If your cat has soft, round lumps under their skin, they might have lipomas (noncancerous fatty tumors). Although lipomas in cats are usually benign, they require proper diagnosis by a veterinarian. Today, our Leighton veterinarians discuss the causes, signs, and treatment of lipomas in cats.
Lipomas are benign fatty tumors that present as soft, easily-manipulated lumps under your cat's skin. They are benign (noncancerous) and appear infrequently in cats compared to dogs (and people). While most cases do not threaten your feline friend's health, they can limit your pet's mobility or potentially lead to further conditions without diagnosis and any required treatment.
Signs of Lipomas in Cats
Although these lumps and bumps aren't known to cause your cat discomfort or pain, it is important to know the signs of lipomas. Aside from being an unwelcome sight on our adorable kitty's abdomen or chest (some of the most common areas), other, more serious conditions share signs and symptoms with lipomas. Some signs to look out for include:
- Development of a slow-growing lump under the cat's skin
- Although lipomas are usually oval or round, soft, and moveable they can also be firmer and attached to nearby tissues or structures
- Lipomas usually develop on the chest, neck, upper legs, and abdomen (can also grow on internal organs; can only be diagnosed by a veterinarian)
- Temperature of surrounding skin should be the same as the affected area and be free of lesions
- (Rarely occurs in cats) If a lipoma becomes very large, their blood supply can be affected and in extreme cases lead to tissue death of the affected area(s)
Cause of Lipomas in Cats
There is no currently known cause or prevention of these growths. They are more prevalent in older felines and aside from some evidence that older, neutered male Siamese cats are at greater risk, there are few factors known to affect the likelihood of a cat developing lipomas.
Diagnosis of Lipomas in Cats
Your cat will be carefully examined by your veterinarian, who will likely recommend further diagnostic testing to confirm that the mass is benign. Some of these tests may include fine-needle aspirate (FNA), biopsy, and the microscopic examination of samples collected from your pet. Most of these tests can be performed in-house so that your veterinarian can begin any necessary treatment more quickly.
Treatment for Lipomas in Cats
In the majority of cases, lipomas will require only monitoring if they have been deemed noncancerous. If your cat's mobility is notably affected or the growth is large enough to irritate your cat and cause them to scratch or bite at it, your veterinarian could recommend removal.
If surgical intervention is seen as the best treatment, your cat may need further testing to ensure that they are physically healthy enough to undergo anesthesia and surgery. These tests could include:
- Tests to evaluate the function of your cat's kidney, liver, and pancreas
- Antibody tests to identify any potential tick-borne or other contagious diseases
- CBC (complete blood count) to check for blood-related conditions
- Testing your pet's electrolyte levels to ensure they aren't dehydrated
- Urinalysis to check for UTIs or other conditions
- ECG to test for abnormal heart rhythm
Luckily, most lipomas grow quite slowly which could give you and your vet time to monitor your cat before deciding to go ahead with the surgery. Additionally, your vet will be able to confirm that the growth is a lipoma and not a liposarcoma, which is cancerous and malignant. When you play with, brush/groom, or pet your pet, note any changes in the appearance or number of lipomas on your cat - and remember that not every new growth, even if your cat already has multiple benign lipomas, is harmless.
Even though most lipomas are benign, in some very rare cases they become 'infiltrative,' meaning they spread to other nearby tissue. Even though infiltrative lipomas do not usually spread to other organs, they are usually treated by vets and vet surgeons as partially malignant and removed aggressively to prevent further spread.
Liposarcomas are infrequently seen in cats and can feel soft or firm, with a small chance of spreading to other organs. Some cats with feline leukemia virus (FIV) infection are at risk of developing liposarcomas, and as with infiltrative lipomas, the treatment is usually surgical removal of the affected tissues and surrounding areas. With these tumors, recurrence is a concern, so your cat may need to undergo radiation therapy after surgery.
Prognosis of Cats With Lipomas
Lipomas are not seen often in cats, and when found they are usually benign. The vast majority of cats with lipomas will not have their quality of life affected very much, if at all; although ugly to look at, your feline friend should be fine even with a few lumps and bumps.
The important thing to remember is that having your cat examined by your Leighton veterinarian or vet specialist is the only way to be sure that your cat is receiving the correct diagnosis and treatment that they need!
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please visit your vet.