Lumps and Bumps. Should You Remove Feline Lipomas?

What are lipomas?

Lipomas are benign (non-cancerous) fat cell tumors that commonly develop under the skin of cats (https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/skin/c_ct_lipoma). They form when fatty tissue overgrows in a contained area, creating a soft, movable lump under the skin. Lipomas most often occur in middle-aged and older cats, especially those who are overweight. They typically develop on the torso, legs, and shoulders, but can occur anywhere on the body.

Lipomas are usually small, ranging from the size of a pea to a few centimeters across. They have defined edges and feel like soft, fluid-filled bumps under the loose skin that can be moved around easily. Lipomas are normally painless and tend to grow slowly over time. They have a lobular appearance similar to fatty tissue and are often described as having a “doughy” feel.

While lipomas can develop in cats of any age, obese and overweight cats are more likely to develop them than cats who maintain a healthy weight (https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/skin/c_ct_lipoma). Keeping cats fit can help prevent these benign fat tumors from forming.

Are lipomas in cats dangerous?

Lipomas are usually benign (non-cancerous) fatty tumors that develop between the skin and muscle layer of cats (https://petcureoncology.com/lipomas-in-cats/). The masses are soft, movable, and painless in most cases. However, lipomas can become problematic depending on their location and size.

Although benign, larger lipomas may interfere with mobility if they develop over joints or impede organ function if they press on internal organs. Lipomas in the chest or abdomen can potentially compress the trachea, esophagus, digestive tract, or urinary system. Facial lipomas could impact vision or eating if they grow near the eyes or mouth (https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/skin/c_ct_lipoma).

While lipomas themselves do not metastasize like malignant cancers, their effects on surrounding structures can become dangerous. Monitoring the tumor’s growth and discussing removal with a vet is advised for large or problematic lipomas in cats.

Should small lipomas be removed?

Small lipomas often don’t require surgical removal if they are not problematic for the cat (PetMD). While lipomas themselves are benign fatty tumors, the surgery to remove them does carry some risks that may outweigh the benefits for smaller masses. As long as the lipoma is not interfering with the cat’s mobility or quality of life, many vets recommend leaving them alone (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Potential risks of lipoma removal surgery include infection, bleeding, reactions to anesthesia, and recurrence of the lipoma at the surgery site. The surgery will also incur costs and require a recovery period for the cat. For small lipomas in areas that don’t affect the cat’s activity, it is often better to monitor their growth over time rather than opting for surgery right away.

However, some factors that may warrant removal include rapid growth of the lipoma, obstruction or interference with movement, ulceration or infection, or location of the lipoma in areas that are constantly irritated. If a small lipoma begins exhibiting any of these signs, surgical removal may become necessary for the cat’s health and comfort (PetCure Oncology).

When should larger lipomas be removed?

Larger lipomas may require surgical removal if they begin interfering with a cat’s mobility or bodily functions. According to PetMD, lipomas over 2 inches in diameter have a higher risk of ulceration and infection as the overlying skin becomes thin and tense. Rapid growth of a lipoma can also be a sign it should be removed.

Specifically, veterinarians typically recommend removal if a lipoma is impairing mobility by restricting limb motion, interfering with bowel movements, urination, or other vital functions. Removal may also be advised if the lipoma shows signs of ulceration, infection, bleeding, or irritation from rubbing against objects. Even if not causing symptoms, rapidly enlarging lipomas may be pre-cancerous and should be evaluated and potentially removed.

As cited on PetCureOncology.com, “Surgical removal is indicated for lipomas that interfere with movement or those at risk for trauma because they are located in areas like the axilla or inguinal region. Lipomas that grow quickly or change shape may also require surgical removal.”

In summary, while small harmless lipomas may only need periodic monitoring, surgical removal is often recommended for larger lipomas negatively impacting a cat’s health or quality of life.

What are the risks of lipoma removal surgery?

Lipoma removal surgery in cats does carry some risks that pet owners should be aware of before deciding on surgery, including:

Anesthesia risks – There are inherent risks with any anesthetic procedure, including adverse reactions to anesthesia drugs. Older cats or those with other health conditions may be at higher risk of complications. Monitoring vitals and using proper anesthetic protocols can mitigate these risks.

Infection – Any surgical procedure comes with the risk of post-operative infection. The surgical site needs to be cleaned and monitored for signs of infection after surgery. Most infections can be treated with antibiotics if caught early.

Bleeding/hemorrhage – While uncommon, there is potential for bleeding during or after surgery if any blood vessels are nicked. Applying pressure and cauterization during surgery can control bleeding. Signs of internal hemorrhage after surgery need to be addressed quickly.

Recurrence – While most lipomas are successfully removed with surgery, there is a chance the lipoma can regrow after removal. This may require additional surgery in the future. Ensuring clean margins when removing the lipoma can help reduce recurrence risk.

Veterinarians will discuss all surgical risks with owners beforehand. Understanding the potential complications can help owners make an informed decision on whether lipoma removal is the right choice for their cat.

What is the recovery process after surgery?

