Fatty Cysts in Dogs

Pet parents common ask questions about fatty cysts in dogs. Fatty Tumors, also known as lipomas or fatty cysts, are amongst the most common tumors that occur in dogs. Most fatty tumors are under the skin, in a space referred to as the subcutaneous space, which lies between the skin and muscle. The skin over the mass is generally normal in appearance.

Fatty tumors are generally soft although can be firm if they develop under deeper tissue layers. They can be movable or attached and are generally round in shape. Fatty tumors can vary in size but can grow to become very large. Some can be the size of an egg and others as big as a basketball. Some fatty tumors can be over 14 pounds in weight when surgically removed. Fatty tumors generally grow slowly. Dogs that tend to get one fatty tumor will tend to get more as they age.

Figure legend: Fatty cyst from a dog. This fatty cyst, also known as a fatty tumor or lipoma, was surgically removed from the body wall of an 8-year-old Labrador Retriever. This fatty cyst weighed 8 ½ pounds.

Fatty tumors are most common in middle-aged to older dogs. Fatty tumors can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on the chest and abdominal walls, legs, and armpits (axillae). They are more common in overweight dogs and occur about twice as often in female as compared to male dogs.  They can occur in any breed but are most common in Labrador Retrievers, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, Weimaraners, miniature schnauzers and Doberman pinschers. Lipomas can also occur in cats but are much less frequent.

How to Determine if the Mass on Your Dog is a Fatty Cyst

If your dog has a lump or mass, the best way to help determine the underlying cause is a fatty cyst to see your veterinarian. They have the experience to help you identify the type of tumor and provide recommendations for treatment or additional care. Your veterinarian may provide the following:

A complete examination. Your vet will look at your dog’s eyes, ears, listen to the heart and lungs, and feel the abdomen to evaluate the size and shape of the kidneys, spleen, intestines, bladder, and liver.

  • Examine the skin lump. Your vet will evaluate the skin mass noting the size, shape, depth, consistency, location, color, and more. They will also feel for additional lumps, which can be common in some dogs that develop fatty tumors. Most fatty tumors develop around the neck or over the body wall such as the rib cage or abdomen but can occur anywhere on the body.  The skin over the lump is generally completely normal without any sign of infection or pigmentation.
  • Provide recommendations. Based on the location of the tumor, size, ulcerations, and signs of infections, your vet will provide a recommendation as to the best approach to the fatty cyst.  They may recommend to evaluate the mass with a Fine needle aspirate (FNA), Biopsy, or recommend mass removal (often called “lumpectomy”).  Most times a fine needle aspiration can diagnose a fatty cyst on a dog.

Treatment of Fatty Cysts on Your Dog

No treatment is required for most fatty cysts. Fatty tumors are not malignant but can grow so large that they interfere with function or can break open and become infected. For example, they can occur in the armpit causing difficulty in a dogs ability to walk.  Some tumors can occur on the abdomen or chest way making it uncomfortable for a dog to lie down. Other tumors can become ulcerated and infected. In these cases, surgical removal is recommended to optimize comfort.

Figure legend: This fatty cyst was surgically removed and is sitting on the surgery table on the left. As you can see, it looks like a big ball of fat. This fatty cyst was removed from the right inguinal region in this 10-year-old Golden retriever. It was interfering with how this dog was walking and therefore was removed.

Other Types of Cysts

Some pet owners may confuse a fatty tumor with a sebaceous cyst. A sebaceous cyst is a small sac containing an accumulation of secretions produced by the sebaceous glands. They can appear as small bumps that break open and drain a thick white to yellow cheesy substance. Some pet owners may believe this cyst is “fatty” and refer to this as a fatty cyst. Sebaceous cysts are generally small – less than 1 inch in size. For more information – please read sebaceous cysts in dogs.

Other Causes of Large Bumps on Dogs

There are several additional causes of large bumps on dogs besides fatty tumors. Other large bumps in dogs may include:

Small Bumps on Your Dog

Some fatty tumors on dogs are small but many can grow to be very large. Learn more about What Small Bumps on Dogs Can Mean?

What Large Bumps on Dogs Can Mean

Large bumps on dogs are common and can be a concern to pet parents. A skin bump in dogs is also referred to as growth, mass, lump, or tumor. Sometimes large skin bumps are felt during routine grooming or petting at home or can also be found by groomers during bathing and grooming.

A large bump in a dog can be anything from a bruise, a benign mass, to a malignant tumor. We will give you some common causes for large bumps in dogs and provide suggestions to help you keep your dog healthy. The biggest concern of pet owners is that the large bump on a dog could be cancer.

Causes of Large Bumps on Dogs

What one person may consider large may be very different from another and may depend on the size of the dog. For example, a 3-inch mass on a 5-pound Chihuahua may be huge relative to the same mass on a 140-pound Mastiff dog. For the purpose of this article, a large bump on a dog is over a couple inches in size.  There are many causes for smaller bumps.

