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  • Molly Weinfurter

Bumpy Dog Skin: Why Do Senior Dogs Get Lumps and Pimples?

Updated: Jun 9

Bumpy dog skin can be uncomfortable for dog parents to deal with, but unfortunately, lumps and bumps are common in senior dogs. In many cases, senior dog lumps are harmless, but in other scenarios, they could be because of a serious health concern.


So, take note of the bump’s appearance, how it feels, and how long it has been there. You may be able to get some idea of the bump’s cause on your own, but showing it to your vet is the best way to ensure your furry friend is safe.


Now that my dog is a senior, I've been finding more bumps on her body than usual. I keep a close eye on them and always talk to my vet about them. Luckily, none of them have been dangerous yet, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.


Please Note: This article describes various types of bumps your dog could experience, but it doesn't include any unsightly photos of dog bumps.


Senior dog with vision problems

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Why is My Dog’s Skin Bumpy?

There are lots of reasons for bumps on dog skin. Some are dangerous while others are benign. Talk to your vet to find out which category your dog’s bumps fall into.


PetMD lists many types of lumps and bumps dogs can get, such as the following.


Benign Bumps

Benign tumors refer to any lumps and bumps that aren’t harmful to dogs. Luckily, many bumps are benign, but it’s still a good idea to have them checked out just in case. I'm grateful that all my dog's bumps have been benign, and I always have a vet test them just to make sure.


Skin Tag

Skin tags are tiny bumps of skin that stick out from the rest of your dog’s flesh. They’re typically the same color as your dog’s skin and may or may not have hair. They’re common in older dogs and there’s no need to remove them unless they bother your dog.


Pimple

Dogs can get pimples just like humans. Whenever they get a clogged pore, it may result in a pimple or blackhead. These bumps are just a cosmetic issue and will usually go away on their own.


Wart and Papilloma

These unsightly bumps usually have a cauliflower-like texture. They may occur in puppies whose immune systems aren’t fully developed yet or they can appear around the face of senior dogs. The viruses associated with these bumps can be transmitted to other dogs but not to humans. They look uncomfortable, but they will usually dry up and fall off after a few months.


In severe cases, these bumps could cause unusual symptoms in dogs. If that happens, a vet may suggest surgically removing the warts.


Lipoma

Lipomas are fatty cells under your dog’s skin that could appear anywhere on the body. They’re the most common in senior dogs and overweight dogs. While they’re typically harmless, they may appear like other types of tumors, so a vet can take some of the cells and test them.


Sometimes, lipomas continue to grow with time. If they get big enough to bother your dog, that’s when you should consider surgically removing them.


Sebaceous Cyst

Sebaceous cysts or tumors are typically smaller than a pea, making them look and feel similar to pimples. They’re typically harmless and may disappear on their own. In some cases, they could bleed or become crusty. While removal isn’t necessary, it’s recommended if the bump becomes infected or bothers your dog.


Follicular Cyst

These bumps are larger than sebaceous cysts. They grow from the hair follicle, and they could secrete a thick white, yellow, or brown substance if pressure is applied. Sometimes these bumps go away, but other times they keep growing. They should be removed if they become infected or painful.


Button Tumor/Histiocytoma

These benign dog tumors are most common in young dogs (between eight weeks and two years old). They’re caused by an overproduction of immune cells, resulting in a pink, fleshy bump. Normally, they disappear on their own. They usually form near the dog’s head or legs. While they’re associated with puppies, senior dogs can get them in rare cases.


Senior Chihuahua curled up

Meibomian Gland Tumor

As the name implies, this tumor forms in the meibomian gland, which is at the edge of your dog’s eyelid. They can disappear without treatment, but if they get too large, they could irritate your dog’s eye or become inflamed. If removed, they rarely grow back.


Epulis

These fleshy, pink bumps form inside a dog’s mouth. They typically form when the dog’s teeth rub against the gums. They're most common in brachycephalic breeds (dogs with flat faces). While they’re benign, removable is often recommended so they don’t negatively impact your dog’s teeth.


Perianal Adenoma

These growths are most common near the butt of unneutered male dogs. They may also appear near the tail, abdomen, or back. While these bumps can be harmless, if they get too big, they could become uncomfortable or make it harder for your dog to poop. Getting your dog neutered should stop these from appearing. 


Hemangioma

These are growths made of extra blood vessels on the skin. They will appear as reddish-black circular bumps. While they don’t look appealing, they rarely cause any harm. Your vet will usually only recommend surgical removal if the bump gets bigger or seems to bother your dog.


Nevus

A nevus looks like a mole because it’s a dark spot or bump on your dog’s skin. This skin condition is common around the head, neck, or legs, but it rarely requires treatment.


Trichoepithelioma

These cyst-like bumps pop out of hair follicles anywhere on your dog’s body. They’re filled with a yellow material that’s unappealing but harmless. Even if these lumps are removed, they may grow back.


Cornifying Epitheliomas

These peculiar bumps are horn-shaped, rising from hair follicles. They may pop up anywhere on your dog’s body, but they’re most common on the back, legs, and tail. Surgical removal isn’t recommended unless they bother your dog.


Basal Cell Tumor

Basal cell tumors are common in senior dogs. They appear on the ears, head, neck, and front legs. They’re small, dome-shaped, and may be hairless. They’re usually dark in color and could break open to release a fluid, but they’re typically only removed if your dog is uncomfortable.


Allergic Reactions

Some dogs may experience lumps and bumps as an allergic reaction. They often appear as red bumps on a dog’s belly. Allergens could include pollen, dust, medications, or certain foods. If you suspect your dog has an allergy, talk to your vet to find the cause. They may also prescribe an allergy medication to help your dog feel more comfortable.


