December 6, 2013
Tumours of the fatty tissue or ‘lipomas’

What is this tumour?

Almost all lipomas, which are tumours of adipose tissue (fat) are slow-growing and benign. These tumours are usually permanently cured by complete surgical removal. Rarely, they may keep growing and cause problems because of their size and infiltration of adjacent structures. A few tumours (liposarcomas) are of low grade malignancy, so they recur locally. Spread to other parts of the body (metastasis) is extremely rare, but there is a syndrome of multiple tumours called lipomatosis.{{more}}

What do we know about the cause?

The reason why a particular pet may develop this, or any cancer, is not straightforward. Cancer is often the culmination of a series of circumstances that come together for the unfortunate individual.

Is this a common tumour?

The benign form of adipose tumours is common in dogs, mainly in middle aged to older animals. The tumours are twice as frequent in bitches as in male dogs and occur more often in overweight dogs. The tumours are rare in cats, although again are more common in obese animals.

Infiltrative adipose tumours are uncommon in dogs and rare in cats. They may occur in young dogs. Most recorded cases have been in Labrador Retrievers. Both dogs and cats can have the syndrome of lipomatosis. Malignant tumours are rare.

How will this cancer affect my pet?

These tumours usually form a soft lump under the skin, although they also occur within the abdomen.

They rarely cause discomfort unless they are large. Ulceration and bleeding are rare, but large lipomas may necrose (die), causing yellow discolouration of the fat with, in the case of very large ones, toxic effects to make the animal unwell.

Infiltrative tumours may be deep under the skin of the trunk, hip region and upper limbs, where they can also occur within the muscle.

The syndrome of lipomatosis affects pendulous, fatty skin folds. Compression of the spinal cord by excess fat deposits has been recorded. Infiltration of a salivary gland may also cause tumour-like swelling of the gland.

What treatment is available?

“Treatment of lipomas is surgical removal.”

How can I nurse my pet?

Preventing your pet from rubbing, scratching, licking or biting the tumour will reduce inflammation. Any ulcerated area needs to be kept clean.

After surgery, the operation site similarly needs to be kept clean and your pet should not be allowed to interfere with the site. Any loss of sutures or significant swelling or bleeding should be reported to your veterinarian.

How or when will I know if the cancer is permanently cured?

Most of these tumours are benign and are cured surgically. The infiltrative type is sometimes difficult to remove. If a tumour is difficult to remove, or if it regrows after surgical removal, this indicates that the tumour is of this type. Further surgical intervention is successful in preventing recurrence or further spread in more than half the cases of this type of cancer.

Like other soft tissue sarcomas (sarcoma means a malignant tumour), liposarcomas are locally invasive and sometimes recur after surgery. They rarely metastasize or spread to other parts of the body.

Are there any risks to my family or other pets?

No, this is not an infectious tumour and it is not transmitted from pet to pet or from pet to people.

For further information, contact: Dr Collin Boyle Unique Animal Care Co. Ltd. Tel: 456 4981