After lipoma removal surgery, your cat will need extra care and monitoring during the recovery process. This typically involves:

  • Incision care – The incision site will need to be checked daily for signs of infection like redness, swelling, discharge, or oozing. The vet may prescribe antibiotics and recommend applying antibiotic ointment to the wound to prevent infection. The incision area should be kept clean and dry. An Elizabethan collar may be provided to prevent licking or chewing at the stitches. Stitches are usually removed 10-14 days after surgery.
  • Monitoring for complications – Potential postoperative complications to watch for include bleeding, continued swelling, loss of stitches, and changes in appetite, energy level, or litterbox habits which could indicate pain or discomfort. Notify the vet immediately if any concerning symptoms arise.
  • Pain management – Pain medication such as buprenorphine will usually be prescribed for a few days after surgery. Limit activity and provide a quiet comfortable area for rest and recovery.
  • Return to normal activity – Most cats require 1-2 weeks of restricted activity after surgery to allow proper healing. Light activity can resume after a few days but running, jumping, and rough play should be avoided during the initial recovery period. Follow your vet’s instructions for appropriate activity level timelines.

Cats usually recover well from lipoma removal with proper at-home care. Monitor the incision site closely and limit activity as recommended by your vet for the best recovery results. Most cats can return to normal activity within 2 weeks after surgery. Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns during the recovery process.

According to Greencross Vets (https://www.greencrossvets.com.au/aftercare/dog-cat-lump-removal-surgery-recovery/), due to the anaesthetic administered, your cat may be drowsy for several hours after surgery and should be allowed to rest.

What are the costs of lipoma removal?

Lipoma removal surgery for cats can be costly, but the specific fees depend on various factors. According to MetLife Pet Insurance, surgical removal of a small lipoma may cost around $125, while very large lipomas can cost up to $725 to remove https://www.metlifepetinsurance.com/blog/pet-health/cat-lipoma/. The main costs include:

Surgical fees: The surgeon’s fee makes up the bulk of the cost. More complex surgeries or large/difficult to remove lipomas require more of the surgeon’s time and expertise, driving up fees.

Anesthesia and hospitalization: General anesthesia is typically required for the procedure, along with fluids, monitoring, and postoperative nursing care. This can add $200 or more to the total bill.

Recovery medications: Pain medication, antibiotics, and other meds needed for a smooth recovery may cost $25-100.

Owners should also budget for initial exam and biopsy fees to diagnose lipomas. In total, lipoma removal often ranges from $300-800 depending on the case. Pet insurance can offset some of these surgical and aftercare costs.

How can lipomas be prevented?

There are some steps cat owners can take to help prevent lipomas from developing:

Control obesity. Overweight and obese cats are more prone to developing lipomas. Keeping your cat at a healthy weight can help prevent lipomas by reducing fat deposition under the skin. According to one source, “The cause of lipomas isn’t fully understood, but obesity seems to predispose cats to developing them” (Source).

Encourage exercise. Exercise helps cats stay fit, burn calories and excess body fat. An active cat is less likely to become overweight and develop lipomas. Provide plenty of playtime, interactive toys and climbing structures to keep your cat moving. According to veterinary experts, “Exercise will help keep your cat at an ideal weight” (Source).

Feed preventive nutrition. Choose a high-quality diet rich in protein and low in carbs and fillers. Avoid free-feeding, which can lead to overeating. The right food will help your cat maintain lean muscle over fat. According to one vet, “A good quality diet…can go a long way in preventing obesity and associated problems like lipomas” (Source).

When to seek veterinary advice

It’s important to regularly monitor any lipomas your cat has and be aware of potential signs of concern that warrant a veterinary visit. According to PetMD, lipomas that rapidly increase in size, obstruct movement, or become bothersome or painful should be evaluated by a vet.

Some symptoms that may indicate the lipoma is problematic include twitching, weight loss, poor appetite, lethargy, and signs of inflammation like redness, heat, and swelling around the lump. Lipomas that interfere with defecation, urination, or walking should also be assessed as soon as possible.

Many experts advise having new or changing lipomas examined at least once by a vet to distinguish them from more serious fatty tumors like liposarcomas. Routine wellness exams every 6-12 months also allow your vet to monitor existing lipomas for any concerning changes over time. Don’t hesitate to schedule an earlier appointment if you notice anything out of the ordinary with a lipoma.

Getting lipomas checked regularly and being attuned to symptoms requiring evaluation can help ensure your cat’s health and wellbeing. If a fatty tumor does become problematic, prompt veterinary assessment gives you the best chance at effective treatment.

Conclusion/Summary

In summary, lipomas in cats are usually non-cancerous fatty tumors that form under the skin. Small lipomas often do not require removal unless they become irritated or restrict movement. Larger lipomas that negatively impact quality of life should be surgically removed after discussing options with your veterinarian.

The key takeaways for cat owners are:

  • Monitor small lipomas but leave them be unless problems develop
  • Consider surgically removing larger lipomas causing impairment or discomfort
  • Discuss any concerns and removal options with your vet first
  • Surgery carries some risks but is often worthwhile to improve a cat’s mobility and wellbeing
  • Focus on prevention by maintaining a healthy weight and diet

While non-cancerous lipomas are common in older cats, it’s important to involve your veterinarian in decisions about monitoring versus removing any lipomas. Together you can determine the right course of action to keep your cat comfortable and healthy.

Scroll to Top