What are Skin Masses in Dogs?

What are Skin Masses in Dogs?

What is it?

Skin masses in dogs are any abnormal growths or lumps that develop on or beneath the skin. These masses can vary in size, shape, texture, and location and can be benign or malignant. Skin masses can develop in dogs of any breed or age and can lead to a range of symptoms and complications if left untreated.

How is it Treated?

The treatment of skin masses in dogs depends on the type, location, and severity of the mass. In many cases, surgical removal of the mass is recommended to prevent further growth and potential spread to other parts of the body. In cases where the mass is malignant or has spread to other areas, additional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation may also be necessary.

Breed Predispositions

There is no specific breed predisposition to skin masses in dogs. However, factors such as genetics, age, and exposure to toxins or environmental hazards may increase the risk of skin masses in some dogs.


For years, Rachel and her fluffy Samoyed, Snowball, had been the best of friends, sharing countless memories together. One day, as Rachel was giving Snowball a much-needed brushing, she felt an unusual lump beneath the dog’s thick fur. Startled, she examined the area more closely, revealing a concerning skin mass. Knowing that her beloved pet’s health could be at stake, Rachel immediately sought the advice of her trusted veterinarian.

Skin masses are small bumps that are raised above the skin. They’re usually harmless, but sometimes they cause discomfort and itching. Your dog’s skin can be scary, but the good news is that 60-80% of canine skin masses are benign.

Tumors most commonly appear on the ears, paws, face, neck, and tail. Skin masses may be red, white, yellow, brown, black, or any combination. The color depends on the dog’s diet and breed.

Some breeds, such as poodles, are prone to developing skin masses. Other breeds, such as huskies, are not. They are most common between two and five years of age, but some dogs develop them at any age.

Most skin tumors may be benign, meaning they won’t grow or spread. However, some may be cancerous. To determine whether a skin mass is malignant, veterinarians perform biopsies. This involves removing tissue samples for microscopic examination.

Common Skin Masses in Dogs

Sebaceous Cysts

The most common skin tumor in dogs is called a sebaceous cyst. Sebaceous cysts develop when oil glands become blocked, causing them to swell and form a lump. Sebaceous cysts are typically on the face, ears, paws, tail, and neck. They may also develop in the armpits, penis, or perineum. Sebaceous cysts are benign and do not require treatment. However, a doctor may recommend surgically removing them if they become large or bothersome. They can be benign (noncancerous) or cancerous.

Apocrine Gland Cysts

Apocrine glands are small hair follicles located throughout the body. They secrete sebum (a waxy substance) and produce sweat. The apocrine glands in dogs’ skin include the anal sacs, axillae, eyelids, external ear canal, genitalia, perineum, tail base, thyroid, and umbilicus.

Cysts form when these glands become blocked due to excessive oil production. This blockage prevents normal drainage of the gland contents. Over time, this fluid buildup creates pressure within the gland, causing it to rupture.

This condition is called an apocrine gland cyst. It usually occurs in older dogs, especially those who spend much time outdoors. However, some breeds are prone to developing them, including Boxers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, Rottweilers, Shih Tzu, and Yorkshire Terriers.

Apocrine gland cysts

There are two types of apocrine gland cysts: primary and secondary. Primary cysts occur spontaneously, whereas secondary ones develop after trauma. Secondary cysts may be caused by surgery, infection, or inflammation.

Primary cysts appear on the face, neck, chest, abdomen, back, and legs. Secondary cysts often appear on the head, ears, paws, and genitals.

Symptoms vary depending on where the cysts are located. Some dogs show no signs at all. Others experience itching, swelling, redness, pain, discharge, bleeding, or crusting.

Follicular Cysts

Follicular cysts are benign skin tumors that develop in hair follicles. They’re usually found in older dogs and may be associated with hormonal imbalances. The most common symptom is the innocent neck, back, or chest growth.

If your dog develops a large mass, it should be examined by a veterinarian. Follicular cysts can cause pain and discomfort and sometimes lead to infection.


Granulomas are dermal tumors that commonly occur in puppies and young adult dogs. They’re usually benign (noncancerous) and slow-growing. However, some types of granulomas can be cancerous.

There are two main types of granuloma: dermal and epidermal. Dermal granulomas grow beneath the skin’s surface, while epidermal granulomas grow above the surface. Granuloma is typically found on the face, neck, legs, paws, tail, and chest.

Dermal granulomas tend to appear as small bumps or lumps on the skin. Epidermal granulomas often appear as red or pink patches on the skin.

Both types of granuloma may cause pain and discomfort when scratching them. In addition, the condition can lead to hair loss and infection.


Lipomas are benign tumors made up of fat cells. They’re usually found in the neck, shoulders, back, hips, thighs, and abdomen. Lipomas are often mistaken for fatty lumps, but they’re soft and rubbery.

They grow slowly over the years, and most people never notice them. However, some owners report that their dog develops a lumpy growth on their skin.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (Malignant Tumors)

Squamous cell carcinomas are tumors affecting the skin and are made up of squamous cells, which line the body’s surface. SCCs usually appear as red bumps, lumps, or sores on the dog’s skin. They may be painful and cause bleeding or crusting over the area.

