Lipomas are benign lumps that often develop as dogs get older. An integrative approach with a variety of treatment options is the best way to treat these fatty tumors.
As almost any dog ages, he starts to develop lipomas. Although lipomas aren’t cancerous, these fatty tumors can grow large enough to impede a dog’s movement and require treatment.
Conventionally, the only approach has been surgical removal once the lipoma reaches a stage where it is causing distress to the dog. Most integrative practitioners see lipomas as the body’s way of exteriorizing toxins or other imbalances. TCVM lists lipomas as a stagnation of body fluids. This may explain why older dogs usually develop lipomas – their systems may be slowing down.
The younger the dog, the more quickly lipomas can be resolved. At the first sign of lipomas, it’s a good idea to improve the dog’s health through many means, because as lipomas persist, they become less responsive to any treatment. Few integrative practitioners report that they can reliably resolve lipomas, although every modality does report some success.
Oakie, a wonderful golden, began getting lipomas by age two. He was being raised naturally with few to no vaccines, a great diet, and no chemical exposure, by Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis of Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute.
Oakie had a good physical with a complete thyroid panel, and there seemed to be no inciting causes for the lipomas.
Amy and Nancy regularly did Tui Na (Chinese massage to enhance Qi and lymph flow) on Oakie. When the lumps were first noticed, they used acupressure points on the meridians above and below each lump. Pericadium 8 is a spot in the center of a person’s hand that emits a significant amount of Chi, so Amy and Nancy held their palms on the lipomas.
The lumps would resolve in a few days when Oakie was younger. By the end of his life, they were not resolving at all, although they were much less problematic than they would have been if not treated. At age 11, a lipoma in the axilla impeded Oakie’s movement and needed to be surgically removed. He lived to the age of 13.
Some of Amy and Nancy’s students have had success using this approach with their own dogs. Using these techniques daily (see chart), with one day off every seven to ten days, seems to be most effective.
If any other issues are of concern, or if the acupressure is not working, a comprehensive TCVM workup with treatment is needed. As with homeopathy (below), the curative treatment protocol may not even focus on the mass. Several combination Chinese herbs have been successful with lipomas, but are best used by a trained herbal practitioner.
Dr. Steve Blake uses homeopathy and other modalities for healing. One dog’s mobility was severely restricted by a basketball-sized lipoma on the back. He was given one dose of Thuja 10M (selected because the lipoma appeared shortly after vaccination and fit the dog’s characteristic symptoms). Within two months the fat was gone, with only a large skin sack remaining.
Dr. Blake chooses the best homeopathic remedy for each dog and always includes immune boosters such as Imu-Tek colostrum and essential oil of Frankincense, topically BID. His gemmotherapy prescription for all tumors (a drainage system using the buds of plants) usually includes Common Juniper (for the liver), Rye Grain (to detox the skin) and Cedar of Lebanon (a skin drainer and toxin remover).
Sacred Medicine’s Gall Bladder Prime has been effective with some lipomas. It blends choleretic and cholagogue herbs with carminative herbs to improve bile viscosity.
Dr. Ihor Basko asserts that a major cause of lipomas is an imbalance of hormones and precursors: estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and DHEA. HRT with herbs and supplements helps the overall health of these dogs, along with much-needed exercise.
5. Nutritional therapy
Dr. Wim de Leeuw from the Netherlands has observed shrinking in lipomas when dogs are on Mifloran, a soil-borne organism probiotic. It is often prescribed for general weight loss, which in his practice seems to also partially shrink lipomas. Dr. Basko cites the following as a possible explanation for these excellent result: staph toxins influence the behavior of fat cells (cytokine release) and some adenoviruses can trigger stem cells to transform into fat cells. Obese people have more staphs in their gut flora than non-obese people.
Dr. Liz Hassinger rarely sees lipomas in patients who are living on good food, no chemicals, and only rabies vaccines. She is very hardline about weight control. With good foods, excessive weight gain is uncommon, but if a patient is getting chunky, she works with the client to find out why and gets the animal back into a healthy weight range. Most lipomas Dr. Hassinger sees are in new patients who have been treated conventionally. Usually, they are obese or have been treated with topical chemicals.
Dr. Peter Dobias has observed that most lumps of any kind appear to be associated with spinal segments with the tightest muscles or evidence of inflammation and injury. The back is the channel that maintains smooth energy flow throughout the body, tissues and organs, and an injury stops that flow.
Chiropractic or intramuscular simulation (IMS) can reset the muscle fibers and improve the energy flow. Either treatment needs to be repeated until the body “relearns” its patterns. In older dogs, a preventive treatment plan, often monthly, helps the body stay in balance. The growth rate of lipomas is slowed by improving the energy flow in the spine and body in general.
In 2006, Dr. Gerladine Hunt, then at Sydney’s Veterinary College, offered liposuction in lieu of euthanasia for Patch, a 12-year-old Kelpie mix. Over an hour, six lipomas were “sucked” out, equaling 10% of Patch’s body weight.
A year later, veterinarians at the veterinary college of Leipzig, Germany successfully removed three lipomas – one in the axilla – from a very obese mixed breed dog suffering from severe arthritis.
And in 2011, retrospective studies were done on 20 dogs showing resolution of 73 out of 76 lipomas removed with liposuction. The dogs did, however, continue to grow lipomas, and they seemed to regrow in the same areas more often than seen with surgical excision.
One recent study involved injecting lipomas with steroids, and found it mostly effective for small lipomas.
Collagenase enzymes break the peptide bonds in collagen, the fibrous protein that connects body tissues. Several trials by BioSpecifics injected three healthy dogs with multiple subcutaneous lipomas. Ninety days after injection, a CT scan showed that the treated lipomas on two of the dogs had disappeared completely, and the third dog’s lipoma was only 7% of its original size. By contrast, the control lipomas had grown.
A second trial with 37 dogs did not have a statistically significant post-treatment difference as measured by CT scan. However, there was a statistically significant reduction in lipoma surface area.
Several surgeons stated that removing one lump resulted in multiple lumps appearing later in the dog’s life. This is because surgery removes only the tip of the iceberg. Surgery will do nothing to address the toxins causing the fatty tumor, and will leave scar tissue behind; this blocks the point of discharge the body needs to release those toxins. Once scar tissue is created, the toxins feeding the tumor are forced deeper into the patient’s body, causing damage to deeper organs and organ systems. Even in integrative practices, however, surgery is still needed to de-bulk lipomas that are interfering with ambulation.
Although lipomas are common and not life-threatening unless they get too big, they can be unsightly and uncomfortable for the dog. Luckily, there are many integrative options for treating these fatty lumps.