Lumps and Bumps

As the autumnal wet weather sets in, there’s nothing nicer than snuggling on the sofa with your pets of an evening, stroking their fur and watching the rain beat against the windows outside. But, wait; what’s that? Suddenly you feel a lump under their fur … what is it? How long has it been there? Why have you never noticed that before?

There’s nothing more alarming and, immediately, your mind goes to the worst case scenario. You’re instantly in panic mode. Don’t worry … as scary as it may be to suddenly notice a strange lump anywhere on your pet’s body, they’re very common and they may not always be as terrible as you might imagine.

As vets, we see lots and lots of lumps and bumps in pets of all ages and species. There are many things that can cause these, a number of which are totally painless and harmless for your pet. Even those that are more serious can often be easily treated. Yes, unfortunately there’s always the possibility that it could be something we really don’t want it to be, but this is less frequently the case.

In any scenario where you discover some kind of lump, bump or growth on or under your pet’s skin, you should always take them to see the vet as soon as you can – urgently if they appear to be in pain or distress, or if they’re showing any other signs or symptoms of being unwell. We will be able to check them over and, while we can’t always give you an immediate definitive answer as to what’s causing the lump, we’ll certainly have a fair idea and we can start investigating immediately to confirm a diagnosis.

So, what could that mysterious lump be? Well, in cats and dogs there are several common causes:

Fatty Lumps

Delightful as they sound, these fatty lumps (or lipomas, to give them their posh title) are harmless fat deposits under the skin. They’re usually soft, moveable and painless – and they can appear anywhere on your pet’s body. Slow growing and not dangerous, it’s often best to just leave them be, although this depends on whereabouts they’re located and whether they’re causing any problems for your pet. If it’s interfering with their day-to-day life, or in a location where it’s impeding movement, then it’s best to have them removed.

Sebaceous Cysts

Caused by a blockage in the sebaceous glands (which release oils from the skin onto your pet’s fur) these cysts are sac-like growths under the skin. They could burst and heal on their own, but there’s also a chance that they may become infected and irritated in which case they may need to be drained or surgically removed which is a relatively minor procedure.


Ok, well, not really a lump … but when you’re stroking your pet it may well feel like a lump. Ticks don’t, as many people believe, bury themselves into the skin, but rather they insert parts of their head and jaw into your furry friend’s skin whilst they have a feast. It’s really important that you don’t just pull the tick off when you find one as these inserted body parts can be left behind and can

cause infection. Make sure you have them properly removed with a specialist tick-removal tool – and keep on top of your pet’s flea and tick treatment to kill the tick before it has chance to spread disease (such as Lyme disease) to your pet.

Bites from other animals

It’s common, for cats especially, to have bites either from another cat or maybe a rodent of some description. Dogs can also sometimes get caught in the crossfire of a cat scrap and may pick up an injury, too! Puncture wounds from animal bites can easily become infected due to the bacteria on the teeth and in the saliva, so you might notice swelling around the area and your pet might display signs of pain (over-grooming, licking, scratching, chewing or being overly protective of the area) or it might look red, inflamed or pus-filled. Infections can quickly spread from one area of the body to another so if you discover a red, angry-looking lump it’s important to get it seen to ASAP.


More common in dogs but sometimes seen in cats too, hernias are often caused by a congenital defect or an accident or injury. Basically, a hernia occurs when the muscle wall weakens for some reason and allows the internal organs to penetrate it. They can occur in various parts of your pet’s body. You may notice a soft, squishy protrusion that can look alarming – although hernias can’t always be seen and might need an ultrasound to diagnose or to identify any other complications. In some cases, depending on what’s trapped, hernias can be dangerous, so it’s important to get your furry friend checked out quickly if you notice or suspect a hernia. While it sounds pretty awful, and it will usually need repairing, a hernia operation is quite a straightforward procedure that vets carry out regularly. Making sure those insides go back in where they should be and stay there can prevent a lot of pain and discomfort for your pet!


So, here’s the type of lump we all dread … but not all tumours are malignant; some can be benign and completely harmless. As with fatty lumps these benign tumours may or may not need to be removed, depending on exactly where they’re located and whether they’re causing any problems for your pet. Usually, in order to accurately diagnose a tumour, we’ll have to carry out a biopsy which feels much like an injection to your pet – a small number of cells are taken from the offending lump using a fine needle, and then they’re whisked off for analysis so we know exactly what we’re dealing with. I have been tip-toeing around the dreaded ‘C’ word but unfortunately in some cases that lump will be what we’re all dreading – cancer. If this is the case, we’ll discuss with you exactly what we’re dealing with from where it’s located to whether it’s spread, and whether it’s operable or treatable. Just as with humans, there are treatment options ranging from removal of a tumour to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, it’s important to note that these treatments will often make your pet feel ill and, unlike with people, we’re not able to explain to them why or what’s happening. Every case is different and many factors will be taken into account such as the age and general health of your pet. Together we will discuss this with you and help you decide on the best and kindest course of action.


So, after all that talk of lumps and bumps, I’ll let you go back to your evening snuggles! While you’re running your hand over your pet’s fur, just give them a thorough once over. If you do happen to find anything lurking there don’t panic, but do make sure you get it checked out!