They’re not contagious, but they can be painful and disfiguring. The treatments vary depending on the location and severity of cancer. Some cases may require surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or combinations.

Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cells are immune system cells found throughout our bodies. They’re responsible for producing histamine when we come into contact with allergens. Histamine causes swelling and itching.

When mast cells become cancerous, they produce too many histamines, causing skin inflammation. The condition is called a mast cell tumor. They usually occur in older dogs and cats but can also affect younger animals.

Mast cell tumors may appear as red bumps or lumps on the skin. Some dogs develop multiple tumors at different locations. The most common area is between the shoulder blades. Other common sites include the neck, back, chest, abdomen, paws, tail, ears, muzzle, face, lips, gums, tongue, genitals, feet, and joints.

Sebaceous Adenomas

Sebaceous gland tumor (sebaceous adenomas) is a rare dermal cancer that affects dogs. The cause is unknown, but it may be linked to exposure to environmental toxins, including pesticides and herbicides.

While SA is not typical among humans, it does occur occasionally. Most cases involve older dogs, especially those who live outdoors.

Malignant Melanoma (Cancerous Tumors)

Malignant melanoma (MM) is a form of cancer that starts in the cells that produce pigments called melanocytes. These cells live in the outermost layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. The most common type of malignant melanoma occurs when these cells become damaged or mutated, causing them to grow out of control and multiply rapidly. This uncontrolled growth forms a tumor.

Causes of Benign Skin Tumors in Dogs

If you notice unusual growths on your dog, immediately take him to the vet. The sooner you catch them, the better! Skin masses are often found on the head, neck, shoulders, legs, paws, tail, chest, abdomen, genitals, and back.

Causes include allergies, parasites, hormonal imbalances, and nutritional deficiencies. However, fleas, ticks, and food sensitivities are the most common reasons.

  • Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) occurs when dogs lick themselves excessively after being bitten by fleas. Fleas bite dogs to feed on their blood and saliva. This triggers allergic reactions in the dog’s body.
  • Ticks transmit Lyme disease; Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and tularemia. Ticks also carry tapeworms, which can infect humans.
  • Food sensitivity is another common cause of skin masses. Dogs who eat certain foods develop skin rashes. Some dogs react only to specific ingredients in these foods, such as wheat, corn, soybeans, dairy products, eggs, beef, chicken, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and chocolate.
  • Hormonal imbalances occur when adrenal glands produce too abundant or deficient hormones. Hormonal imbalances can lead to skin problems, including acne, hair loss, excessive shedding, oily skin, dry skin, and dandruff.
  • Dietary factors, such as poor nutrition or lack of vitamins and minerals, can cause nutritional deficiencies. Nutrient deficiencies can result in skin conditions, including alopecia, eczema, and dermatitis.

Common Symptoms of Canine Skin Masses

Some common symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • itching/ scratching
  • Diarrhea
  • Lumps on the body

Diagnosis of Skin Masses in Dogs

Diagnosis of skin masses in dogs

A definitive diagnosis is necessary to determine how your vet might treat common dog tumors. The doctor may recommend blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound scans, biopsies, or other diagnostic procedures during this visit. In addition, your veterinarian should examine his skin closely and perform a biopsy to determine whether he has a skin mass.

Your veterinarian will use a needle to remove the tissue sample from the lump. Then, he’ll send the sample to a lab where a pathologist will examine it under a microscope.

The pathologist will tell your veterinarian whether the sample contains cancer cells. If there are no signs of cancer, your veterinarian will recommend surgery to remove the tumor. Surgery is not recommended for every case of tumors because some cases resolve themselves without treatment. However, surgical removal is necessary if the tumor grows too large or causes problems.

Treatment Options for Dermal Masses in Dogs

Your vet may suggest additional treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy. These treatments are often effective against certain cancers but come with risks. Your vet will help you weigh these risks and benefits when deciding on your dog’s care.

While most skin masses are benign, some can indicate serious health problems. So keep an eye out for any abnormal growths on your dog. If you notice anything suspicious, contact your vet right away.

Prevention for Skin Tumors in Dogs

Canine skin tumors are unsightly but also painful and expensive to treat. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

  1. Be aware of the risk factors associated with canine skin tumors. These include breed, age, diet, exercise, and exposure to sunlight.
  2. Keep your dog safe from sunburns. Ensure he wears sunscreen daily, especially during peak hours when the sun is strongest.
  3. Avoid giving your dog too many treats. This includes table scraps, leftovers, and food containing caffeine, chocolate, onions, garlic, or alcohol.
  4. Limit your dog’s access to swimming pools, hot tubs, ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams.
  5. Ensure your dog doesn’t spend excessive time outdoors during midday hours.
  6. Watch out for signs of heatstroke. Dogs who become overheated often develop skin problems, including dermal cancer.
  7. Consider having your veterinarian perform regular exams to detect skin abnormalities early.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are many different types of mast cell tumors. Some are malignant, and others are benign. Malignant tumors tend to spread quickly and are harder to treat. Most dogs survive at least one year after diagnosis. However, survival rates vary depending on the size and location of the tumor.

