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Many tumors in animals originate in fat, or adipose, tissue and are clinically called lipomas.  They are extremely common in dogs but rare in cats.  Fatty tumors can be seen in any breed and are most common in middle-aged to older dogs and overweight dogs.  Fatty tumors can be found anywhere on the body.  Most tumors grow slowly and are benign and do not spread to other parts of the body.

Fatty tumors can be felt as soft masses under the skin that are freely movable.  They are not painful, and there is no hair loss or redness.  They rarely cause any discomfort unless they are very large or interfere with the dog's movement because of its location (eg, over a joint).

Your veterinarian may take a small sample of cells from the mass for examination under the microscope.  In some cases, a biopsy may be needed to confirm the diagnosis, and a sample can be obtained when the mass is surgically removed.  Removal of a fatty tumor is also curative but generally not necessary unless the mass interferes with your pet's movement.


Q&A

What is a lipoma?

A lipoma is a fat tumor that feels like a soft, freely movable mass under the skin. 


Do all pets get lipomas?

They are extremely common in dogs but rare in cats.  Lipomas can be seen in any breed, but are most common in middle-aged to older dogs and in overweight dogs. 


Are lipomas malignant cancer that needs to be treated?

Lipomas are usually slow-growing, benign tumors that do not spread to other parts of the body.  Surgical removal is curative but generally not necessary unless the lipoma interferes with your dog's movement.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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