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Dr.Beth, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 631
Experience:  Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota
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Why is there a big swelling on the neck of my dog?

Customer Question

I just noticed a large swelling on my dog's neck. He has a long hair coat.

Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr.Beth replied 8 years ago.

Hi Customer,
I would like to help you with your question, but first I need a bit more information.
Is the mass you are feeling on his neck soft or hard?
Is it round?
Is it located on the back of his neck or under his chin?
When he eats, does it seem painful for him to chew?
Any change in the amount of water he is drinking? Any change in urination?
Is he on any medications? Any other medical problems?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

The mass is soft, but also firm. It gives way a little when pressure is applied. When I applied pressure to the mass, my dog did not show any sign of discomfort. It feels round and the location is on his neck behind his head. When he eats the only thing that has changed is that he is a picky eater. I have been feeding him IAMs Maturity for some time. Now I have to mix it with a canned dog food before he will eat it. I'm not noticing a change in his drinking and urination habits. He is not on any medications and has never been on any. I wish I could be so lucky.

Expert:  Dr.Beth replied 8 years ago.

Just a couple more questions.
How large is the mass?
How long has it been there?
Does it have any scabs on it?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

I would have to say about the size of a half dollar. I don't have a clue to how long it has been there because of his hair. I can tell you that it has been two months that I have noticed the decline in his activity level. I am not feeling or seeing any scabs because the mass is under the skin.

Expert:  Dr.Beth replied 8 years ago.

Based on the description you have given, there are a number of possible causes for a mass in this location on a dog of his age:
1) Lipoma: The most common cause is something called a lipoma. This is a benign collection of fat that tends to form in a ball under the skin. It is a common finding in older dogs. Typically we simply monitor lipomas and will only surgically remove them if they cause discomfort to a dog.
2) Cancerous mass: older dogs can certainly develop cancerous lumps (like a mast cell tumor). Depending on the type of cancer, these will often be treated with surgery.
3) Infection: if your dog has been bitten by a cat or had a small skin wound in this area, an infection can develop and lead to an abscess. This would need to be treated by surgically opening the abscess to allow it to drain and also treating with oral antibiotics.
4) Cyst: some dogs will develop sterile fluid in sacs (cysts) under the skin

In order to determine what the mass is, you will need to visit your vet for a simple test called a fine needle aspirate (FNA). Your vet will use a small needle to collect a few cells from the mass. She will put these on a glass slide and send them off for a pathologist to look at them. Once you know what kind of cells are growing in the mass, you will be able to form a plan for treatment (or monitoring). This mass may or may not have a relationship to the other changes you have seen in your dog. You may want to have some routine blood work done at the same time to help form a complete picture of your dog's health.
Please let me know if I can be of further help.

Dr.Beth and other Dog Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thanks for the information and I will followup with his Vet.
Expert:  Dr.Beth replied 8 years ago.
You are welcome. I hope everything turns out for the best.