Exploring Fatty Tumors in Shelties

There is no denying that getting old, in a word, sucks. That is true for dogs as well as humans.  In addition to other signs of aging, the fatty tumor, or lipoma is one that can occur.

Shelties are lucky in that they are not a breed disposed to these tumors. The incidence is low. How low? Dunno, but low enough not to be mentioned as a breed problem. The tumors usually appear once a dog reaches at least middle age, sometimes older.

More good news is that they are benign.

So unless it is positioned in a place on the body that can be irritating, such as near a joint or between a limb and the trunk where it is rubbed during movement, there is no need to have it removed.

Most vets will advise just watching it.

This is a good thing, considering the older a dog gets the bigger the chance that anesthesia could cause problems. 

How to Tell a Fatty Tumor From Cancer

There are: 

  • benign tumors (lipomas) 
  • malignant mast cell tumors (liposarcomas)
  • malignant hemangiopericytoma 

Most benign lipomas grow pretty slowly, and are usually found on the trunk or upper legs.  When you touch them with your fingers, they are relatively firm but will slip and slide under the skin easily.

In addition, benign tumors are not painful, don’t cause inflammation or hair loss. 

Malignant tumors (called mast cell sarcoma or liposarcoma) on the other hand, can appear in the same areas as a fatty tumor but tend to be fixed and grow quickly. They are considered an aggressive cancer that is difficult to remove.  

Another tumor which is malignant is hemangiopericytoma. It is usually found on a leg, causes hair loss and sometimes ulceration (open wound). It is uncommon for this type of cancer to metasisize to other parts of the body, but it tends to reoccur after surgical excision, even more invasively than before it was removed.

The only way to verify for sure what kind of tumor you are dealing with, is by a needle biopsy, which is a simple office procedure.

If you want to monitor the rate of growth, there are several ways to measure it. 

  • You can use a measuring tape across the diameter
  • You can place some paper over the tumor and draw the circumference of the tumor on the paper
  • You can take a Sharpie (magic marker) and mark the skin directly.

Check the size every few weeks to see the growth pattern.

Tumors Like Company

Usually, if you find one lipoma, chances are, over time you will find more.


This requires a needle biopsy as I said before.


With allopathic vet medicine, the only treatment is surgical excision. With the natural approach to care, there are herbs that can be used to reduce lipomas.

Two herbs listed as anti-tumor are: 

  • Tumeric Root powder which aides in reduction of fatty tumor size, aids in fat metabolism and increases production of bile which breaks down fat.
  • Cats Claw powder which is an anti tumor herb.

Giving  1/8 -1/4 tsp to a 10-20 lb sheltie or ¼ - 1 tsp to a 20-50 lb sheltie daily is the normal dosage. Now if you buy normal Tumeric powder only about 2% of it contains the active ingredient, Curcumin. If you buy the Tumeric Extract Powder, it is 95% Curcumin. So you use much less. So adjust the dose above. (And hence the higher price). 

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