Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Lumps and Bumps

by User Not Found | Dec 25, 2012

I make a routine of petting my dogs as much as possible.  It’s good for me and my blood pressure and given that they are golden retrievers, having humans all up in their business is what makes their day.  I’m sure mine have caught on by now, but I use this time to “inspect” them and still attempt to pass it off as snuggle time.  When I found a rather large lump on Gus, I did what any other rational pet owner would do, panic and look for more.  When I couldn’t find any more, I began digging thru his hair, which in a golden is tough to do, and searching the area.  I poked and squeezed enough to successfully annoy him enough to get up and move from the place he was laying.  As a pet owner, this is pretty much a guaranteed event that will happen at some point in your dog’s life.  Lumps and bumps happen and they happen more frequently as your pet ages.  So what happens now?

Naturally, I run Gus to the vet (not an emergency of course) to have someone with the letters DVM take a look at it.  No lump can be diagnosed by touch, regardless of what you read or hear.  You can’t simply squeeze or examine a lump by sight and know what it is, unless of course you are Superman and have x-ray AND microscopic vision.  My vet gets down on the floor, says hi to Gus and begins her routine of feeling and squeezing.  “Probably a good idea to give that a poke?”  “Yep”, she says.  This is why my vet and I get along so well, ok one of the reasons, she knows we’re already on the same page.  It’s not actually called a poke but on my off days I enjoy leaving the medical lingo at work.  Who talks like that anyway?  A Fine Needle Aspirate or FNA is a way for the vet to obtain a sample of the lump without doing surgery.  Using a needle and an empty syringe, a series of pokes can collect cells and other tissue from the area inside the needle and the syringe.  By drawing air into the syringe and then firing the end of the needle at a glass microscope slide, the material that is collected splats on the slide like bugs on a windshield.  It may look like nothing, or like almost nothing, but there are actually tons of cells that you just can’t see, remember you don’t have Superman vision.  Now comes the time when you have to remind yourself not to panic.  You wait in the exam room, pacing like a nervous expectant father, until the moment the vet comes back to break the news.  What’s going on back there?  In the meantime, you vet may be examining the slides by staining to differentiate types of cells and tissues.  If your vet isn’t sure or thinks that the sample needs further evaluation, they may want to send the slides out to a lab where it will be looked at by a pathologist.  Pathologists are pretty handy to have around.  Not only have they studied cells, blood, tissues, etc. extensively in school, they also have lots of practice looking at many slides like this every single day.  In other words, they are the most qualified to tell you what they are looking at under the microscope.  These lab doctors can describe cell and tissue types, whether they look normal (diverse) or abnormal (clonal), how often the cells are dividing (fast or normal) and other cool cell biology stuff.  All this information gets put into a report and given to your veterinarian.  Be careful, FNA’s also have limitations.  The entire microscopic examination is based on how good your sample is, which means you have to poke the lump in just the right place to get a sample of what’s actually causing the problem.  In Gus’s case, we were lucky that he had a sample that was easily identified by our vet as a lipoma.  Adipose cells (fancy word for fat cell) make up Lipomas, are pretty common and generally not harmful, however just like any other lump diagnosed by FNA, they should not be ignored.  For example, Lipomas can be greedy little buggers who can get bigger over time and may start to get really comfortable and make their way deeper into the tissue and muscle layers.  They can also grow large enough to make walking or standing difficult, at which point they may need to be removed.  Since this wasn’t causing Gus any problems at this time, it isn’t necessary to put him thru surgery to remove it.  Remember that surgery comes with its own set of risks that include cardiac problems and bleeding.  Take surgery seriously and make sure you weigh the options of putting your pet under anesthesia, especially as they get older.  Lucky for me, Gus and my wallet, his lipoma wasn’t causing any problems, so we headed home with peace of mind.

Generally speaking, but not always the rule, lumps that are raised, colored and have irregular edges are more likely to be trouble.  Statistics are tricky.  If you don’t read carefully, you may be scared into believing something that isn’t accurate.  For that reason, I’m not going to go into a bunch of numbers here, but I can say that there is a higher incidence of certain types of lumps in certain breeds.  For example, it is common for boxers to develop mast cell tumors.  Just like humans, your dog’s risk for cancer and other health problems increases as he/she gets older.  There are a lot of common lumps and bumps that are benign (don’t typically cause health problems), so finding a lump on your dog isn’t cause for panic.  The good news is that, even if it is cancer, ideally you have caught it early enough to do something about it.  It’s overwhelming and downright scary to hash thru all the different kinds of lumps and bumps that can pop up on your dog.  Instead, work with your vet, but talk to them about all the options when it comes to diagnosis.  They will always recommend best medicine, that’s their job, but it’s ok to talk to them about your dog, because each situation is unique and should be treated as such.  The key to not freaking out is knowing what to expect, knowing the questions to ask to get the information you need and arming yourself with knowledge from reputable sources.  This will be the beginning of many chats we will have about lumps and bumps, but none-the-less a good place to start, I think.  A lump isn’t always the end of the world.  Keep petting those fur-kids and remember breathe deep and don’t panic, lumps happen.


Happy Snuggling,


Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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