Should Lipomas be Removed?

Here's an e-mail I received the other day: Our dog used to be a patient of yours when you were at a pet hospital in...


Here’s an e-mail I received the other day:

Our dog used to be a patient of yours when you were at a pet hospital in San Francisco. We’re looking for a second opinion (and possibly to schedule surgery) for a large lipoma he has on his underside. Do you take appointments at any of the hospitals that you work at in the city?

Thanks so much for your help.

San Francisco

I’ll leave out the part of my reply that related to office hours and jump straight to my opinions on removal of lipomas.

Lipomas are accumulations of fat under the skin. They are very common in middle aged and older dogs. Some people refer to them as “fatty tumors”. I don’t like that term, because the t-word is scary, and lipomas are harmless.

I have some pretty strong opinions about removing lipomas. If a mass has been repeatedly sampled and determined to be only a lipoma, then I almost always recommend against removing it.

Lipomas are harmless. Lipoma removal surgeries, on the other hand, have serious potential to go bad. Lipoma surgeries have a 100% rate of post-operative pain. They also have a disturbingly high rate of incision deshiscence (opening/splitting of the incision), infection, bleeding, and severe swelling that can require second surgeries. These problems are especially common when lipoma surgeries occur on dogs’ undersides.

If the mass truly is a lipoma it is harmless. Unless it’s interfering with your dog’s ability to walk, removing it probably isn’t a good idea.

Those are my two cents. I should reiterate, however, that without actually seeing the mass I can’t make a true judgement.

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