Human Hand Petting an Old Golden Retriever on the Head

Before we look at the types of benign tumors in dogs, let’s establish exactly what a benign tumor is. A tumor is an abnormal growth on the body and it can be either malignant or benign. Malignant means that the cells of the tumor are cancerous and they have the potential to spread (or metastasize) and invade other parts of the body. Benign tumors are made up of regular noncancerous cells, that overmultiply and produce a lump. These cells grow only in one place and cannot spread to other tissues and organs.

Canine benign tumors grow most often on senior dogs and overweight dogs. Most types of benign tumors in dogs are harmless and can be left alone. Some are removed because the size of the tumor interferes with the pet’s normal function or behavior, and some are removed for cosmetic reasons. Most are not dangerous unless they impinge on nerves or blood vessels.

If you were to find an unusual lump or bump on your precious pet, what should you do? The first step would be a visit to the vet. Your veterinarian can take a sample of cells from the tumor by way of a biopsy procedure. The tumor cells are then sent to a laboratory to be analyzed by a pathologist to determine if the growth is cancerous or benign. Once the results are in, the good doctor would be able to educate you as to what type of tumor it is and what should be done (if anything) to treat it. In the case of a benign tumor, the vet may simply ask you to just monitor and take note of any increase in size of the tumor.

Interesting Fact: Two species on our planet that rarely (if ever) get cancer, are the elephant and the naked mole rat.

Lipoma ~ The Fatty Tumor

Lipomas are commonly called “fatty tumors” because they originate from fat cells stored in your pet’s body. They grow subcutaneously (under the skin) and are not painful to your dog unless they grow to an uncomfortable size or are located on an awkward part of her anatomy (such as on the abdomen or between the front or rear legs).Large Mixed Breed Dog Laying on the Kitchen Floor

Typically, this harmless fatty tumor grows very slowly and is most common in older, overweight dogs. For this reason, your veterinarian will likely want to just leave this benign tumor alone and not risk an anesthesia episode to remove it, unless absolutely necessary. The good doctor will likely have you intermittently monitor any tumor growth by measuring and recording it’s size.

Basal Cell Tumor

Basal cell tumors are fairly common in dogs and can be either benign or malignant, although less than 10% are malignant. Basal cells make up the bottom layer of the epidermis (skin), and when these cells abnormally divide excessively, a basal cell tumor develops.

These tumors usually appears as a hairless, firm, well-defined mass on the dog’s skin, typically around the animal’s head, neck or shoulders. They can vary in size, ranging from 1/10 of an inch to 4 inches in diameter. They are most commonly found on older dogs, especially older Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, and Wheaten Terriers.

Benign basal cell tumors aren’t usually bothersome unless they occur in an area of the dog’s body that she can scratch or chew. If this is the case, the growth can become ulcerated and infected. It’s always best to have your veterinarian evaluate the tumor as soon as you notice it.

Epulis ~ The Mouth Tumor

Epulis is a common canine tumor originating in the tissue that connects the dog’s teeth to her jawbone. Typically, they appear as irregular growths along the dog’s gum line, and are sometimes referred to as a gum boil. These types of tumors are almost always benign, although there are 3 classifications of epulides, one of which does has the potential to invade surrounding tissues.

Epulides are the most common oral benign tumors in dogs. As usual, they are typically found in older canines, and Old English Sheepdogs and Shetland Sheepdogs are breeds that are predisposed to these types of tumors. Surgical removal is the best option for treating epulis and is easiest when the growths are small.

Many folks may not be in the habit of examining their dog’s teeth and gums very often, but an attentive owner may notice some outward signs such as bleeding gums, excessive drooling, or particularly bad breath. A trip to the vet is the next step.


Melanocytomas are benign tumors which arise from melanocyte cells in a dog’s skin. Melanocytes are located in the layer of basal cells at the deepest level of the epidermis, the external root sheath of the hair follicle, and the sweat glands and oil ducts. They produce and contain the hair and skin pigment called melanin, which helps protect the cells from damaging sun rays.

In dogs, melanocytomas are diagnosed much more frequently than malignant melanomas (skin cancer). Melanocytomas can develop on dogs of any age, young, middle-aged, or senior. They commonly occur on the head or front limbs of the animal, and certain breeds seem to be predisposed. Standard and Miniature Schnauzers, Irish Setters, Golden Retrievers and Doberman Pinschers are breeds in which melanocytomas are most frequently found.Irish Setter witha Blue Collar On

They can appear as papules (a pimple-like growth), a macula (a small flat spot), or a dry oval patch. If you notice an abnormal looking area of skin that wasn’t there previously, have it looked at by a professional.

Happily, the treatment of choice for melanocytomas is surgical excision with a healthy margin around the tumor. Since the lesions are benign, surgery is curative.

Sebaceous Cyst

Sebaceous cysts, a common occurrence in canines, are also referred to as sebaceous gland tumors. Sebaceous glands in dogs contain sebum, an oily secretion that helps keep the dog’s skin, fur, and hair follicles moisturized and lubricated. Sebaceous gland tumors occur when the gland becomes plugged with oil.

Usually, these blocked glands are nothing to worry about unless the pet scratches, licks or bites at the cyst, keeping it chronically irritated or infected. In these cases, the cysts should be surgically removed.

Cocker spaniels are a breed that are prone to sebaceous cysts and one dog can develop several at one time.

A Good Rule of Thumb

It’s always a good idea to be on the lookout for any changes in your dog’s physical body, behavior, and attitude. If you can give her body a searching but affectionate rubdown every so often, take a look in her mouth once a week, be attuned to any aches and pains she may be exhibiting, you can stay on top of her good health and well-being.Side View of a Man's Hands on Either Side of a Dog's Head

You don’t have to become paranoid, just become aware whether or not she’s staying her same old sweet, lovable, loyal, and fun-loving self. And when in doubt, if you can’t visit the vet right away, at least call the animal clinic and talk to a doctor or an experience veterinary technician.

Thanks so much for visiting my website and reading about the Types of Benign Tumors in Dogs. I cordially invite you to leave me any comments, questions, or observations in the section below!