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petdrz., Dog Veterinarian
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Experience:  Over 30 years of experience in caring for dogs and cats.
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I have a Papillion and while bathing her, I noticed a large

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I have a Papillion and while bathing her, I noticed a large (size of a tennis ball) soft non painful mass extending from her neck to right shoulder. It was hidden under her beautiful neck hair so I am curious to this finding and have an appointment tonight at her vet. Within the last 24 hours she began to show a slight limp in her walking. Any suggestions as to what it might be?

Dr. Z. :

Hello and thanks for trusting me to help you and Mindy today. I'm a veterinarian with over 25 years experience and would be happy to work with you.

Dr. Z. :

Is that the only lump that you have found on her?



Dr. Z. :

Ok, good. If she has longer hair that was concealing it previously, it is possible it was present for a short while. The most common type of lumps that can get that large and not be painful are frequently one called a lipoma, which is a benign tumor composed of fat cells.

Dr. Z. :

Other possibilities would include an enlarged lymph node or salivary gland.

Dr. Z. :

It is impossible to diagnose most lumps just by the way they look or feel, but there are other ways to determine the seriousness of the lump.

There is a test called a fine needle aspirate (FNA) which can be performed by collecting a sample of cells from the mass with a needle and then examining under the microscope. This can usually be done right in the clinic. It is not always definitive enough to let you know the exact cause of the lump, but it may help to make the decision of if anything else needs to be done, like surgical removal. Some growths are easily identified as benign and that is all that needs to be done unless the growth is of a size to be bothering the dog.

Dr. Z. :

It is possible that the lump is involved in her limping, but maybe only because of it's size and it may be partially interfering with her range of movement.


Thank you Dr. Z. I hope it is benign. I always thought lipomas were harder in feel and smaller in size. This mass has the appearance of gross enlargement of the normal shoulder. I thought it might have been injury to her shoulder muscle, but it's size is larger. when she lays down, it retracts in size but is still present which makes me think more like a mass.

Dr. Z. :

No, lipomas are generally pretty soft and they can be very small to large in size. I had thought of the possibility of bone or joint involvement as well but those are usually very firm and sometimes painful. Even if the muscle were involved, it may swell, but would not usually present as a mass like lesion. We'll keep our fingers crossed that it is just a lipoma!!

Dr. Z. :

Please keep me updated as to what your vet determines is it. Hopefully they will aspirate today and you will have an answer.


Thank you again for your professional advice. I will also keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best! And I will look for a way to follow up with you as well.

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I'll look forward to your follow up.

Hello Nick,

Just wondering if you have any word yet on the lump on Mindy and what it might be?

Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns that I can address.

Dr Z
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hello again Dr. Z!


I received a call from Mindy's vet on Friday with results from the biopsy. First off, when she had the biopsy in the beginning of the week, her partner who performed the biopsy stated, "with one small tissue sample in a mass this large, we are hoping to capture definitive tissue to make a diagnosis however it quite often comes back as inconclusive." So on Friday, Dr. Masso stated the results showed fat cells with connective tissue. She stated that her labs are usually conservative in making a diagnosis and would have mentioned whether the tissue sample was inadequate to make a definitive diagnosis. So she feels that the presence of called fat cells could likely be good news in determining the likelihood of it being a lipoma. She then told me she wants to confer with her partner who feels that the mass was too large and in an area (shoulder/neck) that may make it inoperable due to vessels and nerves. Since Dr. Masso would perform her surgery, she will confer with the vet who did the biopsy and may want to see the mass on Mindy herself. I should hear from her again as to next steps either today or tomorrow.

If you can shed any light on this, I'd be interested to learn more along the way. Thanks again for your help!



Hello Nick,

Most true lipomas are fairly well contained in a capsule- like lining that usually pops out in one piece pretty easily. With Mindy's tumor's location, it may be harder to dissect it out as there are quite a few delicate and important nerves and vessels in the area. In some cases, a fatty tumor can actually have a more aggressive behavior and become more intertwined in the surrounding structures. These can still be classified as lipomas, but can also be more characteristic of a more malignant fatty tumor called a liposarcoma. A liposarcoma is not likely to spread to other parts of the body or develop metastasis but is much more locally invasive and much more difficult to remove in it's entirety and even when it is debulked, it often returns to it's original size pretty quickly. Liposarcomas have a different microscopic appearance so if they didn't note any signs of malignancy on the previous biopsy, that is encouraging.

I think your vet will have a better idea of if this is something they feel is necessary and safe to try to remove. That would always be the preference to get to a correct diagnosis, but if they feel the risk is too great, I would be happy with the biopsy report obtained so far.

I hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

Dr Z

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