Q&A: Gundog Vet

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My dog has suddenly developed a lump. Should I be worried?

Amira says: Many dogs develop masses, especially as they get older. The list of differential diagnosis is vast, but broadly speaking they can be classed as benign (harmless) or malignant (a tumour that is capable of metastasis or spread). Fatty lumps known as lipomas are the most commonly presented benign masses in dogs. They are soft and freely movable under the skin. Unless they become too large, where they begin to bother the dog, they can often be left alone and monitored. A common malignant skin tumour in dogs is called a mast cell tumour, which has a very variable presentation. They can be aggressive and thus prompt surgical excision is the treatment of choice. They periodically release histamine and thus often change size and cause itchiness. In order to determine a diagnosis of a mass, a fine needle aspirate (FNA) should be performed by your veterinary surgeon. This involves collecting a sample of cells via a small needle for cytological evaluation. This is non-invasive, and can usually be done in conscious animals. The drawback is that only a snap shot of cells can be collected and due to the small size of the needle, the sample may not always yield a diagnostic result. A biopsy would be the next step. It is important to determine what the mass is, so that a well-planned treatment regime can be instigated (size of the wound margins to be removed or tumour staging including abdominal ultrasound, chest radiography and lymph node analysis)

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