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Why Do Dogs Get Lipomas?

Why do dogs get lipomas? If your vet has diagnosed your dog with lipomas, you may be wondering what causes lipomas in the first place. Lipomas are quite common in dogs; indeed, they are one of the most common types of benign growths that are commonly found in dogs. These squishy, moveable growths can be found in different areas of your dog's body, most commonly on the dog's chest, abdomen, legs, or armpits, but they can sometimes get problematic when they grow quite large and in certain locations that interfere with a dog's movement.

Overweight dogs are more prone to lipomas

Overweight dogs are more prone to lipomas

A Matter of Fat

Lipomas are growths composed of adipose tissue (body fat). Because they are made of mature fat cells, the growths typically feel like soft, squishy lumps that are found right between the skin and muscle layers. While the exact cause of lipomas in dogs has yet to be found, it appears that obesity may play a role as there is an increase in the number of fat cells, explains Rhea V. Morgan, a board-certified veterinarian specializing in internal medicine.

A Breed Predisposition

The genetic makeup of certain breeds may make them more likely to develop lipomas. The reasons for this genetic predisposition has yet to be discovered. Dog breeds commonly presented as developing lipomas include Labrador retrievers, Shetland sheepdogs, Dobermans, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, poodles, miniature Schnauzers and several mixed breeds, explains veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Homeopath, Dr. Christina Chambreau.

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Role of Sex and Age

According to Michael B. Mison, a board-certified veterinary surgeon, lipomas are often found in middle-aged to older dogs and they are twice as frequently found in female dogs compared to male dogs. So if we look at the chances of developing lipomas, we may assume that the dogs most likely to to develop them are middle-aged to senior female dogs who are overweight and belong to certain predisposed breeds. Of course, this doesn't mean that a young male dog who is fit and doesn't belong to any of the predisposed breeds is immune from developing fatty growths!

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The Holistic View

Holistic view sees dogs as a whole.

Holistic view sees dogs as a whole.

While an exact cause for lipomas has yet to be found, holistic veterinarians view any disruption of the body’s normal flow of functioning as a potential manifestation of a weakness within the body, basically, a sign of a deeper issue that warrants being investigated. In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, lipomas may be an indication of the stagnation of body fluids, which may explain why older dogs are prone to them as their systems are slowing down.

According to veterinarian Stephen Blake, a lipoma is the body’s way of ridding itself of toxins because the body is out of balance and unable to normally eliminate them through the kidneys, liver or intestines. So the body encapsulates any unwanted material and tries to discard it through the skin, just as you would sweep dirt under a rug. Lipomas are therefore considered just the tip of the iceberg, something signaling a deeper issue that's likely triggered by the accumulation of toxins derived from a poor diet, exposure to drugs and chemicals, contaminated water and over vaccination. 

Chiropractic Puzzle Piece

Another interesting explanation for the development of fatty lumps comes from Dr. Peter Dobias, a veterinarian practicing in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dr. Dobias claims that he has seen a connection between an injury or tightened area of certain spinal segments and the formation of lumps. When the back is injured, the smooth energy that flows throughout the dog's body, tissues and organs is halted which paves the path to lump formation and in severe, chronic cases even cancer. Removing the lumps is like removing car's dashboard indicator lights signaling that something is wrong. The lumps therefore tend to recur, as a way for the body to tell us that something is wrong and needs attention.

Always have your vet check any lumps in your dog.

Always have your vet check any lumps in your dog.

Always See the Vet

If you discover any suspicious lumps or bumps on your dog, it's always best to have them checked out. Even a malignant growth can sometimes mimic an innocent looking lipoma. Through a procedure known as "fine needle aspiration" your vet will obtain a sample that will be examined under a microscope. If the sample contains an oily material with fat cells, then most likely the growth is a lipoma, and depending on its location, your vet can tell you to keep an eye on it or have it surgically removed.

Did you know? According to veterinarian Shawn Messonier, mast cell tumors are referred to as “the great imitators” because they can imitate the appearance of lipomas and other benign lesions.

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