Below are some possible causes for large bumps on dogs:

  • Large scabs – A scab is a rough, dry crust that forms as a protective barrier over a healing cut, laceration, puncture or wound.  Some scabs are small but some can be quite large depending on the underlying cause of the wound. Often clipping hair to evaluate this area can help determine if the problem is a tumor or a healing wound. Learn more about home care of a laceration in dogs.
  • Abscess – An abscess can appear as a large lump. An abscess is a localized pocket of infection that contains pus. Abscesses are caused by bacteria, parasites, or foreign material under the skin and develop quickly. They will generally break open at some point and drain.  Your veterinarian may need to evaluate the lump, lance the abscess in some cases, and provide pain medications and antibiotics. The most common cause for an abscess is an infection caused by a bite wound.
  • Hematoma – A hematoma is a large bruise. Most often this is associated with some trauma such as hit by a car or other type of trauma. Bruising can also occur from abnormal bleeding disorders. Learn more about bruising and bleeding in dogs. Dogs can also get hematomas in their ear flaps from shaking their heads which can be secondary to an ear infection. For more information, please read aural hematomas in dogs.
  • Fatty mass – Fatty tumors, also called lipomas, are amongst the most common bumps that occur in dogs. Fatty tumors generally soft but can be firm if they are under a layer of muscle. They can be movable or attached. They vary in size but can become very big. For example, a Labrador retriever recently had a lipoma surgically removed that was attached to his right rib cage that weighed over 14 pounds and was a little bigger than a basketball. Fatty tumors are not malignant but can grow to become large and interfere with a function such as walking. Learn more about Fatty cysts in dogs.
  • Lymph nodes – Some skin lumps are lymph nodes that can be felt under the skin. A common spot for pet owners to feel large lymph nodes are under the chin around the jawline. These lymph nodes are the “submandibular” lymph nodes. There are different causes of lymph node enlargement that can include anything from local infections to cancer.
  • Benign mass – There are several types of benign skin masses that can become large in dogs.  Some are listed above such as abscesses or fatty tumors. It can be impossible to tell the difference between a benign and a malignant lump without additional testing.
  • Malignant tumor – There are skin tumors that can be malignant. Some can occur in certain areas such as the mammary chain which can be mammary gland tumors.  Tumors of the testicles can also occur.
  • Organ tumors – Tumors of the liver or spleen can occur but generally aren’t obvious by most pet owners. However, some pet owners notice when their dog lays on their side that the abdomen looks distended or appears abnormal. They may even feel an abnormal bump. For more information about a lump that can occur on the spleen or liver – go to Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs.

How to Determine the Cause of a Large Bumps on Dogs

If your dog has a large bump, the best way to help determine the underlying cause is to closely examine the bump. Many times shaving the hair around that area is a big help to allow you to examine the bump and surrounding area. This may be best done with the help of your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian may perform the following:

  • A complete exam. They will want to look at your dog’s eyes, ears, listen to the heart and lungs, and feel the abdomen.
  • Examine the skin bump. Your vet will evaluate the skin bump noting the size, shape, depth, consistency, location, color and more.
  • Provide recommendations. Based on the location of the tumor, size, any signs of infections, your vet will provide recommendations for the best approach to your dog’s skin mass.  They may recommend an additional test to evaluate the mass such as a fine needle aspirate (FNA), biopsy, or mass removal (lumpectomy”).

Common causes of large bumps on dogs include:

Small Lumps on Dogs

Some dogs may have small lumps. Common small tumors include Mast Cell Tumor, Melanomas, and Histiocytomas. Learn more about What Small Bumps on Dogs Can Mean?

Stroke in Cats

A “stroke” is a term commonly applied to people who have suffered a cerebrovascular accident, commonly abbreviated as CVA, caused by cerebrovascular disease.  It was once thought to be very uncommon in cats and dogs but is now known to occur.

A stroke is caused by the disruption of blood supply to the brain that results in failure of nerve impulses to be transmitted from the brain to the rest of the body.

Neurologic symptoms develop that can be temporary or permanent.  If the symptoms persist for over 24 hours, the condition is categorized as a stroke. If the symptoms persist for fewer 24 hours, the event is categorized as a transient ischemic attack or “TIA”.

There are two types of strokes. They include:

  1. Hemorrhagic stroke – This type of stroke results from hemorrhage (bleeding) into or around the brain. This can be caused by bleeding from toxins such as rat poison, vascular abnormalities, and secondary to brain tumors, high blood pressure (hypertension), inflammatory disease of the blood vessels (vasculitis).
  2. Ischemic stroke – Ischemia is a term that means there is an inadequate blood supply to a part of the body or organ. Therefore an ischemic stroke results from a blockage of blood flow to the brain. This can be caused by parasite migration (Cuterebra), migration of cancer cells to the brain, high blood pressure (hypertension) secondary to hyperthyroidism, heart disease, or chronic kidney disease.

Signs of a Stroke in Cats

Whatever type of stroke a cat has, the symptoms that develop are determined by how much brain tissue is affected, how severely it is affected, and where in the brain it is located. Possible signs of a stroke in cats include:

  • Altered mental status e.g. disorientation
  • Circling in one direction
  • Falling over to one side
  • Head pressing
  • Head tilt to one side or another
  • Stumbling or drunken walking
  • Weakness
  • Incoordination
  • Not using the legs normally (sometimes on one side of the body)
  • Rolling
  • Unequal pupil sizes and/or abnormal eye reflexes
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Diagnosis of Stroke in Cats

Stroke in cats can affect an animal very suddenly. A very important point is that many owners may mistake a stroke for a different condition called Vestibular Disease. Learn more about Vestibular Disease in Cats.

Other disorders that result in signs similar to strokes include inner ear infections, thiamine deficiency, head trauma, middle ear polyps, middle ear cancer, brain tumors, and/or metronidazole (antibiotic) toxicity.

Diagnostic tests are needed to determine the presence of an underlying disease or cause for the stroke and to differentiate between other disorders that may be affecting the balance system of the body.

