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Ask the Pet Expert: Should the lump be tested?

My 5-year-old chocolate Lab has a soft, squishy lump on her side. I can move it and press it without bothering her, and it doesn't seem to be growing. My vet says it's probably a fatty lump, which are common in labs of her age, and that we should keep an eye on it. But other people tell me I should have it aspirated to be sure it's nothing more. Am I safe to take my vet's hands-off advice, or should I request lab testing? 

There are many different kinds of lumps and bumps on and under the skin that veterinarians feel on a daily basis. We are more concerned about some of these lumps than others, based on location, size, and feel. Each day we make recommendations regarding aspiration, surgery or monitoring of these lumps based on our touch. Although we all wish we could diagnose things with just our hands, ultimately, a fine-needle aspirate or biopsy is needed to evaluate and determine the actual cells of this particular lump. This test can determine if there is any need for concern and if it needs to be removed surgically. 

Labradors do, in fact, commonly develop fatty lumps, or lipomas, as they age. In this particular case, I would request an aspirate for your comfort level and to ensure there are only fat cells present. Even a fatty lump might need to be removed because of its size or location, and concern if it becomes larger.  These things can all be discussed with your veterinarian once the results of the aspirate are available. 

This week's expert is Dr. Alicia McMichael, Eastern Animal Hospital, Baltimore. Send your questions to


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