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Pet Lumps and Bumps: When You Should Visit the Vet

Man holding pug


Finding a lump or bump on your dog or cat when you pet them can be a bit worrisome. You might start jumping to all sorts of scary conclusions about what it could be. Inevitably, you might fear your worst nightmare—what if your best friend has cancer? But, although some pet lumps require a vet's attention and can be a sign of underlying issues, all bumps aren't bad.

Before you fear the worst when you come across a bump or lump on your furry friend, familiarize yourself with the possibilities. Of course, you should always have your vet take a peek if you're unsure about a bump's origin. But not all pet lumps and bumps are cause for concern.

Questions to Ask Yourself About Pet Bumps

If you notice a bump on your pup or cat, ask yourself a few questions before you panic. Did the bump show up suddenly? If it has been there for a while, has it changed in any way? For example, has it changed size, color, or shape? Does your pet seem to be acting normally, or has your pal’s behavior changed since you’ve noticed the bump? Were you doing anything with your pet where they could have gotten a bug bite or had an allergic reaction? 

No matter what, anytime you notice a lump or bump on your pet, you should have the vet check it out. But, the vet will also want the answers to all of the above questions to help make their diagnosis.

Common Pet Lumps and Bumps

It’s actually not uncommon to find some bumps on your pet. Most of the time, a lump or bump will be benign; but again, never assume and always have your vet take a peek.  Here are a few common pet bumps that are typically no reason for any major worry.

Fatty Tumors

As dogs grow older, it’s not uncommon to discover these fat deposits under the skin, especially around the ribs. Although they happen most often in larger breed dogs and overweight pooches, any dog can have them. 

The technical term for a fatty tumor is a lipoma. They are usually soft and not painful. Typically, you can leave them be unless your vet feels it’s interfering with your pet’s mobility. If this is the case, your vet might want to remove it.

Sebaceous Cysts

Basically, these bumps on the skin are like pimples caused by blocked oil glands. They rarely need any type of treatment and, if left alone, will usually go away on their own. However, they can become sore and sometimes can burst, letting out a whitish discharge. 


Warts usually result from a virus and can spring up pretty much anywhere. But, they can be a tricky bump to figure out because there are various kinds. Some warts might go away on their own, while others will persist. If it’s one or two warts on an area of the body that doesn’t interfere with your pal, there might be no need for treatment. 

However, if the warts are on your pet’s feet, it could cause difficulty with walking. Similarly, if your pet has a wart near their eye, it can affect their vision. Also, some warts could end up turning into cancerous tumors. Although warts might be somewhat common, you should always consult with your vet and make sure to monitor warts closely. 

Skin Tags

Many vets call these fibrous growths on your pet’s skin “old age bumps.” They are prevalent with older dogs and can show up pretty much anywhere. 


Similar to hives on humans, your pet might end up with these raised itchy bumps as a result of an allergic reaction. It’s also possible to get hives from stress and anxiety, although not as common as allergies. 

They might cause your pet some discomfort, but mild cases will usually resolve on their own. But, if not, or a more severe case, your vet might prescribe some antihistamines or steroids to give your furry friend some relief. If your vet determines stress is the cause, consider some stress-relieving activities and products for your pal, like a Neat-Lik Mat or Rolly Canolli.

Dog laying on couch

More Serious Pet Bumps

Unfortunately, not all pet lumps and bumps are benign. Sometimes, a bump can signal a more serious condition.

Mast Cell Tumor

These tumors can resemble many of the benign lumps and bumps previously discussed, making it even more critical to have your vet check out any pet bumps. Mast cell tumors are a common form of skin cancer. 


Your pet can get an abscess from various situations, like an insect bite or an injury. The wound gets infected and forms a pocket that fills with puss. On your pet’s skin, you might notice a sudden swelling or squishy lump. An abscess requires a vet’s care. Your vet will need to drain the abscess, clean it properly, and likely put your pet on antibiotics to take care of any infection. 


When you hear melanoma, you might automatically jump to cancer. But these tumors can also be benign. It’s essential to get them checked out ASAP, and usually, a vet can remove them easily with surgery.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma 

This type of skin cancer typically correlates with sun exposure and usually shows up in areas without a lot of hair or pigment. These tumors are generally slow-growing.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma

This is a large group of tumors starting in connective tissue and spreading to surrounding tissue. The lumps are usually firm and deep under the skin. They typically are not painful, and a vet must remove them with surgery, making sure to get all of the surrounding tissue.

Dog at vet

What Will Your Vet Do About Your Pet's Bumps?

Diagnosis of Pet Bumps

When you bring your dog or cat to the vet for a checkup, there are a few different ways they can determine what that lump or bump is. One technique is fine-needle aspiration (FNA), when your vet inserts a small needle into the lump to extract cells. They can then examine the cells to diagnose the lump.

If the bump has any type of discharge, your vet might be able to examine this to make a diagnosis. This technique is called an impression smear. Your vet can also make a diagnosis by sending off any fluid to a lab. In other cases, the vet may need to do a biopsy, where they remove the whole lump or part of it and send it to a lab for diagnosis.

Treatment of Pet Bumps

Treatment for lumps and bumps varies significantly depending on what the bump is. You might not need to do anything at all; other bumps might need medication, while others require removal. Removal can happen through surgery, freezing off the bump (cryosurgery), or partial removal if the vet can’t remove the whole lump safely. 

Since there are so many types of pet bumps and a wide array of treatment options, the first step when you find any lump is to call your vet. It’s good practice when you’re a pet owner to do regular skin checks on your pal. Another great time to keep an eye out for any differences is when you’re grooming your pet. If you bring your pet to a professional groomer, they might also tell you if they noticed something unusual on your pal.

For more helpful tips on how to take care of your furry friend, make sure to check out the rest of our blog. It’s our mission to give you the information you need to be an informed and amazing pet parent.


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