Tests may include:

  • Your veterinarian will take a complete medical history and perform a thorough physical examination including a complete neurologic examination and complete examination of the ear canal.
  • Laboratory tests may be recommended to determine your pet’s general health and the presence of an underlying disease that may be causing the vestibular disease. Recommended tests may include:
  • Blood tests may include a complete blood count (CBC or hemogram), serum biochemistry tests to evaluate blood glucose, liver and kidney function and electrolytes, and thyroid test to evaluate for hyperthyroidism.
  • Urinalysis to help evaluate kidney function.
  • Blood clotting times (PT and PTT) may be recommended if there is suspicion of toxin exposure such as to rat poison. Read more at Anti-coagulant rodenticide.
  • Blood pressure to evaluate for hypertension.
  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest and abdomen may be recommended to evaluate for major diseases affecting the heart, lungs or abdominal organs.
  • Cardiac evaluation:  In cases where the heart is suspected to be the problem on the basis of the physical examination and initial evaluations, a cardiac evaluation including an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and an electrocardiogram (ECG) may be recommended.
  • Other diagnostic tests may be recommended based on the results of the history, physical examination and initial laboratory tests such as spinal tap, CT, MRI or skull x-rays.

Treatment of Stroke in Cats

The treatment for strokes in cats is largely supportive. The first 24 hours is most difficult as the symptoms are worst, providing there is not progression.

  • Management will be recommended to treat any underlying conditions. For example:
  • Blood pressure medications to treat hypertension
  • Heart medications to treat the underlying heart disease
  • Thyroid medications to treat hyperthyroidism
  • Maintaining hydration with fluid therapy
  • Encourage adequate nutrition
  • Oxygen therapy to improve oxygen delivery
  • Nursing care as needed to keep the eyes lubricated, rotating pets that are not moving from side to side, constant cleaning urine and feces, and/or warm environment to provide optimal comfort

Some cats can recover completely from stokes and others will have permanent neurological abnormalities. Little research has been done to determine the overall prognosis for strokes in cats.  The prognosis is largely dependent on the underlying cause and the ability to adequately treat those causes.

Home Care and Prevention

Call your veterinarian promptly if your pet is showing signs of a stroke. This is a frightening experience for your cat so speak calmly and soothingly. Make sure he does not injure himself and please make sure you do not get bit. Cats that are frightened or in pain may bite.

Heartworm Symptoms in Cats

Heartworm disease is an infectious disease caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis that can occur in dogs and cats but is less common in cats. An infected mosquito that bites your cat can transmit Dirofilaria immitis. Below we will give you information about heartworm symptoms as well as information about the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heartworm disease.  We will also cover other diseases that can cause similar symptoms and be confused with feline heartworm disease.

There are key differences in heartworm disease and in heartworm symptoms in cats vs. dogs. The cat is not the typical host for heartworms. It is believed that dogs get heartworm disease 10 times more commonly than cats. Many cats with heartworm disease go undiagnosed.

Heartworm disease in cats can occur in any breed and at any age. Male cats are more commonly infected and outdoor cats are at increased risk.  It is estimated that approximately one-third of cats with heartworm disease are indoors only.

The numbers of worms that develop in cats are generally much less than dogs. In fact, some cats infected with heartworms may have only one to three worms. These worms will live in pulmonary vessels and cause the symptoms we will identify below.

Heartworm Symptoms in Cats

The symptoms of heartworm disease in cats can be vague to critical. Some cats will appear normal on physical examination while others will have a history of vomiting, a cough, trouble breathing, or even sudden death.

Symptoms of heartworm disease in cats may include:

  • Coughing (dry)
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty or trouble breathing – Learn more about How to Recognize Fluid in a Cat’s Lungs
  • Increased respiratory effort
  • Occasional vomiting
  • Sudden death
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Collapse or fainting
  • Decreased activity or playfulness
  • Sleeping more
  • Abnormal neurologic symptoms such as seizures, circling, blindness, trouble walking or incoordination
  • Sudden death – Learn more about Sudden Cat Death: Understanding Why it Happens

Why and How Cats Get Heartworms

The following are the steps of how a cat can get heartworm disease:

  1. Transmission of heartworms to a cat occurs when a mosquito bites an infected dog or cat and ingests heartworm larvae (baby heartworms) that live in the bloodstream. The parasite is known by the scientific name of Dirofilaria immitis.
  2. The infected mosquito then bites a normal healthy cat and when this happens some of the larvae are injected under the skin.
  3. Over the following 3 to 4 months, the larvae grow in the cat and eventually make their way into the heart where they develop into adult worms.  As little as 2 or 3 worms can be fatal to an adult cat.
  4. The process is then ready to repeat itself.

Figure 1. Graphic of a heart with heartworms in the heart and pulmonary blood vessels. The heartworms appear as light colored thin spaghetti type structures. This heart shows many heartworms. Cats with heartworms may only have one to three worms.






Other Diseases that Can Look Like Heartworm Disease in Cats

Many cat owners are concerned that their cat has heartworm disease when they see signs of difficulty breathing or labored breathing. Trouble breathing in cats can be caused by heartworm disease but it is more common for the cause to be from heart disease or feline asthma.

Causes of heart disease in cats include Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats, Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Cats and Chronic Valvular Heart Disease. The increased respiratory effort associated with heart disease is often caused by pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) or pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs) that is secondary to congestive heart failure.

There are several causes of an enlarged heart in cats. Learn more about What Does an Enlarged Heart Mean for Cats?

Asthma in cats, also known as “Feline Allergic Asthma” or “Feline Allergic Bronchitis”, and is a lung condition associated with airway obstruction caused by sudden narrowing of the bronchial tubes. These symptoms are caused by the spasmodic constriction of the bronchial tubes and increased production of secretions from the bronchial tree. Some cats may have an acute onset of signs while other cats may have signs that come and go. Common symptoms in cats include coughing, difficulty breathing, increased respiratory effort, fast respiratory rates, wheezing breathing, lethargy, weight loss, weakness, withdrawing from social activities around the house, and/or an abnormal posture. As some cats struggle to breathe, they may sit with their head extended and elbows back.

