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"Jake" - German Shepherd with Haemangiopericytoma

Ben and Jake


“….oh, and he’s just got a little lump I wanted you to check”.

A frequent request at the end of a consultation. “I don’t think it’s anything much, he’s not ill and it doesn’t seem to bother him”.

When we are asked what to do about lumps and bumps on our pets, we usually advise that a fine needle biopsy is taken. This is a simple, relatively painless procedure where a needle is inserted into the lump, some cells are drawn out and sent off to the laboratory for specialist microscopic examination. Sedation is rarely required.

Many people do not believe that lumps are a problem, and want to “wait and see” what happens. Unfortunately, we cannot give a 100% guarantee that a lump is harmless by feel and appearance alone. Harmful cancers can look the same as benign lumps, so we always suggest a biopsy to get a definitive answer.

If a growth is malignant, the sooner it is dealt with the better - and if the biopsy shows a growth is harmless we can leave it alone with peace of mind.

Even if an owner wants a lump to be removed, it is advisable to biopsy it first, as different types of cancer require different approaches.

If a tumour is particularly aggressive, it may require much wider margins to be removed from around it at the time of surgery, to ensure full removal. A prior biopsy allows for good planning. In dogs, two thirds of tumours are benign, and only one third are cancerous. These figures are the opposite for cats.

“Jake”, a 9 year old German Shepherd belonging to my son’s best friend and his family, recently developed a rather large lump on his side. A biopsy showed that it was a haemangiopericytoma – a type of tumour that rarely spreads around the body, but is notorious for spreading out and invading into the tissues surrounding it. Thus, if not widely excised to begin with, it is easy to leave tumour cells behind and get re-growth.

Jake had aggressive surgery to fully remove his lump. He and his young owner Ben are hoping that’s the last he’ll see of it!


Geraldine Young BVSc CertSAM MRCVS.

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