Lumps and Bumps

Dogs can develop all kinds of lumps and bumps on or beneath the skin. Some are harmless while others require veterinary intervention. Look (and feel) for lumps and bumps whenever you groom your Lab.

Abscesses, Hematomas, and Adenomas

A soft, painful lump may be an abscess or hematoma. An abscess is an infected area caused by a bite or puncture wound, whereas a hematoma is a blood clot beneath the skin. Ear hematomas are common in dogs. Abscesses must be drained by the veterinarian and treated with antibiotics, whereas some hematomas disappear on their own — if they don't they must also be drained by the veterinarian.

Some lumps look like small, smooth, pink warts and appear on the eyelids or legs. These benign (harmless) tumors are sebaceous adenomas and are commonly seen in older dogs. Tumors on the eyelids should be removed to prevent damage to the cornea.

Ceruminous (wax-producing) gland adenomas can develop in the ear canal. They're a pinkish-white color and dome-shaped. Sometimes they become ulcerated or infected. Small tumors of this type are usually harmless, but large ones can become invasive and must be treated with surgery and radiation therapy.

Warts and Cysts

Papillomas (warts) are caused by a virus and can grow on the skin or inside the mouth. They are usually harmless and don't need to be removed unless they're causing a problem because of their location on the body.

Cysts are firm lumps beneath the skin. They form when hair follicles become blocked with hair and a cheesy material called sebum. Cysts are generally harmless, but they can become infected and may need to be drained surgically or removed.

Skin melanomas are usually harmless, but melanomas in the mouth and nail bed are usually malignant. They should be removed surgically, but they often recur. Dogs with melanomas in the mouth don't have a good prognosis.

Skin Cancer

Dogs can develop several different types of skin cancer: basal cell tumors, mast cell tumors, melanomas, and squamous cell carcinomas. Fortunately, none of these conditions are especially common in Labrador Retrievers.

Basal cell tumors are common, usually occurring on the head and neck. They feel firm and have distinct borders. Surgical removal is the best treatment. Mast cell tumors make up 10 to 20 percent of the skin tumors seen in dogs. They have many nodules and usually look red, hairless, and ulcerated. Mast cell tumors can be either benign (harmless) or malignant (harmful) and should be removed surgically. Dogs with malignant mast cell tumors may also need radiation or chemotherapy.

Melanomas develop from cells in the skin that produce melanin, which is what gives your Lab the dark pigment on his nose and skin. Melanomas look like brown or black nodules and can occur on the eyelids, lips, in the mouth, on the nail beds, and elsewhere on the body.

Squamous cell carcinomas are caused by exposure to the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. They're usually found on lightly pigmented areas of the body. Appearance ranges from a firm red patch to a cauliflowerlike growth to a hard, flat, grayish-looking ulcer that doesn't heal. They can be removed surgically or treated with radiation therapy if surgery isn't possible.


Other lumps that you might find on your Lab are perianal gland tumors or venereal tumors. Perianal gland tumors are solitary or multinodular growths around the anal area and occur in older males that haven't been neutered. The tumors are removed surgically, and the dog is neutered. Radiation and chemotherapy may be necessary for malignant tumors.

Venereal tumors, which can resemble cauliflower or single nodules on a stalk, are unusual. They're spread sexually or by licking, biting, or scratching. Chemotherapy is the usual treatment, and spaying or neutering is recommended as well.

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