Diagnosis of Heartworm Disease in Cats

Tests that can diagnose heartworm disease in cats include serum heartworm antibody test, serum heartworm antigen test, and or Microfilaria test (looking for larva in the blood).

What Does an Enlarged Heart Mean for Cats?

An enlarged heart in cats is a common sign of heart disease.  There are several types of heart disease that can occur in cats and the different diseases can cause special structural changes in the heart. Below we will review the signs of an enlarged heart in cats, causes of an enlarged heart, tips for diagnosis of the underlying heart disease, and what you can do at home.

Signs of an Enlarged Heart in Cats

Signs of heart disease can vary depending on the severity of the disease. In early stages of heart disease, cats can appear normal. Some cats will have very subtle symptoms that may progress over time. Signs of heart disease in cats may include:

  • Noisy, difficult, open-mouthed breathing
  • Increased respiratory rate and/or increased respiratory effort (using abdominal muscles to breath)
  • Posture of help breathing such as squatting or lying with chest down, head extended and elbows pointed outward and back
  • Anorexia or lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeping more
  • Decreased social interactions with the family or other cats
  • Sudden inability to use one or more limbs and crying
  • Coughing (rare in cats, common in dogs)
  • Fainting
  • Your vet may auscultate a murmur- learn more about Murmurs in Cats. This is a very good article written by a veterinary cardiologist.

Some pet owners may attribute the subtle changes associated with heart disease in cats to changes to age in older cat or maturity in younger cats. As the heart disease progresses, there may be progressive weight loss, trouble breathing which can cause an increased breathing (respiratory) rate or increased effort. If you believe your cat has an enlarged heart or is having any difficulty breathing or is in pain, please see your veterinarian immediately.

Heart disease can be a cause of sudden and unexpected death.   Learn more about Sudden Cat Death: Understanding Why it Happens.

Causes of Enlarged Hearts in Cats

There are several causes of an enlarged heart in cats. They may include:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is common heart condition in cats characterized by a thickening of the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle) and not attributed to other medical conditions (such as high blood pressure). It can, in severe cases, cause heart failure when fluid accumulates in the lungs. Blood clots can form in the heart and travel to distant blood vessels obstructing blood flow to one or more limbs (especially the back legs). This is called a thromboembolism and can cause severe pain while having the inability or difficulty using one or more legs. HCM can be mild to life-threatening. Learn more about Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in Cats.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in cats is a heart disease characterized by dilation or enlargement of the heart chambers and markedly reduced contraction. The heart muscle is often very thin and the ability of the heart to pump is diminished. An analogy of a normal functioning ventricle would be opening and closing your fist/hand completely. Using this analogy, the ventricle of a cat with dilated cardiomyopathy will only have a fraction of that full movement such as only the fingers moving slightly toward your palm but no full squeeze.  Some cats will have only one part of the heart involved or advanced case can cause all four heart chambers to be abnormally affected. Learn more about Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Cats.
  • Another heart disease that may affect cats is Chronic Valvular Heart Disease.  Valvular heart disease (VHD) is a condition characterized by degeneration and thickening of the heart valves. Valvular heart disease is more common in dogs but can also occur in cats. The abnormal values can cause an enlarged cat heart and can eventually lead to heart failure. Accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) or the abdomen (ascites) may occur.
  • Feline heartworm disease is caused by a parasite, Dirofilaria immitis, that is transmitted by mosquitoes.  Heartworm disease is less common in cats than dogs but can occur. Heartworm disease can cause an enlarged heart in cats. It can be diagnosed by blood tests and advanced testing such as an echocardiogram (Echo). Learn more about Heartworm Symptoms in Cats. This article has information about feline heartworm disease.
  • Congenital heart disease is a term used to describe abnormalities in the heart that develops before birth. There are many different types of defects that can affect different parts of the heart. These diseases can cause an enlarged heart in cats. The best way to diagnose congenital heart disease in cats is with an Echocardiogram performed by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist.

How Enlarged Hearts in Cats are Diagnosed

An enlarged heart in cats can be diagnosed by the following methods:

  • Chest X-rays – Also known as thoracic radiographs or X-rays of the chest, a chest X-ray can identify heart enlargement and fluid accumulations in or around the lungs. Chest X-rays can also be useful in excluding a number of other diseases.
  • Echocardiogram – Also known as an ultrasound examination of the heart or an “echo”, is the most sensitive diagnostic test that can determine not only if the heart is enlarged but also which part of the heart is abnormal and the severity of the disease. The echocardiogram can also determine if the underlying cause of the enlargement is from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, alveolar heart disease, dilated cardiomyopathy and heart deformities (congenital heart disease).  In summary, the echocardiogram can establish the diagnosis of the enlarged heart and provide useful information about and heart muscle function. This test often requires referral to a specialist such as a veterinary cardiologist. The experience of a specialist can be vital to determining the underlying cause for the enlargement to provide the best information to guide treatment and understand the prognosis.

Homecare: What You Need to Do at Home

Please see your veterinarian for all routine physical examinations and follow-up testing.  If your cat is diagnosed with an enlarged heart, it is critical to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for additional testing such as the ones listed above. Chest x-rays and an echocardiogram can be important to determine the underlying cause for the enlarged heart which will help determine the best treatment options and help you understand the prognosis.  Referral to a board-certified veterinary cardiologist is often the best option to optimize your cats care.

High Blood Sugar in Cats

There are three common ways that pet owners can identify high blood sugar in cats. Methods may include recognizing clinical signs of hyperglycemia (which we will describe below), measuring the blood glucose, and/or evaluating the urine glucose level.