The cost of removing a mass depends on many factors, such as size, location, and type of surgery. The price varies depending on the type of surgery performed. It can range anywhere from $500-$1500 per procedure. If it’s a giant tumor, the price also increases accordingly. 

The survival rate of dogs after tumor removal depends on many factors such as age, breed, size, location, type of cancer, stage of disease, treatment method, etc. In addition, the average life expectancy of dogs varies from 6 years to 15 years, depending on their health condition before surgery.

Hard or soft depends on the type of dog. The hardness of the lump depends on its size and location. If the node is large, it is likely harder than small. Larger lumps tend to be firmer than smaller ones. A bump that is located near the spine tends to be softer than one that is located closer to the head.

The hardness of the lump depends mostly on how old the dog is. Young dogs usually have softer lumps than older dogs. This is because their bones are still growing and developing. On the other hand, older dogs tend to have harder lumps than younger dogs.

Lumps on dogs are usually soft when they are just formed. However, some nodes become hardened after a while. They grow bigger and harder. Some lumps do not get any larger, even though they stay there for years.

Skin tumors can range in shape and size but are typically dome- or round-shaped and may be pink, reddish-brown, purple, or black. They may also have small dark spots within them. Skin tumors can sometimes grow quickly and cause discomfort for the dog. However, if a skin tumor is detected early on by a veterinarian, it can often be successfully removed surgically with minimal pain to the dog.

Skin lumps are a common finding in dogs. They can be found on the skin anywhere from the head to the feet beneath it and can often be associated with specific health problems. Some of the most common causes of skin lumps in dogs include tumorigenesis (the development of tumors), neoplasia (cancerous growths), ischemic ulceration (a type of open sore that results from bleeding underneath the surface layer of dermis or skin), fungal infection, infectious disease, and vasculitis (inflammation caused by blood vessels).

A cancerous lump in a dog often appears as an enlargement or lesion on the skin. The lump may be red, swollen, and tender to the touch. There may also be drainage from the lump, indicating increased inflammation within the tumor. If left untreated, a cancerous Lump in a dog can spread to other parts of the body and eventually kill the animal.

Dermal masses can either be benign or cancerous. Benign dermal masses are usually just a few millimeters in diameter and located near the skin’s surface. Cancerous dermal masses, on the other hand, can be larger and more complicated to diagnose due to their scattered location throughout the body.

The most common ones are benign neoplasms such as squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and keratinocyte sarcoma.

The most common tumors that overgrow in dogs are those of the intestines. In addition, these can include lymphomas and sarcomas. Other types of tumors that commonly overgrow on dogs include brain tumors, melanoma (a type of cancer), and Schwannomas (tumors in the peripheral nerves).

A basal cell tumor is a small, benign tumor that occurs most often on the skin or mucous membranes. It typically has a reddish-brown color and is easily visible with a microscope. However, it can also be quite large and unsightly.

Mast Cell Tumors (MCs) are solid tumors, typically round or oval, found on the skin and inside the mouth. They may also occur on other body parts such as the jawbone, eye socket, skull base, or liver. Mast cell tumors can grow quickly and often spread to other body parts. As a result, they can be pretty invasive and challenging to treat.

A vet can determine if a lump is cancerous by looking at its size, shape, and color. For example, if the node is large or has an irregular shape, it may be more likely to be cancerous. Other signs that a Lump might be Cancerous include: pain when touched, bloodstained fluid surrounding the lump, white mucus discharge from the area around the lump, the rapid growth of new tissue (called tumor growth), and spread to other parts of the body.

There is no factual evidence that cancer in dogs is contagious. However, keeping your dog vaccinated against common canine cancers and checking their skin regularly for any signs of the disease is always essential.

Lipomas can develop gradually or suddenly in dogs. They often manifest as small, fatty lumps on one side of the dog’s body. As these lumps grow, they may become localized to other body areas, such as around the neck or muzzle. Lipomas are not cancerous but can be benign and caused by various factors, including genetics and age. Most dogs with lipomas have a good prognosis if treated early in their development; however, large tumors may require surgical removal.

Prevention is the best treatment for dermal cancer in dogs. First, regularly groom your dog and check for any signs of abnormal growth or lesions. If you notice anything, take your dog to the veterinarian for a check-up. Many natural treatments are available for dermal cancer, but always consult a vet before administering them.

Skin lesions in dogs are typically benign, though sometimes they can indicate a more serious underlying problem. They may include redness, swelling, and discharge from the affected area. Some of these may become infected if not treated properly; thus, you must seek veterinary advice if you notice any unusual changes on your dog’s skin.

A vascular tumor is a tumor that originates from blood vessels. These tumors can occur anywhere on the skin but are most commonly found on the face, head, neck, and upper extremities. Vascular tumors can sometimes spread to other body parts (metastasis), which is why they are considered deadly cancers.

There are six types of dermal cancer that dogs can get, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), fibrosarcoma, and endotheliomas. These cancers typically form on the skin’s surface and may be hard to see. Your dog’s veterinarian can perform a physical exam to determine if your pet has any signs or symptoms and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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