Removing Lipomas in Cats. What’s the Real Cost?

What are Lipomas?

Lipomas are benign fatty tumors that commonly develop under a cat’s skin. They form from fat cells that clump together to create a soft, squishy lump. Lipomas are typically found on the torso, legs, or shoulders, but can develop anywhere on the body (Source 1).

Unlike cancerous tumors, lipomas are completely benign (noncancerous). They are usually slow growing and remain localized under the skin. While alarming to find, lipomas themselves are harmless. However, they can sometimes impede movement if they grow large enough (Source 2).

The main difference between lipomas and malignant tumors is that lipomas do not invade other tissues. They remain encapsulated growths rather than spreading internally. While the outward symptoms may seem similar at first, lipomas are distinguished by their benign nature and lack of systemic effects.

Symptoms of Lipomas in Cats

Lipomas in cats often present with no symptoms and are found incidentally during a veterinary exam (Source: https://www.vravet.com/site/blog/2022/03/30/lipoma-in-cats-symptoms-and-treatments). They develop slowly under the skin and cats tolerate them well, showing no signs of discomfort. However, lipomas can become problematic if they put pressure on nerves or tissue and become painful for the cat.

According to PetMD, some signs that may indicate a symptomatic lipoma in a cat include (Source: https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/skin/c_ct_lipoma):

  • The development of a lump under the cat’s skin, often on the trunk or limbs
  • Pain when the lump is touched or manipulated
  • Mobility issues if the lump interferes with joint movement

So while lipomas themselves are usually benign, they can negatively impact a cat’s quality of life if they cause pain or mobility impairment. That’s why it’s important to have any lumps or skin masses in cats examined by a veterinarian.

Diagnosing Lipomas

A veterinarian will start by performing a physical exam to identify any lumps or bumps on your cat’s body. They will note the location, size, shape, texture, and mobility of each mass. According to PetMD, a lipoma usually feels soft, movable, and located just under the skin.

To confirm the fatty nature of a lump, the vet may perform a fine needle aspirate. This involves inserting a small needle into the mass and drawing out some cells for examination under a microscope. Fatty tumors will show fat cells and minimal other tissue.

If the location of the lipoma makes it difficult to access or assess, imaging tests such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI can reveal size, shape, and proximity to surrounding structures (PetMD). These are especially useful for lipomas growing in the abdomen or chest cavity.

Deciding if Surgery is Needed

Surgery to remove lipomas is rarely necessary for cats. Lipomas are benign fatty tumors that typically do not impair a cat’s health or quality of life. In most cases, the best approach is to monitor the lipoma and leave it alone.

According to PetMD, treatment for cat lipomas is usually not needed as they pose no real threat (https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/skin/c_ct_lipoma). Surgery should only be considered if the lipoma is causing significant pain, impairing mobility, or continuing to rapidly increase in size.

As highlighted by PetCure Oncology, typical lipomas can often simply be monitored rather than surgically removed (https://petcureoncology.com/lipomas-in-cats/). Removal may be recommended if the lipoma interferes with normal activity or quality of life.

According to Windsor Vet, in most situations where a lump is diagnosed as a benign lipoma, there is no need to surgically remove it (https://www.nevccc.com/site/blog/2021/12/30/cat-lipoma). However, large lipomas that restrict movement or impair function may require removal.

In summary, surgical removal of lipomas in cats is typically unnecessary. It should be considered primarily when the lipoma causes pain, mobility issues, or uncontrolled growth.

Lipoma Removal Surgery

Lipoma removal surgery in cats is a relatively straightforward excision procedure. The veterinarian will make an incision over the lipoma and remove the entire fatty mass.

The procedure is performed with the cat under local anesthetic and sedation. This allows the area around the lipoma to be numbed so the cat does not feel pain during the surgery. The veterinarian will monitor the cat closely throughout the procedure.

Depending on the location and size of the lipoma, the surgery may require an overnight stay at the veterinary clinic so the cat can be monitored during initial recovery. This ensures proper healing and allows the veterinary team to watch for any potential post-operative complications.

Overall, lipoma removal is considered a routine surgery for cats. With appropriate anesthesia and post-op care, most cats recover fully within a week or two.

Recovery and Aftercare

After lipoma removal surgery in cats, there will be some important steps for recovery and aftercare[1]. An Elizabethan collar may need to be worn for 7-10 days to prevent the cat from licking or chewing the incision site while it heals. The incision area should be monitored closely for any signs of infection like redness, swelling, discharge or the cat showing signs of pain. Your vet will provide instructions on how to care for the incision area and keep it clean.