  1. Clinical signs of high blood sugar. Cats with hyperglycemia secondary to diabetes generally have a history of obesity, lack of appetite (anorexia), vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, increased thirst and increased urination.  The classic signs are drinking more and urinating more. Some cat owners don’t notice the “urinating more” but will notice that there are more piles of urine in the box or that the litter box is heavier when changing it out. They may also notice their cat at the water bowl more often or that they are filling up the water bowl more frequently. Some pet owners don’t notice these changes, especially if there are multiple caregivers in the house doing similar tasks such as filling water bowls or cleaning the litter boxes.
  2. Blood glucose test. The best way to identify a high blood glucose is to have your veterinarian perform blood work. A routine biochemical profile (also called blood chemistry panel) will provide a blood glucose measurement as well as kidney values, protein levels, liver values, and electrolytes. It may be ideal to determine the kidney function because kidney disease can cause symptoms that are similar to diabetes in cats. You can also obtain a single blood glucose level with a glucometer at the vet clinic or at home.  Although not easy to do at home in most cats, some pet owners are able to check their cat’s blood glucose at home. Here are some tips of how to do this at home – go to Home Monitoring of the Diabetic Cat with a Glucometer.
  3. Urine test. When the blood glucose concentration exceeds the kidney’s ability to handle it, glucose can be present in the urine. In cats, the blood glucose concentration that allows for urine glucose is 260 to 310 mg/dL. It can be difficult to catch a urine sample at home but some cat owners empty the litter box except for shredded paper and are able to catch the liquid and perform a urine glucose dipstick. There are some litters or confetti-type flakes that go on the litter that can help detect urine glucose.  Learn more about Urine Glucose Testing.

Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is the most common cause of persistent high blood sugar in cats. It is a chronic condition in which a deficiency of the hormone insulin. This impairs the body’s ability to metabolize sugar.

There are two types of diabetes mellitus.

  • Type I DM occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin. This can be the result of destruction of the cells in the pancreas that normally produce insulin. This form is identified in approximately 50 to 70 % of cats diagnosed with diabetes mellitus. This form does not produce enough insulin and requires insulin injections to control the disease.
  • Type II DM occurs when enough insulin is produced but something interferes with its ability to be utilized by the body. This form is identified in approximately 30% of cats with diabetes mellitus. This type of diabetes is treated with dietary management, weight control, and oral drugs.


Learn more about Diabetes in Cats and insulin injection in cats.   Diabetes can get out of control causing a severe syndrome of life-threatening symptoms called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).  Dietary therapy is very important. Learn more about Diets for Diabetic Cats.

If you believe your cat has a high blood glucose, is not eating, vomiting, lethargic, or you have any other concerns, please see your veterinarian. We hope this article helps you know more about high blood sugars in cats.

Additional Articles of Interest Relating to Sick Cats and Diabetes in Cats:

How to Recognize Fluid in a Cat’s Lungs

Cats can have various medical problems that can cause difficulty breathing. Cat owners commonly want to know how to recognize if there is fluid in a cat’s lung. The medical term for the accumulation of fluid in the lungs is pulmonary edema. Fluid in a cat’s lung can be caused by congestive heart failure, trauma, or potentially by an infection such as pneumonia. In this article, we will review signs of trouble breathing in cats and possible causes for fluid in cats lungs and other signs of trouble breathing.

Difficulty breathing, or “shortness of breath”, is commonly referred to by the medical term “dyspnea”. This can manifest in cats as an increased respiratory rate, increased respiratory effort (working harder to take breaths), open mouth breathing, and/or an abnormal posture to breath. Cats that have fluid in their lungs or have difficulty breathing may sit with their head and neck extended with the elbows back (see figure 1).

Cat dyspneaFigure 1. Cat with slight trouble breathing from fluid in lungs. This cats elbows are back and neck slightly extended. Some cats may have their next extended more as the difficulty progresses. 

Difficulty breathing can occur at any time during a cat’s breathing process, during inspiration (breathing in) or expiration (breathing out).

Figure 2. This cat is having severe trouble breathing due to fluid in lungs. This cat’s neck is slightly extended and he is very weak. He is also open mouth breathing. This cat has congestive heart failure from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.




There are many different reasons a cat can have difficulty breathing. When a cat has trouble breathing, he may not be able to get an adequate supply of oxygen to tissues. For example, there can be airway problems from asthma, a foreign body in the airway causing an obstruction, an infection, or accumulation of fluid (edema) in the lungs, bruising of the lungs (pulmonary contusions), or an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity (Pleural Effusion in Cats).

Why Cat’s Lungs Fill With Fluid

Fluid in a cat’s lung can be caused by several different diseases. The problems are often categorized by those caused by underlying heart problems (cardiogenic) and those not caused by a heart problem (non-cardiogenic).

Cardiogenic Causes

  • Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition resulting from the heart’s inability to sufficiently pump blood to adequately to meet the body’s needs. This failure leads to an increased respiratory effort caused by fluid in or around cat’s lungs. Two common heart diseases that cause congestive heart failure are Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats and the other is Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats. These diseases can cause lethargy, weakness, lack of appetite, and decreased exercise capacity. Most cats won’t eat when they can’t breathe well.

