Skin Lumps and Bumps in Dogs


It’s not unusual to find skin lumps and bumps on your dog at some point in its lifetime. Lumps can appear either on or just under a dog’s skin.

It is important to have these lumps checked by your veterinarian, especially if the lumps are new, bleeding, oozing or rapidly increasing in size. Many lumps and bumps under a dog’s skin are harmless, but others may be malignant or may become malignant.

Skin tumors are among the most common tumors in dogs. Fortunately, many of these tumors are benign and not a cause for worry. The lump may be simply a pimple or an allergic reaction to an insect bite. Sometimes these skin masses are malignant and require prompt medical attention, so it would be wise to have your dog examined by a veterinarian to assess any skin bumps that you detect on your dog.

The options for treating skin tumors depend entirely upon the cause of the tumor. For example, benign fatty masses rarely require removal unless they bother the dog owner.

Most veterinarians recommend that malignant skin masses be removed as soon as possible. The tissue removed during the operation is sent to a pathology laboratory to determine whether all of the tumor cells associated with the mass have been removed. X-rays may be taken to determine whether cancerous cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes or other areas like the bone marrow or lungs. Blood tests are done to evaluate the dog’s overall health and response to any proposed treatments.

Sometimes radiation or chemotherapy treatments (or both) will be used in addition to surgical removal of the mass in order to improve the chances of a dog’s full recovery.

Tumors can recur after surgery so regular checkups are important if the dog had a malignant skin tumor removed or treated.

Skin lumps and bumps on your dog could be any one of these types:

(1) Hematoma which is a collection of clotted blood beneath the skin;

(2) Basal cell tumor in the form of a nodule on a narrow base or stalk. It will be round, normally hairless, and may be ulcerated. These tumors are usually found on the head, neck, and shoulders of older dogs;

(3) Lipoma which is a soft round or oblong growth underneath the skin;

(4) Ceruminous gland adenoma. This is a pinkish-white dome-shaped growth in the ear canal that may become ulcerated and infected;

(5) Epidermal inclusion cyst recognizable as a firm lump beneath a dog’s skin. These cysts sometimes discharge cheese-like material and become infected;

(6) Histiocytoma is a button-like fast-growing mass that may appear anywhere on a dog’s body;

(7) Melanoma is a brown or black pigmented nodule that appears in areas of dark skin. If melanomas grow in the mouth of a dog, they are usually malignant;

(8) Skin papillomas grow out from the skin and may look like a wart. These are not painful or dangerous;

(9) Squamous cell carcinoma is a gray or reddish-looking ulcer found on the belly, scrotum, feet, legs, lips, or nose that doesn’t heal. It sometimes looks like a cauliflower.

If you find any skin lumps or bumps on your dog that resemble one or more of the above descriptions, you should contact your vet to schedule an examination.

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