You are petting your dog when you notice something that you have never noticed before. There is a small yet definite lump just behind is left ear. What could it be? Should you worry? Is it an emergency? 

Finding lumps and bumps on your pet can be scary, but many times they are nothing to be too worried about. All new lumps or growths should be checked out by a veterinarian, however, in order to be sure.

In general, a bump is going to be one of three things:

  • Infection
  • Reaction (to something foreign or abnormal in the body
  • Neoplasia (cancer)

Neoplastic growths can be benign (harmless) or malignant (aggressive).

Don’t wait to get a lump or bump checked out if:

  • The growth is growing or changing
  • It is firm or painful
  • The area is red or irritated
  • Your pet is a short-haired breed such as a pug, boxer, or pit bull

The bottom line is that while a newfound growth is not an emergency, they should be checked out. Some very aggressive types of tumors, such as mast cell tumors can look like anything, and time is important for successful treatment.

Your veterinarian can gain a lot of information from feeling the area. He or she may also take a sample with a needle to look at under a microscope. This is called a fine needle aspirate and can give your pet’s doctor a lot of information about what type of growth your pet may have and whether surgical removal is necessary.

Some lumps or bumps, while not malignant, may be recommended to be removed due to their location or other characteristics. For instance, most growths on the eyelid are benign, however they may cause discomfort for your pet.

When lumps or bumps are removed your veterinarian may recommend histopathology. Histopathology is the equivalent of a biopsy. The tissue is sent to a pathologist, who looks at the removed growth microscopically to gain information about the type of growth, how aggressive it may be, whether it is likely to return, and overall prognosis.

Without submitting this type of biopsy, your veterinarian may not be able to answer these questions. So next time you find a lump or bump on your pet, do not panic. Set up an appointment at your earliest convenience to get it checked out. No matter what it is, this guarantees that you get the best possible outcome for your pet!