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Common Diseases in Older Dogs: Skin Lumps

two veterinarians caring for dog

It happens to many dog owners: You stroke your dog and suddenly feed an odd bump on your dog's skin. What could it be?

Skin lumps are one of the most common conditions that vets are faced with—and determining what they are can be tricky. With most lumps and bumps on dogs, it's hard to predict with 100% accuracy what these "foreigners" may be. Your vet may want to take a fine-needle aspiration of the lump, which is a very simple way to gather cells for review under a microscope. This can help determine whether a lump should be removed right away, or whether you can take a wait-and-watch approach.

If you find a lump on your dog, you'll need to have your vet determine if it is malignant or benign. For your peace of mind and your dog's health, it's important not to ignore lumps, but to get them evaluated immediately.

There are many different types of lumps, but some are more common than others:

Non-cancerous lumps: Cysts, warts, infected hair follicles, hematomas (blood blisters), Sebaceous hyperkeratosis (look like raised pink pimples of different sizes). Though a lump may not be cancerous, it can still cause your dog discomfort and may have to be removed.

Cancerous lumps: Cancerous growths can be either malignant—meaning they spread rapidly—or benign, which means that they stay in one place and do not metastasize. Benign lumps can, however, grow to huge proportions and can require surgery. Examples of common malignant lumps are Mast Cell tumors, Basal cell tumors and melanomas.

Diagnosis

If you find a lump on your dog, you should bring him to your vet and be prepared to answer a few questions. A clinical history along with a careful examination of the lumps will help your vet determine the best course of treatment. For example, you may be asked:

How long has the lump been there?

Does the lump bother your pet? Does it seem itchy, irritated, painful or tender? Has your pet been continually chewing or licking at it?

How old is your pet? (Older dogs have a greater chance of having malignancies.)

Your vet will also consider the location of the lump. This will give her clues as to what kind of lump it is.

If necessary, your vet may wish to conduct a procedure called a Fine Needle Aspirate. A needle will be stuck through the center of the lump and a syringe will be used to obtain material from the lump. This material will be placed on a slide and evaluated under a microscope.

Your vet may also take a biopsy of the lump. This involves removing a piece of tissue and sending it off to a pathologist for evaluation. In some cases, your vet may prefer to surgically remove the entire lump and send it in for evaluation to determine the best treatment.

Treatment

The treatment your dog will receive will depend on the type of lump he has. Not every lump is a tumor, and many lumps can be left alone. If a lump is problematic, the most common treatment is surgical removal. After the lump has been removed, your vet may consider chemotherapy or radiation as a treatment option if the lump was a malignant tumor.

If you have an older dog, be sure to check his body once a month from tip to tail. If you do find a lump, don't panic—just make an appointment with your vet. You can rest assured knowing that there are many effective treatments for most lumps and bumps.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall


    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.
     

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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