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Bumps on dogs skin

The essentials

  • Lumps and bumps are common in older dogs — Certain lumps like fatty tumors can show up anywhere on a dog’s body, and they’re considered a natural part of aging.
  • Most lumps and bumps are non-cancerous — Studies show that most skin tumors are benign in dogs.
  • Always consult a vet about new lumps and bumps — A vet will be able to diagnose and treat them accordingly.

Common causes of lumps and bumps on your dog’s skin

It’s always nerve-wracking for pet owners to find lumps on their dogs. There are several different kinds of bumps that can show up on your dog, including:

Abrasion. Also known as minor cuts and scrapes, these injuries are common in dogs and can leave behind a small bump.

Allergic dermatitis (allergies). Dogs with dermatitis from allergies can experience symptoms in the form of rashes, red bumps, inflammation, and hair loss.

Alopecia. Some dogs experience moderate to severe itchiness when dealing with alopecia or hair loss, resulting in skin that’s red, inflamed, thickened, oozing, or bleeding. They might also break out in papules (red spots), pustules (pimples), plaques, or hives.

Bug bites. Bites from insects like ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and ants all cause small red bumps to form on a dog’s skin.

Fatty tissue inflammation. Clinically known as steatitis, the swelling of the fat cells just underneath the skin can cause bumps that may be painful for your dog.

Folliculitis. Inflammation of a dog’s hair follicles causes red, raised bumps to form on the skin.

Hot spots. These spots are a type of skin infection that begins as a small itchy bump or patch of skin and spreads rapidly as dogs lick and scratch at them.

Interdigital cysts. These growths are found between your dog’s toes, also called ‘digits’. Interdigital cysts are typically caused by underlying conditions such as allergies, atopic dermatitis, or obesity.

Mange. Demodectic and sarcoptic mange are easily treatable infections caused by mites. Symptoms show up in the form of redness, rashes, and lesions on the ear margins, as well as the chest, elbows, hocks, and tummy.

Ringworm. A fungal infection known to affect dogs with weakened immune systems, ringworm affects the hair, nails, and coat in the form of hair loss, scaliness, scabs, and crusty areas.

Skin tumors. While there are a few different types of skin tumors, studies show that about 60% to 80% of them are benign in dogs, but always work with your vet if you suspect a skin tumor on your dog.

Yeast dermatitis. More commonly known as a yeast infection, these infections are caused by Malassezia pachydermatis, a type of fungus. It’s common in dogs and causes dry, itchy, flaky, red, smelly, hardened, or hyperpigmented skin. It can also show up on the paws or in the ears.

Warts. These small lesions are usually found on a dog’s head and face and are caused by the canine papilloma virus (CPV). Some warts may need to be surgically removed if they’re inflamed, infected, or fail to regress over time.

👉 If you notice a new bump on your dog’s skin, it’s best to get it checked out by your vet.

Lumps on your dog that need vet care

A minor cut may not need immediate veterinary care, but some lumps and bumps are more serious. These types of lumps will need veterinary care:

Abscess. These pockets of pus appear suddenly as a painful swelling that may be either firm to the touch or squishy like a water balloon.

Sebaceous cyst. These mostly benign cysts appear as swelling under a dog’s skin and are caused by clogged oil glands.

Lipoma. A lipoma is a common benign tumor of fat seen in older pets. While they can grow anywhere on a dog’s body, they usually only become problematic when they grow in locations that cause discomfort or impact their ability to walk.

Histiocytoma. Another common type, this tumor mostly affects dogs younger than 6 years old. These tumors are sometimes removed because of ulceration, infection, bleeding, and the chance that they may proliferate, though most regress on their own after a few months. That’s why histiocytoma is technically considered a type of cancer, though cell overgrowth typically regresses once the stimulus is removed.

Soft tissue sarcoma. This term covers a wide range of tumors, including those that arise from a dog’s connective, muscle, or nervous tissues. They’re caused by the abnormal production of cells in an uncontrolled manner.

Mast cell tumor. Mast cell tumors (MCTs) are one of the most common types of skin cancers in dogs. They form when the mast cells in the connective tissue start rapidly dividing, and they’re often raised, reddened, and itchy.

Squamous cell carcinoma.  Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are tumors that form as a result of abnormal cell growth in the topmost layer of the skin, also known as the squamous layer. They usually appear as a single lesion in one location, but there’s also a rare kind of SCC called multicentric squamous cell carcinoma (also known as Bowen’s disease or Bowenoid carcinoma) that presents as multiple lesions in multiple locations on the body.

What to do when you find a bump on your dog’s skin

If you find an unfamiliar bump on your dog, the best course of action is to contact your vet and set an appointment for a diagnosis. Make sure to monitor any changes in the lump until you can get to the vet.

When your dog is seen, the vet will likely conduct a cytology test to determine what type of lump they are dealing with. If a diagnosis still can’t be reached after that, they may recommend a biopsy, in which a small part of the lump is removed and sent to a lab for examination.

While there’s no real way to prevent your dog from getting new lumps or bumps, keeping up with bi-annual vet appointments will help catch any changes in your dog’s health. It’s also helpful to maintain the health of your dog’s skin and coat through quality nutrition, supplements, and proper grooming.  

Many diagnostic tests ordered by veterinarians are covered by pet insurance — find out what is (and isn’t) included by reading our insurance coverage guide.

Treatments for bumps on your dog’s skin

Treatment will vary depending on the type of lump or bump, its size and location on their body, and the characteristics of their breed. Common options include:

  • Antibiotics. Vets prescribe antibiotics to treat various types of skin infections.
  • Antihistamines and steroids. Lumps that are caused by allergic reactions such as hives can often be relieved quickly with steroids or antihistamines.
  • Chemotherapy. In chemotherapy, drugs are used to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It’s most commonly used to treat cancers of the blood and lymph systems and to get rid of remaining cancer cells after surgical removal.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation is used to treat malignant lumps that can’t be surgically removed. It uses high-energy radiation to shrink or kill cancer cells.
  • Surgery. Almost all malignant tumors require surgical removal, either by excision or cryotherapy.
  • Topicals. Vets prescribe ointments and other skin treatments for various skin conditions, such as ringworm or bug bites.

Natural or at-home treatments for dog skin bumps

Natural skin treatments like coat supplements, shampoos for itchy skin, coconut oil, or CBD have all been shown to be effective at treating certain types of skin bumps on dogs, but more serious lumps like tumors always require professional attention. For all lumps and bumps you find on your dog, the best course of action is to discuss it with your vet to determine the most effective treatment.

Frequently asked questions

Why is my dog getting little lumps all over their body?

There are several reasons your dog might be getting lumps, typically caused by infections or other underlying conditions. For all lumps and bumps found on your dog, discuss them with your vet who can then determine the most effective treatment.

Why does my dog have bumps that look like pimples?

Sebaceous cysts are small lumps that can look like pimples or warts. They’re caused by blocked oil glands and most commonly occur in breeds with fine hair, like poodles and bichon frisé. If you aren’t sure of the cause, it’s best to ring your vet for an appointment.

Is it normal for dogs to have bumps on their skin?

Skin bumps are more common in older dogs, but younger dogs can get them, too. Many lumps and bumps are harmless, but some can be caused by infections or other underlying conditions. If you find an unfamiliar bump or lump on your dog, it’s best to set up an appointment for your vet to take a look.

How do you treat bumps on dogs?

There are a variety of underlying causes that can lead to lumps and bumps on your dog’s skin. Always talk to your vet to determine the best treatment for your dog’s skin bumps.