Lipoma or fat ball in dogs: symptoms, treatment and prevention


Lipoma, which more specifically affects obese or old dogs, is a benign tumor consisting of fat. It never degenerates into cancer, which is reassuring, but depending on its location, it can still be bothersome or painful for the dog. Let’s take stock of this soft mass that is perceptible on palpation and sometimes even very apparent, and which requires a consultation with the veterinarian to ensure that it is not a malignant tumor, because the confusion is possible.

Lipoma in dogs: a non-cancerous tumor

The term lipoma refers to a benign tumor consisting of fat cells, adipocytes. A lipoma most often develops in the subcutaneous tissue and generally on the thighs, back, flanks and stomach. This fat ball is more common in females than in males, and an animal that has had one lipoma in the past may well have more.

The typical profile of dogs more prone to developing lipoma are:

  • Age: 9 years old,
  • Gender: female,
  • Presence of proven overweight or obese.

It should also be noted that all canine breeds can be affected by this type of benign tumor, but some dogs are more exposed to it, such as Pinscher, Doberman, Schnauzer, Labrador retriever and Golden retriever.

Lipoma in dogs: symptoms

A lipoma can become quite bulky, sometimes reaching the size of a tennis ball. It can therefore be visible to the naked eye, forming a impressive protuberance and worrying for the dog owner. Its speed of development varies from dog to dog and is more or less rapid. In many cases, these fatty tumors do not cause specific symptoms in animals. However, they can be annoying depending on their location. This is the case if the lipoma is located:

  • Under one foot,
  • In the immediate vicinity of an eye.

The dog may then feel very uncomfortable pain or discomfort.

The small diameter lipoma is more difficult to locate visually than when the fat ball is very large, and it is by stroking or brushing the dog that the owner discovers the tumor, soft mass under the skin.

In the slightest doubt, it is necessary to consult the veterinarian.

Lipoma: diagnosis and treatment

It is essential that the veterinarian examine the dog and then conduct analyzes because he must be able to identify the origin of this mass with certainty. Indeed, a lipoma can be mistaken for a malignant tumor, that is to say a cancerous tumor. To do this, it is therefore necessary to take a sample through a fine needle aspiration or a biopsy. The dog is then slightly anesthetized, and the puncture is done using a fine needle.

The lipoma treatment is surgical. The intervention does not present any particular difficulty, and it is rapid. However, we cannot rule out risks associated with anesthesia. This is the reason why the veterinarian only opts for the removal of the lipoma if the latter is extremely troublesome for the animal, either because of its location or because it causes pain. An intervention is also performed when the tumor is growing rapidly or if new lipomas appear.

When the lipoma is very large and therefore visible, some owners wish to have their animal operated on. If the dog is fragile and may not endure the anesthesia, it is stupid to expose him unnecessarily to this type of risk for a simple unsightly fat ball. The decision rests with the veterinarian, the sole judge in the matter.

Lipoma or fat ball: prevention

Not all lipomas can be prevented. However, it is possible to limit their occurrence by ensuring protect your dog against obesity. A healthy lifestyle is essential. To do this, the animal must benefit from balanced diet throughout one’s life, have very good quality, and its daily ration should be sufficient but not excessive. At the same time, to fight against canine obesity, it is just as essential to allow your dog or bitch to work out every day. Sedentary lifestyle being a scourge in dogs as in humans, it must be fought.

Finally, each owner is responsible for the health of his pet. The ideal is to ask the vet to carry out a check-up at least once a year so that any problem can be diagnosed as quickly as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment lead to better results.

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