Lipomas are benign fat-filled tumors that are slow-growing and generally are of no cause for alarm when it comes to your feline friend. Our La Mesa vets discuss what cat lipomas are and how they are diagnosed and managed.
What Is a Cat Lipoma?
Lipomas are typically known as fatty tumors for animals.
These are benign and slow-growing, noncancerous tumors that begin as fat cells.
While lipomas can be seen in all animals they are far more common in dogs than they are in cats. If they are diagnosed in cats, they are usually senior cats.
Symptoms of Cat Lipomas
If a cat develops lipomas there may only be one visible but it is common for there to be many masses developing.
The lesion is most likely found on a cat’s chest, abdomen, neck, back, and upper legs, though no location is off-limits. They are found most often in the subcutaneous tissues beneath the skin, though they can grow on internal organs as well.
Most commonly these fatty masses are movable and soft to the touch but are also able to be firmer and more adhered to the nearby tissues.
The skin surrounding the masses will be normal and otherwise unbothered as well as the temperature being normal body temperature.
In dogs, these masses are able to grow so large that they outgrow their blood supply and the tissue will begin to die. While possible in cats this is very rare.
Causes of Cat Lipomas
We don’t fully understand why cats get lipomas, and why dogs get so many more than cats.
Obese and overweight cats are more likely to develop lipomas than those with healthy body conditions.
How Cat Lipomas Are Diagnosed
If you notice any mass on your cat the most important thing will always be to have the growth examined by your vet,
Your veterinarian will likely recommend a test called a fine-needle aspirate (FNA) and cytology. Most veterinarians will perform this test in-house, though it may be sent out to a reference laboratory.
Your vet will collect a sample of the mass tissue using a needle and use a microscope to examine the tissue to make a formal diagnosis.
Lipomas are often easily diagnosed by classic appearance under the microscope. For a confirmative diagnosis, a larger tissue sample called a biopsy is necessary. This is a slightly more invasive procedure requiring a brief surgery, though it’s still extremely safe.
Treatment for Cat Lipomas
Most lipomas only require monitoring. There is usually no reason for the treatment of cat lipomas, as they pose no threat unless they are uncomfortable due to large size or an awkward location.
The growth of most lipomas is quite slow, which gives you time before making a hasty decision to have a lipoma surgically removed if you are on the fence.
Lipomas that are larger, fast-growing, or invasive into surrounding tissue may be appropriate candidates for surgical removal. Invasive lipomas make surgical removal more challenging, and they are likely to recur.
It is important to have an accurate diagnosis so you know that the mass is indeed a lipoma and not a malignant liposarcoma, as their treatments are radically different.
Recovery and Management of Cat Lipomas
Generally, you shouldn't need to panic if a lipoma has been diagnosed on your pet. The outcome is very good.
Your vet may suggest just monitoring the lipoma and its growth in the beginning as these are noncancerous and will typically not be of any bother to your pet.
Every few months taking the time to inspect the fatty mass and record any changes in shape, firmness, or skin lesions is also important. Changes can indicate a need to reevaluate the mass with a biopsy.