Non-Cardiogenic Causes

  • Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that usually results from a bacterial infection. The most common way a cat acquires pneumonia is by inhalation. Cats with pneumonia may suffer from a compromised immune system. Pneumonia can occur at any age but is more common in kittens or senior pets.  Learn more about Pneumonia in Cats.
  • Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells on or within the body. Cancer is common in cats and the risk of cancer increases with age. In fact, cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Cancer may be localized, or it may invade adjacent tissue and spread throughout the body. Cancer can develop in the lungs, spread to the lungs, or occur in tissues near the lungs that lead to fluid in the lungs or around the lungs. Intact (non-spayed) female cats are predisposed to breast cancer (metastatic mammary carcinoma).
  • Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) are amongst the most common conditions that occur in cats and kittens.  Signs can range from sneezing, running eyes, inflamed conjunctiva, ulcers in the mouth, and/or trouble breathing. Learn more with this article –  Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Infections.
  • Head trauma can occur in cats from being hit by a car, crushed in a recliner, bites from other animals, or other kinds of trauma. Some cats with head trauma can develop lung inflammation that causes fluid in the lungs.  Learn more about Head Trauma in Cats.
  • Electrocution or electric shock results in injury to nerve cells from the intense heat generated as the electricity passes through the body tissues. The most common source of electrical injury to cats is when they bite electrical cords carrying low voltage household currents. This is most common in young playful cats and kittens. Exposure to high voltage electrical current is uncommon and is usually fatal due to massive internal damage. Learn more about electric shock in cats.
  • Seizures, also known as fits or convulsions, are a sudden excessive firing of nerves in the brain. It results in a series of involuntary contractions of the voluntary muscles, abnormal sensations, abnormal behaviors, or some combination of these events. A seizure can last from seconds to minutes in cats. Seizures are symptoms of a neurological disorder but are not a disease in themselves. Some underlying causes of seizures in cats include inflammatory brain diseases, brain tumors, symptoms from toxins, or epilepsy. Learn more about Seizures in Cats.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and acute lung injury (ALI) are severe respiratory diseases that can occur in cats. These diseases are well characterized in human medicine but less well understood in cats.  Complex changes occur that leads to cellular inflammatory changes that cause progressive trouble breathing and sometimes fluid accumulation in the lungs. This most often occurs in cats with infections or pneumonia.

Disease Commonly Confused with Fluid in Cat’s Lungs

There are other diseases that can be confused with those that cause fluid in cat lungs.  One problem that comes is Feline Asthma.

Sudden Cat Death: Understanding Why it Happens

One of the most awful things that a cat lover can experience is the sudden loss of a beloved cat. Trying to understand sudden cat death is excruciatingly painful. You want to make sense of what happens, consider what you could have done differently, and/or determine if there were signs of problems that you didn’t observe.  It is most difficult to understand sudden cat death when it is unexpected or happens to a young cat. In this article, we will discuss some of the possible causes of sudden cat death.

The life expectancy of cats can be anywhere from 16 to 22 years of age. Indoor-only cats live the longest followed by cats that are both indoors and outdoors. Cats that live only outdoors have the shortest lifespan due to exposures to toxins, trauma, animal attacks, and infectious diseases.

Possible Causes of Sudden Death in Cats

There are many causes of unexpected or sudden cat death.

As we consider illness and death in cats, one thing that is important to consider is that cats are very good at hiding their illness by their nature of survival. This fact sometimes will allow cats to be sick for a long time before we are aware. This can be especially true when we see the cat every day and don’t notice subtle changes such as weight loss, shedding, or a dull hair coat.  As our cats get older, we may believe that symptoms such as weight loss or lethargy are from them just slowing with age rather than from an illness.

Causes of sudden cat death may include:

  • Trauma. One common cause of sudden cat death is trauma.  This is more frequent in outdoor cats but can occur to any cat.  Examples of trauma include being hit by vehicles such as cars, bites from dogs and other animals, gunshot wounds, falls, or being crushed in a recliner. To learn more – go to Trauma and Injuries in Cats.
  • Toxin. Another cause of sudden cat death is ingestion and/or exposure to toxins and medications. This is another problem that is more common in outdoor cats but can occur in indoor cats as well. Common toxins include Potpourri exposure, medications that contain acetaminophen, plant toxicity such as from Easter lilies, and ingestion of various rat poisons just to name a few. To learn more about possible toxicities, go to Toxins in Cats.
  • Heart Disease. One of the most common causes of unexpected cat death is from heart disease.  There may be little to no warning signs. Cats can appear normal, hiding their symptoms well, and quickly decompensate finally showing signs of illness. Some cats will heart disease will develop difficulty breathing or have difficulty using their back legs while crying out in pain.  Some cat owners will simply find their cat dead. Learn more about What Does an Enlarged Heart Mean for Cats?  and How to Recognize Fluid in a Cat’s Lungs.  The most common cause of heart disease in cats is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).  Feline heartworm disease can also cause sudden death.
  • Heart Attack. It used to be believed that cats didn’t get heart attacks but they do. A “heart attack” is the term commonly applied to people who have suffered a myocardial infarction (MI), most commonly related to coronary artery disease. The myocardium is the muscular tissue of the heart that receives nutrients and oxygen from the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are small blood vessels in the heart muscle that brings blood from the aorta, the main artery of the body. When the muscle doesn’t receive normal blood supply, a heart attack incurs. Learn more about Heart Attacks in Cats.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease. Chronic renal (kidney) failure (CRF) is another very common problem in cats. When the kidneys fail, they are no longer able to remove waste products that lead to the build-up of toxins in the blood. This produces clinical signs of kidney disease that include weight loss, decreased appetite, vomiting, and lethargy as the kidney disease progresses. Some cats will also have increased thirst and increased urination.  This is most common in older cats but can occur at any age. To learn more go to Chronic Kidney Disease in Cats.
  • Feline Urinary Obstruction.  Feline urinary obstruction (UO) is an acute obstruction of the urinary tract, and although this disease can affect any cat, it is most common in males. This is commonly referred to as a “Blocked Cat”. Typical signs are straining to urinate and crying. When untreated, most cats will die within 72 hours.  To learn more, go to Urinary Obstruction in Cats.
  • Stroke in Cats. A “stroke” is a term commonly applied to people who have suffered a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) caused by cerebrovascular disease.  It was once thought to be very uncommon in cats and dogs but is now known to occur. A stroke is caused by the disruption of blood supply to the brain that results in failure of nerve impulses to be transmitted from the brain to the rest of the body. The symptoms can come on quickly and cause sudden cat death. Signs of a stroke can include difficulty walking, falling to one side and/or seizures. Click here to learn more about Strokes in Cats.
  • Infections.  Severe infections, commonly known as sepsis, can cause a progressive group of symptoms including lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, dehydration, fever, and death.
  • Shock.  Shock is defined as a profound life-threatening syndrome that results in low blood pressure and can quickly lead to death. Shock can be caused by an allergic reaction, heart damage, severe infections (sepsis), blood, trauma, blood loss, toxins, and fluid loss or from spinal cord trauma. Cats with shock can quickly die.
  • High Blood Sugar in Cats. Severe symptoms caused by uncontrolled diabetes can lead to weakness, lethargy, vomiting, lethargy, coma, and death. Learn more about Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) in Cats.