Activity will need to be restricted during recovery to allow proper healing. Your cat should be kept indoors and jumping or rough play should be avoided. Short, gentle leash walks are recommended for the first 7-10 days. Your vet will advise on when normal activity can be resumed, but this is usually around 10-14 days after surgery.

Your cat may experience some pain or discomfort after surgery that will require medication such as analgesics or anti-inflammatories. It’s important to give all medications as directed and contact your vet if you have any concerns about your cat’s recovery.

With proper aftercare and limiting activity, most cats recover fully within 2 weeks after lipoma removal surgery. Closely follow your vet’s recovery instructions to ensure your cat heals properly after the procedure.

Possible Complications

While lipoma removal surgery is generally low risk, there are some possible complications to be aware of. These include:

Excessive bleeding – While there will be some bleeding during surgery, excessive bleeding is uncommon but can occur if a blood vessel is nicked. The veterinarian will take steps to control any bleeding during the procedure.

Infection at incision site – There is always a small risk of infection after any surgery. Signs include redness, swelling, discharge, or the cat licking excessively at the incision. Usually antibiotics will be prescribed if this occurs.

Seroma fluid build up – This is a collection of fluid under the skin at the surgery site. It may require draining by the vet but generally resolves on its own over 1-2 weeks. Keeping the area clean and dry can help.

Recurrence of lipoma growth – While not common, lipomas can sometimes grow back after surgical removal. This may require a second surgery if the lipoma becomes problematic again.

Be sure to follow all post-op care instructions from your veterinarian, including restrictions on activity, to help avoid potential complications and support your cat’s recovery.

Non-Surgical Lipoma Treatment

Some cat owners may want to avoid surgery for removing lipomas and opt for less invasive treatment methods instead. Two alternatives to surgery for treating lipomas in cats include steroid injections and liposuction aspiration.

Steroid injections can help shrink lipomas over time by reducing inflammation. A veterinarian will inject a steroid medication directly into the lipoma which helps break down the fatty tissues. It may take several injections administered a few weeks apart before seeing a reduction in the size of the lipoma.

Liposuction aspiration is another non-surgical option, where a veterinarian uses a needle and vacuum device to suction out the fatty tissues of the lipoma. Just a small incision is made in the skin to insert the needle. While gentler than surgery, the drawback is that liposuction may not remove the entire lipoma if it is large, so there is a higher chance of recurrence.

Overall, non-surgical treatments like steroid injections and liposuction aspiration can be effective alternatives to surgery for some cat owners looking to remove or shrink lipomas. They have shorter recovery times but may need to be repeated if the lipoma regrows. Discuss all options with your veterinarian to determine the best approach for your cat’s lipomas.

Cost of Lipoma Removal

The cost to remove lipomas in cats depends on factors like the location and size of the mass, whether surgery is involved, and additional tests or aftercare required. According to Wagwalking, the average cost for surgical removal of a lipoma ranges from $300 to $800 [1]. Smaller lipomas under an inch may be around $300 to remove, while larger lipomas over 5 inches can cost $700 or more.

Additional expenses beyond the surgery itself may include pre-operative bloodwork, anesthetic monitoring, biopsy analysis, hospitalization fees, medications, and follow-up visits. These ancillary costs can quickly add a few hundred dollars to the total bill. However, non-surgical options like steroid injections to shrink lipomas may provide a cheaper alternative in some cases.

According to MetLife Pet Insurance, tumor removal surgery for small lipomas is approximately $125, while extra large lipomas exceeding 5 inches could cost $725 or more [2]. So the size of the lipoma is a major cost factor. Owners are advised to consult with their veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment given their cat’s specific condition.

When to Get Pet Insurance

Getting pet insurance can be very helpful for managing the costs of chronic conditions like lipomas in cats. Since lipomas often require ongoing monitoring and may eventually need surgical removal, having insurance can alleviate the financial burden of these expenses.

Pet insurance helps pet parents budget for and manage unexpected vet costs. Rather than scrambling to pay for emergency surgery or treatments, insurance can cover a significant portion of these surprise bills. This is especially important for conditions like lipomas, where surgery can cost upwards of $500-1000.

When choosing a pet insurance plan, be sure to compare coverage options. Look for plans that cover chronic conditions, cancer treatments, and hereditary conditions. Also compare reimbursement rates, annual limits, and deductibles. Getting a plan with a higher reimbursement percentage (70-90%) will provide more financial assistance for expensive procedures like lipoma removal surgery.

Overall, pet insurance gives cat owners peace of mind knowing they have support in place for expected and unexpected vet care costs. For cats prone to lipomas, this backup plan is invaluable and can be the difference between moving forward with recommended treatment or not.

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