Lipomas in Cats: Signs, Symptoms And When to See the Vet

Lipomas in Cats

Lipomas in Cats: Lipomas are benign fatty tumors that are very common in cats, especially as they age. These lumps are made up of fat cells and connective tissue and can pop up anywhere on a cat’s body.

Lipomas typically feel soft, squishy and movable under the skin. They are usually painless and grow slowly over weeks or months. Some may remain small while others can become quite large, sometimes the size of a grapefruit!

The good news is lipomas are almost always harmless. However, any new lumps should be checked out by a vet to confirm the diagnosis. While rare, some masses can be malignant so it’s best to have them evaluated, especially if they are growing quickly, seem fixed in place, or are changing shape.

In most cases, no treatment is needed for lipomas. However, if a lipoma is bothering your cat, is in a location where it may easily get scraped or caught, or for cosmetic reasons, surgical removal may be recommended. This involves a simple procedure to cut out and extract the lump, followed by stitches and recovery. The outlook is excellent and the lipoma is unlikely to return in the same location.

Lipomas in Cats

Signs and Symptoms of Lipomas in Cats

If your cat has developed unusual lumps under their skin, it could be lipomas. These benign tumors made of fat cells are usually not painful or dangerous, but it’s best to have your vet examine them.

A lipoma typically feels like a soft, movable lump under the skin. They are often described as feeling like little blobs of fat. Lipomas are usually found on the trunk, limbs, and neck and rarely cause any issues, though some cats may find them irritating. Some signs to watch for include:

  • Soft, fatty lumps under the skin that move easily with gentle pressure.
  • Lumps that do not seem to be attached to the muscle or bone underneath.
  • Lumps that do not seem to bother your cat or cause pain.
  • Lumps that grow slowly over weeks or months.
  • Possible swelling in the area of the lump.
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While lipomas themselves are harmless, if you notice the lumps growing quickly, changing shape or texture, or seeming to bother your cat, it’s best to have your vet examine them. Very rapid growth can sometimes signal something more serious like a malignancy. Your vet may aspirate the lump with a needle to examine the cells and determine if it’s truly a lipoma.

Though usually benign, lipomas can sometimes continue to grow over time. If they become large enough to irritate your cat or for cosmetic reasons, your vet may recommend surgically removing them. The procedure is typically straightforward, and your cat should recover well.

With regular vet checkups, most cat owners are able to monitor lipomas easily at home. But any time you’re unsure or notice a worrisome change, don’t hesitate to contact your vet. It’s always better safe than sorry when it comes to your feline friend’s health.

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Causes and Risk Factors For Lipomas

Lipomas, or fatty tumors, in cats are usually caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Genetics. Lipomas tend to run in families and certain cat breeds are more prone to developing them, such as Domestic Shorthairs, Labrador Retrievers, and Cocker Spaniels. If your cat’s parents or siblings have lipomas, your cat is more likely to get them as well.
  • Age. As cats get older, especially over 6 years of age, their risk of developing lipomas increases. This is because aging causes changes in fat metabolism and connective tissue that can promote lipoma formation.
  • Obesity. Overweight or obese cats have excess fat tissue, so they are more prone to lipomas. Losing weight can help, as fat loss will also reduce the size and severity of existing lipomas, as well as lower the risk of new ones forming.
  • Hormone changes. Fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and cortisol, may trigger lipoma growth. Estrogen, in particular, stimulates fat cell proliferation.
  • Injury or inflammation. Physical damage to fat tissue or connective tissue bands under the skin can trigger localized lipoma development. Chronic inflammation may also be a contributing factor.
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The good news is that while we can’t eliminate a cat’s risk factors for getting lipomas, weight loss, diet, and exercise can help decrease the likelihood of new growths. Regular vet checkups, especially as your cat ages, will ensure any new lumps are properly diagnosed and monitored. Although benign, some lipomas can continue to expand over time or in rare cases become malignant. Early detection is key.

By understanding the underlying causes of lipomas in cats, we can take proactive steps to keep our feline friends healthy and reduce health issues associated with excess fat and aging. A balanced, nutritious diet, ideal body weight, regular exercise, and routine vet care will help keep lipomas at bay and allow your cat to live a long, comfortable life.

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Treating and Managing Lipomas in Cats

If your cat has been diagnosed with a lipoma, the good news is they are usually benign and often do not require treatment. However, in some cases treatment may be recommended to make your cat more comfortable or if the lipoma is interfering with their mobility or quality of life. Here are some options for managing and treating lipomas in cats:

Monitoring

The most common approach is to simply monitor the lipoma. Keep an eye on it to make sure it does not suddenly increase in size or become painful, which can indicate a malignant tumor. Take your cat for regular vet checkups so your vet can examine the lipoma. As long as it remains small, benign, and not bothering your cat, no treatment is usually needed.

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Steroid Injections

For lipomas that are irritating to your cat or impairing their movement, steroid injections can help shrink them. Steroids are injected directly into the lipoma, which helps reduce inflammation and decrease the size of the mass. Multiple injections are usually needed, and the effects are temporary. The lipoma will often start to regrow over time.

Surgery

If the lipoma becomes very large, painful, or is seriously impacting your cat’s quality of life, surgical removal may be recommended. The lipoma will be cut out, and the incision closed with stitches. Surgery provides a permanent solution, but as with any operation, there are risks of anesthesia and infection. The lipoma may also recur in some cases.

Dietary Changes

Some evidence shows that high-fat diets may contribute to the development of lipomas in cats. Switching to a high-protein, low-fat diet may help prevent new lipomas from forming and slow the growth of existing ones. Look for a diet with fish oil or flaxseed, which provide omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce inflammation in the body.

The approach you and your vet choose will depend on factors like your cat’s age and overall health, the location and size of the lipoma, and whether it’s bothering your cat. With regular monitoring and care, most cats can live comfortably with lipomas. But if you ever notice sudden changes to the lipoma or your cat seems in pain, contact your vet right away.