so long and it will break all of our hearts if anything should happen. Thank you for this article. I’ve called lots of places but no one would help unless we paid over 100 bucks for an exam. Thanks again :)

  9. JOHN SIMAC says:

    Not only check your dog externally by massaging their bodies but cannot state strong enough to have yur pets get a physical exam once or twice a year perhaps depending on age. My reasons for stating this is that I just lost a wonderful, fantastic female Rhodesian Ridgeback who for 6 years & 7 months showed no external symptoms of ill health. Bonnie my dearest was fully active, full of life until recently in one week she began to throw up her food. I though Bonnie had just eaten a noxious weed or gulped a plastic cap but upon vet visit she had actually been carrying an advanced state of lymphomasarcoma the wrost type of pretty much incurable cancer that took her life in less than a month even trying to frantically administer chemo . Bonnie had developed large tumors inbetween her adominal tissue layers protruding against her intestinal tract.
    Being a 30 year experienced dog owner & lover Bonnie was my first inflicted cancer companion. They say tumors are mostly genetic but Bonnie had a brother clyde of same liter who showed no signs after tests done to him of any cancer with x-rays & ultrasound.
    Things I learned about these cancers is that they thrive on carbohydrates, sugar & starches so a dogs diet is crucial. I had always fed my pouches standard store bought but since have switched to now “Grain-Free” ,apparently, that store boughts contain too much corn & wheat fillers & preservatives that don’t digest but sit within the stomach that ferment & open the door to bacteria & infections to arise.
    Bonnie never showed any signs of discomfort so I assumed she was fine but had I routinely taken both doggies in for check-ups I probably would have had a better chance to catch this cancer before it spread (matastized). The other oddity is that Bonnies organs were clean of cancer, her heart, her lungs, her kidneys, her liver even her bone marrow but the cancer bred itself within her lymph node system. Bonnie & I got were dealt a shitty hand of cards , she should have lived another 6-7 years easily, most all of my pst companions (9) have lived till old ages of near 15 , so this was certainly a real shocker and saddened event.
    Hopefully my false invinceability of Bonnie won’t happen to others for in truth Bonnie meant the world to me , my most fantastic soulmate and honestly my unintentional neglect contributed to her demise,,DON’T LET IT HAPPEN TO YOURS!!!!!!

    • karen says:

      my heart is with you and Bonnie, I do believe we will all be together with those that we love enentually.. God Gave us the love of these beautiful friends after all..just know that you made your Bonnie’s life special and full of love,, that is what matters. :) I know that you wrote this a while ago, it was so helpful and touched my heart.. thank you for that and for being such a wonderful buddy to Bonnie..it sounds like she had a happy life and knew she was loved.

  10. Tom says:

    We live in Thailand and one of our adopted Thai dogs (ten years old) has loose, just under the skin cysts appearing constantly for the last year or two. They are fast growing and can get as large as a golf ball. They don’t hurt the dog when we touch or even squeeze them and they move about freely under the skin. They have appeared mostly on the neck and legs or where the legs attach to the body (underarm or underleg area). We had a couple removed but they are coming so fast and there are so many now that we hate to put him through surgery at his age every few months. The vet says they are benign cysts but they look bad and as I wrote, grow fast and can get quite large. Is there anything we can do to prevent the formation of these cysts in the first place? The veterinarian hospital here just tell us surgery is the only option if they get too big.

    • JOHN SIMAC says:

      Try changing yur dogs diet to “Grain-Free” also try adding 1/2 to full tablespoon of “Norwegian Cod Liver Oil” to each meal you give your dog.. I got mine thru Amazon. Also for great assortment of “Grain Free Foods” look into “Chewy.Com” they are a huge selection of variety of foods. Also type into Google to get more comparative info.
      The grain frees are expensive but nothing like the $11,000 I SPENT TOO LATE TRYING TO SAVE MY GREAT COMPANION BONNIE OF CANCER.

  11. G.C. says:

    Your comment about sebaceous cyst and warm compresses and the useage of them, “You may be able to relieve sebaceous cysts through frequent warm compresses but it isn’t pretty.” What is not prety about this treatment, matted fur, or the stuff that could come out of the cyst? Some clarity would be appreciated. BTA, my 12 black lab has papillomas but she does not and never did have any of the growths in or around her mouth, just around her body and under her front arm pits and her groin area that spread to her stomach. The vet said that there were many different reasons/causes of papillomas and that different blood tests would determine want caused her type. Thank you for taking the time to answer/comment on my question.

    • Annie M says:

      Hi G.C.
      I only say it’s not pretty because sebaceous cysts are filled with pus and warm compresses act to open them so that the pus can drain out. Cysts can be larger than a quarter in diameter so… that is a lot of pus.

      I hope that answers your question, thanks for stopping by!