These are some reasons for sudden cat death. Loss of a cat can be devastating and hard to understand. I personally lost a beloved seemingly healthy 9-year-old cat. I spent years trying to understand how this happened, what I could have done differently, and what symptoms I might have missed …to still not have the answer. The only comfort I (and you) can take from this situation is knowing that you did the best you could and that you gave your cat a wonderful life.

Additional Articles of Interest Relating to Sudden Cat Death:

Causes of Pulmonary Edema in Dogs

Cardiogenic causes include any of the diseases of the heart that allow the accumulation of fluid in the lungs. These are typically those that affect the workings of the left side of the heart, as it’s this side’s failure that’s inextricably intertwined with the accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

Consider these, several of its more common causes of cardiogenic pulmonary edema:

  •   Chronic valve disease (especially of the left atrioventricular or mitral valve)
  •   Dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs

The following comprise the most common of pulmonary edema’s non-cardiogenic causes:

  •   Cancer of the lungs
  •   Electrocution
  •   Head trauma
  •   Seizures
  •   Acute lung injury
  •   ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome)

What to Watch For

Dogs with pulmonary edema typically present with signs consistent with lung disease, including the following:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing (increased respiratory rate or effort)
  • Blue tongue and/or mucous membranes
  • Weakness
  • Collapse

Diagnosis of Pulmonary Edema in Dogs

Physical examination, including listening to the chest with a stethoscope (auscultation), is a necessary first step. Abnormal lung sounds consistent with pulmonary edema (wet, crackly sounds) are typically observed, though these can sometimes be obscured by the loudness of a heart murmur or other abnormal cardiac sound. If a cardiogenic cause is suspected, careful attention to heart sounds is crucial, though these may not always be present.

To confirm and definitively diagnose pulmonary edema, chest x-rays are typically taken. These will elucidate any areas of fluid accumulation within the lungs.

Abnormalities in the heart that may be related to the pulmonary edema’s underlying causes may or may not be visible on chest X-rays. For this reason, an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) is strongly recommended for pets suspected of suffering from a cardiogenic cause.

Standard tests for all pulmonary edema patients also includes a CBC, blood chemistry screen and urinalysis.

Treatment of Pulmonary Edema in Dogs

Treatment of pets with pulmonary edema depends to a large extent on its cause, as treatment of any underlying disease is the primary approach in all cases. Nonetheless, there is a set approach to treatment that involves a three-pronged strategy:

  • Patient stabilization: Most pulmonary patients arrive in distress. They are typically treated with oxygen therapy and drugs to help them relax so they can properly oxygenate their tissues.
  • Resolution of the edema: Treatment with diuretics and other drugs can help remove the fluid from the lungs (temporarily, at least).
  • Treat the underlying cause: This three-pronged approach always culminates in treating the causative disease. Without this step, there can be no expectation of long-term survival.

When the cause of pulmonary edema cannot be isolated, or when it’s deemed untreatable, there are nonetheless some well-established methods to help control the accumulation of fluid in the lung tissue. Diuretics are the mainstay of treatment in these cases, as are other drugs to help control other issues associated with the underlying disease.

For example, most cardiac diseases in pets are considered manageable but not curable. These chronic illnesses may require long-term therapy with diuretic drugs along with any additional drugs to control the heart disease itself.

Veterinary Cost

The veterinary cost of pulmonary edema varies depending on the cost of the underlying disease’s treatment. In general, however, treatment of an acute event (such as trauma) is less expensive than the long-term treatment of cardiac diseases, which may cost hundreds of dollars a month in medications alone.

Prevention of Pulmonary Edema in Dogs

As many of its underlying causes are either inherited or traumatic, pulmonary edema is generally not considered a preventable condition. Nonetheless, many dogs with underlying heart diseases can be successfully managed so that their conditions never progress to pulmonary edema (except, perhaps, in their very last stages).

References for of Pulmonary Edema in Dogs

  • Goodwin JK, Strickland KN. The emergency management of dogs and cats with congestive heart failure. Vet Med 1998;93:818-822.
  • Hansen B, DeFrancesco T. Relationship between hydration estimate and body weight change after fluid therapy in critically ill dogs and cats. J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2002;12(4):235-43.
  • Muir WW, DiBartola SP. Fluid therapy. In: Kirk RW, ed. Current veterinary therapy VIII. Philadelphia, Pa.: WB Saunders Co, 1983;33.
  • Sisson D, Kittleson MD. Management of heart failure: principles of treatment, therapeutic strategies, and pharmacology. In: Fox PR, Sisson D, Moise NS, eds. Textbook of canine and feline cardiology. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Co, 1999.
  • Ware WA, Bonagura JD. Pulmonary edema. In: Fox PR, Sisson D, Moise NS, eds. Textbook of canine and feline cardiology. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Co, 1999.


