Dear Elliott


I have noticed a soft round bump on my side.  Sometimes when I groom and lick where it is, it feels weird.  Is there something I can do about this?



Dear Lumpy,



Many benign (non-cancerous) growths can develop quickly or slowly over the course of months to years. But there are also cancerous growths that can grow or spread quickly. Masses or swellings can be a sign of something infectious or even contagious. 


Although many growths look similar, lumps can’t be diagnosed merely by sight. Testing is required and the least invasive method is to perform a needle aspirate (your veterinarian will insert a sterile needle attached to a syringe and remove cells or fluid then prepare a slide to look at the cells under a microscope). This can almost always be done without sedation and it causes very little discomfort.  Sometimes a diagnosis is immediate. If not, the slides are sent to a pathology lab for diagnosis.


Cancerous growths must be surgically removed and may require further treatment. Sometimes we may recommend removing a growth and submitting it to a pathologist for a definitive diagnosis. Benign lumps may be removed if they are a nuisance (you are chewing on it, rubbing it raw, it is affecting your mobility or even if your owner finds it ugly).  It is important to take action sooner rather than later once removal is recommended, as it is much easier to remove small lumps than large ones. Depending on the size and location, some growths, if left untreated, can’t be surgically removed.


For starters, ask your owner to take you to the vet so that the lump location, size and general appearance can be recorded. Over the course of weeks or even years, your owner and your doctor can keep an eye on the lump to watch for changes. After all, it’s hard to notice changes when you see it every day!


Since lumps and bumps can be indicative of so many different things, it is important to point out all new bumps to your vet, and have existing ones rechecked at your annual exam or sooner if changes are noticed.