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A variety of lumps, bumps and growths can pop up on dogs, especially as they get older.  Fortunately, most are not harmful.  Here is a guide to some of the typical skin growths in dogs.  No growth can be definitively diagnosed by its appearance alone however, so point out such lumps and bumps to your veterinarian during your dog’s annual physical examination, and be sure to consult your veterinarian if your dog has a lump that grows very rapidly, oozes or doesn’t heal.

Warts. These are firm, bumpy growths that occur in dogs of all ages.  Puppy warts that appear around a young dog’s mouth are caused by a virus and will go away on their own.  Older dogs often grown warts on their heads or bodies.  Warts should be surgically removed if they routinely bleed or become irritated, or if they grow on the eyelid and rub against the eye.

Pimples and Blackheads.  Dogs can get “clogged pores” just like people do.  Facial acne in dogs usually responds well to frequent cleaning with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser.  Pimples or blackheads elsewhere can be a symptom of a bacterial infection or seborrhea.

Sebaceous cysts.  These lumps are oil-producing (sebaceous) glands that have become blocked and enlarged and can range in size.  They contain a whitish, greasy, paste-like combination of oil, bacteria and skin cells.  Sebaceous cysts will sometimes open and ooze on their own, or the material can be squeezed out, but usually they will simply fill up again over time.  If a sebaceous cyst is particularly messy or in an area where it constantly becomes irritated, it can be surgically removed.

Lipomas.  These are commonly referred to as “fatty tumors”, but they are benign, not malignant and are not “tumors” in the cancer sense.  Rather, they are lumpy accumulations of fat and appear in middle-aged and older dogs.  These can range in size and grow slowly over months to years.  If your dog has lipomas, your vet should measure them during their yearly examination and note the size and location on your dog’s medical chart.  Your vet may also want to do a fine needle aspirate (FNA) which can be done in just a few seconds and is virtually painless.  The vet inserts a needle into the lump and extracts a drop of its contents to examine under a microscope.  The contents are just fat, you can be reasonably certain the lump is lipoma.  If the contents include other type of cells, then it would be prudent to remove it surgically and have it checked by a pathologist.  Lipomas that are large enough to make a dog uncomfortable or interfere with his ability to walk should also be removed.

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