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What should you do if you find a growth?

Each year, thousands of pet parents find a growth on their companions. When a growth is discovered, the best decision you can make is to schedule an appointment to have a veterinarian perform an exam. I That way diagnostics can be run that will determine exactly what the growth is and what steps should be taken, if any.

How Do Veterinarians Determine What A Growth Is?

There are a few steps that are generally taken to determine what a growth is. After a physical exam, one of the following may be recommended:

Fine Needle Aspirate

A Fine Needle Aspirate (FNA) is when a veterinarian inserts a needle into the growth, using it to collect a small sample of cells. These cells are then examined under a microscope.

Although an FNA can frequently provide a diagnosis occasionally a definitive answer isn’t found.


A biopsy is when a sample of a growth, or the entire growth, is surgically removed and sent to a lab for examination. This procedure is done while your pet is under anesthesia.


X-rays and ultrasounds of the chest and abdomen may be recommended. This allows your veterinarian to determine if and by how much a metastasis has occurred. By this we mean a spreading of the growth, however small or large.


Although bloodwork doesn’t always provide results that could indicate a tumor process, bloodwork does determine if the vital organs are functioning properly. This is especially important if your pet needs to go under anesthesia for a tumor removal.

What Could The Growth On My Pet Be?

The following are some of the most common types of growths that are diagnosed in veterinary medicine.


A lipoma is a benign mass (non-cancerous) that is commonly called a “fatty tumor” because it is made of fat cells. Lipomas can be found on any part of the body and are frequently diagnosed in older pets. These tumors typically feel like a somewhat soft and mobile lump under the skin.

Although lipomas are not cancerous, these tumors can grow quite large. Depending on the location, they can interfere with your pet’s mobility. It’s important to monitor lipomas for growth so that the mass can be removed before size becomes an issue.


Cysts are basically hollowed spaces in tissue that can contain either liquid or solidified materials. Cysts generally feel like hard raised bumps on the skin.

There are several types of cysts, including follicular cysts, true cysts, sebaceous cysts, and dermoid cysts. Cysts can appear on any part of the body and will sometimes rupture, excreting liquids or cottage cheese like discharge.

Cysts often become infected. Antibiotics and surgical removal may be recommended.


A histiocytoma is a benign growth that commonly found on the face and legs. These growths may be hairless, red in color, and small. What’s interesting about histiocytomas is that the growth frequently goes away on its own after some time.

If surgical removal is recommended it is usually because of ulceration, bleeding, and infection.

Mast Cell Tumors

Mast Cell Tumors (MCT) account for about 20% of all skin tumors in dogs. MCTs can vary widely in appearance and can actual shrink and grow in size. MCTs should be surgically removed.

The majority of these tumors are considered locally invasive, meaning that metastasis is unlikely. However, a pathologist should always study the tumor to determine what grade it is, as some MCTs can be aggressive and can spread to the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and vital organs.


Melanoma most commonly develops on the lips, mouth, and nail beds. Melanomas can metastasize (spread to other tissue and organs) and should be removed surgically.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma is a malignant tumor (cancerous and progressively worse) that often look like ulcers on the skin. While these ulcers can spread to other parts of the skin, it very rarely spreads to other organs. Basal Cell Carcinoma should be surgically removed.

Caring For Your Pet After A Tumor Removal

If your pet has to undergo a growth removal there are some steps that you should take to ensure a quick recovery.

  1. Use An E-Collar. No one likes using an e-collar on their pet but unlike humans, our beloved companions don’t know that they shouldn’t lick and chew an incision. Using an e-collar will prevent your pet from ripping out their sutures or causing a secondary infection.
  2. Keep The Incision Clean And Dry. Don’t bathe your pet or let them go swimming until the incision has healed and the sutures have been removed.
  3. Walk Your Pet On A Leash. Although many pets quickly act like they don’t even know they’ve had surgery it’s important to keep them calm and quiet. Leash walks help to ensure that there will be no pulling or trauma to the incision.

Most pets are able to resume normal activity in 10 – 14 days after their growth removal.

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