Monday, August 15, 2011

What's that Lump?

Lowcountry Dog Magazine
by Daniel IslandVet on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011




Dogs and cats are notorious for developing lumps and bumps on their bodies over their lifespans. {Ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, and rodents are not immune to lump (mass) formations either}. Many of these are benign growths, and often self-resolving, but some may be malignant or infectious in nature so an accurate diagnosis is warranted.

We recommend any new swelling or growth on your pet be examined as soon as possible once detected. We will examine the mass by visual inspection and by palpation. Some common growths may be identified by gross examination alone, for example, oral papillomas and sebaceous adenomas. However, the vast majority of growths need to also have a microscopic evaluation to obtain a diagnosis. This is accomplished by a Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) of the mass.

Fine needle aspiration is performed in the clinic during most routine exams and sedation is very rarely needed. A small gauge needle is inserted into the growth and gently maneuvered within it. Gentle suction is often applied to a connected syringe. The maneuvering of the needle and the suction help to obtain a sample of the cells that make up the growth. The sample is then delivered onto a slide which is allowed to dry, then stained, and viewed under the microscope. General veterinary practitioners are able to make confirmed diagnoses a vast majority of the time. There are some instances where suspect diagnoses need to be sent to a veterinary pathologist for further identification and/or confirmation.

I try to inform pet owners ahead of time that growths may be “wall-to-wall” cells, so obtaining and observing a cell sample is relatively easy in that case. However, there are many growths where the cells may not exfoliate well or the growth may be more like a blueberry muffin and the abnormal cells are the blueberries that we are attempting to “blindly poke”. In these scenarios we may not always get a diagnostic sample (even after repeated sticks with the needle) and so we’ll often recommend that a surgical biopsy or complete excisional biopsy should be performed.

It’s important to pay attention to any new growth/lump/bump/swelling on your pet and have it examined as soon as you can. We will often be able to give you a diagnosis of what it is the day we check it out and then lay out a recommended treatment plan. Many times we’ll recommend “watchful neglect”, but there are those lumps that may be cancerous or painful to your pet and so the sooner we diagnose the sooner we can manage it.


Many of these are benign growths, and often self-resolving, but some may be malignant or infectious in nature so an accurate diagnosis is warranted.


Daniel Island Animal Hospital is a small animal veterinary clinic located in Charleston, SC on Daniel Island. They focus on general medicine and wellness including surgery, dentistry, radiology, and emergency care for dogs, cats, and small mammals. Teri Macklin, of Island Dog Cuts, provides grooming for dogs and cats in the facility. Their team is dedicated to personalized patient care and friendly client service.

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