Continued from last week
In last week’s column, in my haste to conclude the painful and distressing topic of tumours/cancers, I omitted mentioning two of the most frequent ailments in our tumour/cancer discussions, namely those associated with the vagina and the breast. We will include them in the weeks to come. For today, as promised, we’ll concentrate on the tumour found in fatty tissue – the lipoma.
Lipomas are non-cancerous (benign) tumours which develop slowly in fatty tissue just underneath the surface of the skin. They are common in dogs, but we have seen enough of these developments in cats, not to mention them. The literature reminds us that horses can have lipomas, but they are rare in other domestic species. Of course, since in many cases our animals (dogs, cats and horses) are not fed well, they rarely develop much subcutaneous fat, therefore, not many lipomas are seen in veterinary practice here in Guyana.
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I have only encountered lipomas in well fed (over-fed?) dogs, especially where the dogs (usually female) are getting on in age. We find the lipomas located (a) around the ventral (undercarriage) aspects of the subcutaneous (under the skin) areas of the chest and abdomen (not to be confused with mammary gland (breast) tumours and cancers, with which we’ll be dealing next week); and (b) the upper parts of the dogs’ legs.
The smart books (based on research) tell us that Doberman Pinschers (yes, that is the correct title for the breed we call ‘Doberman’), Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and, of course, our own mixed breed varieties, which we love just as equally as the pedigree breeds, are the most susceptible to lipomas.
In passing, I should mention that older, neutered (male) Siamese cats seem to be predisposed to lipomas, and these tumours are to be found on the underbelly area. Cats are generally a strange species – all cat owners know this. And here again research is telling us that, unlike other animals, obesity does not appear to be a factor in the development of lipomas in felines.
Lipomas typically exhibit themselves as soft tumours which can be moved freely under the skin, and are generally squashy to the touch. Sometimes these swellings are hanging lumps of fatty tissue underneath the abdominal area.
Usually, a lipoma would emerge as a singular rounded lump in the fatty tissue under the skin. However, there is a condition representing a rare variant of this fatty tumour, which can be found in Dachshunds (note the spelling). This diffuse lipomatosis can virtually affect the entire skin. We can see (and feel) multiple prominent folds of fatty tissue on the entire neck and trunk of the long ‘sausage’ dog (as Dachshunds are often called).
Many lipomas have been found to merge imperceptibly with the adjacent healthy subcutaneous fatty tissue.
I mention this only because the surgeon would then be confronted with a difficulty when excising the lipoma. The veterinary surgeon wants to ensure that he/she cuts away the entire tumour, but this becomes difficult when one cannot discern which tissue belongs to the lipoma and which subcutaneous fatty tissue is healthy. I usually would advise clients to introduce dietary restrictions (in their dogs suffering with lipoma) for several weeks prior to surgery. In this way, there will be a better definition of the surgical margins when operating.
And this brings me to my mantra: if there is a lump, cut it out. This dogma is valid also for the benign lipoma tumours, because irrespective of their benign nature, lipomas tend to enlarge over time, and their gross presentation later on can be indistinguishable from a real fatty cancer – the liposarcoma.
Liposarcomas are relatively rare malignant cancers (seemingly in all domestic animals) and are found in the same areas described above for the lipoma. They are nodular and are soft to firm. They may exude a thick sticky fluid if pricked. The worst news is that even when the surgeon cuts out (all?) the bumps, there can be a recurrence.
The moral of the story is to get the animal with subcutaneous bumps to the vet as quickly as possible.
Enjoy the coming week.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.