What Does a Black Lump on a Dog’s Skin Mean?

Pigmented lumps or black lumps on dog skin can cause pet parents to panic.  The concern often stems from how human medicine has educated us about our dangers of skin cancer. This is correct as just as with people, dogs can also get skin cancer.

One cause, and the most dangerous cause, of a pigmented lump or bump on the skin, can be a Melanoma in Dogs. First, let’s look at all the possible causes of black lumps in dogs and then we will offer additional information about melanomas.

Causes of Pigmented or Black Lumps on Dogs

There are many possible causes for pigmented or black lumps bumps on dogs. They may include:

  • Tick – A tick can be confused by a pigmented lump or black bump. Ticks are irritating arthropods that prey on dogs and attach themselves to the skin as they take their blood meals. Veterinarians commonly remove ticks from dogs that were mistaken as small-pigmented skin lumps. Learn more about how to remove a tick in a dog.
  • Scab – A scab is a rough, dry crust that forms as a protective barrier over a healing cut, laceration, puncture or wound.  Scabs can be large or small and are often pigmented.  Clipping the hair and careful close examination can usually reveal that it pigmentation is a scab and not a tumor.
  • Foreign body – Something caught in the hair next to the skin can be mistaken for a pigmented lump.  For example, this can be dried chewing gum, food, or a plant burr.
  • Insect bite – An insect bite such as from a wasp, bee, or spider can cause local skin inflammation that appears as a pigmented bump.
  • Puncture – A puncture can appear as a black bump in dogs. Punctures can occur from trauma or from a bite wound from another animal.
  • Abscess – An abscess is a localized pocket of infection that contains pus. The skin over the abscess is generally abnormal in color that can range from red to bruised/black. Punctures or bites can turn into abscesses. Clipping and cleaning the area will often reveal if an abscess is the underlying cause of the skin pigmentation.
  • Wart – Canine viral papillomas, also known as dog warts, is one of the most common causes of small lumps in dogs.  They are generally raised and look like small pale cauliflower bumps. Most warts are pale in color although when infected or traumatized, many will appear dark from the inflammation or blood. Some dogs will also lick these lesions, which causes additional pigmentation to the wart and the hair around it. This is most noticeable in white or light haired dogs. These benign masses are generally not a concern but can break open, become nicked during grooming, or become infected. For these reasons, some dog warts are surgically removed.  Surgical removal is curative although more often form on other parts of the body.
  • Histiocytoma – A histiocytoma is a small raised lump that primarily occurs on young dogs under three years of age. They most often occur on the face and legs.  Some dogs will lick at histiocytomas which can cause a pigmented appearance. These are benign and often spontaneously resolve.
  • Blister – A blister is a small fluid-filled bubble on the skin most often caused by friction, burning, or other damage. They can appear as pink raised lesions or have pigmentation if there is blood inside the lesion.
  • Cyst – A sebaceous cyst is a small sac containing an accumulation of secretions produced by the sebaceous glands. They can appear as small bumps and are considered benign. These can become infected and open. They can be red or appear pigmented. Most sebaceous cysts do not require treatment.
  • Hematoma – A hematoma is a bruise that can be blue to black in color. Most often this is associated with some trauma such as hit by a car or other wound. Bruising can also occur from abnormal bleeding disorders. Learn more about bruising and bleeding in dogs.
  • Mast cell tumor (MCT) – Mast cell tumors account for approximately 20% of all skin tumors that occur in dogs.  They are commonly lumps in or just under the skin. Some dogs can have multiple masses that occur at the same time. MCT can occur anywhere on the body. Some MCT cause dogs to itch or lick which can cause discoloration of the mass.  Some dogs can have additional signs of illness such as weight loss, vomiting and/or diarrhea from the compounds released by the tumor. It is important to diagnose this type of tumor early and have proper treatment.
  • Malignant melanoma in dogs – This is a type of skin cancer that affects pigmented cells known as melanocytes. Because the underlying cells are generated from pigmented cells, the masses are generally brown or black in color. Tumors of melanocytes occur anywhere on the body including areas in the mouth, mucous membranes, and nail beds. Many melanomas are known to grow quickly and can spread to organs such as the lymph nodes, liver, and/or lungs.  It is important to diagnosis this type of pigmented tumor as soon as possible. There are various treatment options available including a DNA tumor vaccine.

How to Determine the Cause of a Pigmented Lump on a Dog

If your dog has a pigmented lump, the best way to help determine the underlying cause is to closely examine the lump. Your veterinarian may provide the following care during an appointment:

  • A complete examination of your dog looking at the eyes, ears, listening to the lungs and heart, feeling the lymph nodes, and feeling the abdomen to evaluate the size and shape of the kidneys, liver, spleen, bladder, and intestines.
  • Examination of the black skin lump. Your vet will evaluate the skin mass noting the size, shape, depth, texture, location, and color. Shaving hair around that area will help evaluate the pigmented lump and surrounding skin. This may be best done with the help of your veterinarian.
  • Provide recommendations. Based on the size, location of the mass, pigmentation, and suspicion that this lump could be cancerous, your vet will provide recommendations as to the best approach to determine the cause of the skin mass.  They may recommend evaluating the mass with a fine needle aspirate, biopsy, or mass removal often called “lumpectomy”.  If their level of concern about the mass is high, they will recommend sending a tissue sample to a laboratory for histopathology.

Treatment of Black Bumps on Dogs

Treatment recommendations will be determined by the underlying cause of the bump. An abscess may be draining, tick removed, and skin infection treated with antibiotics. For pigmented skin masses that are determined to be skin cancer, recommendations will depend on the type of cancer.  Possible treatments may include some combination of surgical removal of the pigmented bump, radiation therapy, and/or immunotherapy.