Common Bumps On Dogs’ Skin And What They Mean

Here's when you should get those bumps checked out 🔍

Finding a bump or lump on your dog can immediately send you spiraling trying to figure out what it is.

Is it just a fatty tumor? Is it cancerous? Do you need to worry?

We reached out to Dr. Corinne Wigfall, a veterinarian working with SpiritDog Training, and Dr. Justin Padgett, a veterinarian at Branchville Animal Hospital, to learn more about the different kinds of bumps on dogs' skin.

Common types of bumps on dogs’ skin

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different types of lumps and bumps that dogs can get. Some are harmless, while others might mean something more serious is going on.

And you may even notice these bumps on your dog more often as he gets older — but that doesn’t always mean they’re a cause for concern!

“As they age, the lumps and bumps increase as their cellular defense mechanisms break down and tumors (benign and malignant) are free to proliferate more readily,” Dr. Padgett told The Dodo.

Some of the most common bumps and lumps you may find on your dog include:

1. Lipomas

These are benign fatty tumors that are typically harmless. Lipomas are usually soft and squishy and will probably move around under your fingers. They usually aren’t tender to the touch, so your pup likely won’t even notice it.

2. Sebaceous cysts

According to Dr. Padgett, sebaceous cysts are cauliflower-looking growths that are full of gray, pasty material (this material can be liquid or semi-liquid). They aren’t cancerous, but you should still get them checked out (and possibly removed) if they’re bothering your pup.

3. Papillomas

Papillomas are oral warts typically found in your dog’s mouth as a result of having papilloma virus. They usually grow in clusters and can sometimes become cancerous, so they’re always good to get checked.

4. Skin tags

Skin tags are pretty common on dogs (especially older pups), so you’ve likely seen one or two before. They aren’t cancerous and are often long, thin pieces of skin that hang off of your pup.

5. Haematomas

These are blood blisters under the skin most commonly seen in the ear. These aren’t cancerous, but your pup will have to get surgery in order to remove it.

6. Abscesses

An abscess is a painful bump or swelling that can sometimes fill up with pus. They should always be checked out (and usually drained) by a vet so that they don’t rupture on their own and cause an infection.

7. Cancerous masses

These are various types of bumps that can be cancerous, like mast cell tumors (cancer of the immune system), melanoma (skin cancer) and mammary carcinoma (breast cancer).

While it can be difficult to know just by looking which bumps are cancerous or not, if a growth seems to have appeared overnight, is larger than the typical bumps your dog has had, and is painful or hard, you should get it checked out ASAP.

“Dogs can have multiple bumps or lumps on the skin, and each one can have a different origin, so [they] all need testing by a veterinarian at least once,” Dr. Wigfall told The Dodo.

What causes lumps and bumps on your dog’s skin?

Some lumps and bumps are caused by different cancers or skin conditions, and others can be caused by skin infections or even allergic reactions.

When it comes to skin infections, Dr. Wigfall said that those can present as lots of small, raised bumps on the skin, while allergic reactions can present as big welts all over the body that come and go within 72 hours.

When to take your dog to the vet

Any lump or bump should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

“Owners should be concerned about growths that grow quickly, are firm to the touch, appear to contain a lot of inflammation and those that are bothersome/painful for the dog,” Dr. Padgett said.

What your veterinarian finds will determine how the bump is treated, if at all. “If it is a bacterial infection, antibiotics or surgery can resolve the issue,” Dr. Wigfall said. “If it is a non-cancerous growth, such as a wart [or] skin tag, you may choose to leave it alone and only surgically remove it if it is growing too big and causing a problem for the animal’s mobility or is getting caught and infected.”

If the bump is determined to be cancerous, it’ll require surgical removal and be tested to figure out if any further treatment is needed.

So while many bumps on dogs' skin will be OK and nothing to worry about, it’s always a good idea to get them checked out by your vet just in case.