Certain supplements, such as Zesty Paws Allergy & Immune Bites, Natural Dog Company Aller-Immune Chews, and Solid Gold Dog Allergy Chews, could also help remove benign bumps related to allergies. However, it's always a good idea to consult your vet first before giving your dog a new supplement.


Bumpy senior dog

Malignant Tumors

Even though many bumps on senior dogs are harmless, there are plenty that can cause severe pain and illness. If your dog has one of the following lumps, move forward with treatment as soon as you can.


Abscess

An abscess is usually caused by bug bites, animal bites, sores, and infected glands. They appear as swollen, infected tissue that’s usually uncomfortable and painful for the dogs. One of these bumps should be treated with antibiotics early on or it could burst, which could put your dog in a lot of pain.


Mast Cell Tumor

Mast cell tumors are cancerous cells that occur as solitary bumps either on or under the skin. Their shape and appearance can vary greatly, and large tumors can quickly spread to other areas of the body. Your vet will need to use sample cells to confirm that it’s a mast cell tumor, and if it is, you should seek treatment right away. These tumors are most common in senior dogs but can affect dogs of all ages.


Malignant Melanoma

This is another dangerous skin tumor common in older dogs. They appear near the dog’s mouth or nail beds. This skin cancer can grow quickly and spread, so early detection is crucial. Removal is the best treatment method and most effective if it’s done early on.


Lymphosarcoma

This cancerous bump develops on your dog’s skin and is often associated with flaky skin and red patches. It can be treated with removal, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the three. Unfortunately, treatment likely won’t lengthen your dog’s life expectancy, but it can make the condition more comfortable.


Fibrosarcoma

These malignant, cancerous tumors are usually found on the dog’s legs and can vary in size. Some are deep under the skin while others are closer to the surface. They don’t typically spread far into the body except to some of the muscles. Surgical removal is possible, but complete removal isn’t always an option and there’s a risk the tumor could return.


Angiosarcoma

This rare type of cancer forms in your dog’s blood vessel lining. The tumors appear as red lumps under the skin, but in some cases, they may appear more like a bruise. They can spread rapidly throughout the body, so early treatment, including surgery and chemotherapy, is recommended. It’s most common in dogs with short, white coats because their skin gets the most sun exposure.


Liposarcoma

These rare lumps only develop in senior male dogs. They’re soft or firm bumps that appear around the chest or legs. They can be surgically removed, but sadly, they may reappear after treatment.


Squamous Cell Carcinoma

These bumps are usually found on the surface of the skin or under the dog’s nails. They feel firm and are often irregular shapes. If not treated early, they can quickly spread to nearby tissue. Treatment includes removing the tumor along with some of the nearby tissue.


Basal Cell Carcinoma

These raised bumps can appear almost anywhere on the body of an older dog. They could spread to nearby skin, but they rarely spread to organs. When removing the tumor, the skin around the tumor must be removed too.


Senior dog tired

Why Do Senior Dogs Get More Bumps Than Younger Dogs?

Bumps appearing is a normal part of aging for dogs. There are many reasons why senior dogs may be bumpier than young dogs, such as:

  • Skin becoming thinner and less elastic with age

  • Weakened immune systems

  • Long-term exposure to environmental factors

  • Grooming themselves less often

  • Underlying health conditions


Dogs of all ages can get covered in lumps and bumps, but senior dogs are more prone to bumpy skin just like they’re more prone to many common health concerns. However, even though bumps are common in older dogs, you should still monitor your dog’s bumps closely and alert your vet whenever new lumps appear.


When to Worry About Lumps on Dogs

If you see a bump on your dog, it’s not an immediate cause for concern. However, you should never just ignore it. Whenever you see a new bump, mention it to your vet. If they suspect it could be malignant, they can test it to confirm.


Check your dog regularly for bumps, especially if they’re a senior. You’re probably petting them all over anyway, but take some time once in a while to feel all over their body for new growths. If you find one, keep a close eye on it. If the growth keeps getting bigger or seems to cause your dog pain, that’s when you should worry.


When in doubt, it’s always best to talk to your vet about your dog’s lumps and bumps. Luckily, many bumps are benign but it’s always better to be safe than sorry because harmful lumps can spread quickly.


Senior German Shepherd outside

Frequently Asked Questions


Can Dogs Get Bumps from Allergies?

Sometimes dogs with allergies will form bumps as an allergic reaction. Those bumps are usually red and itchy. Allergens could include pollen, dust, certain foods, or medication.


How Do Vets Test Bumps on Dogs?

Vets usually use a fine needle to collect cells from the bump and examine them under a microscope. Even if the vet doesn’t find anything concerning, you should still keep an eye on the bump to make sure it doesn’t grow or bother your dog.


Can Lumps on Senior Dogs Be Prevented?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your dog may reduce the risk of bumps forming. This includes making sure your dog gets a healthy diet, proper exercise, and regular vet checkups.


Do I Have to See a Vet for Bumps on My Dog?

Yes, you should talk to your vet if you see new bumps on your dog. Even if they don’t seem like a big deal, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Will Bumps on Dogs Go Away on Their Own?

Benign bumps will often go away on their own, but malignant ones won’t. If a bump on your dog’s body is getting bigger and isn’t going away, visit a vet immediately.


Keep an Eye on Bumpy Dog Skin

Senior dogs are typically bumpier than younger dogs. However, don’t let that stop you from checking for new lumps and bumps on dogs of all ages. Whenever you see a concerning bump on your dog, mention it to your vet, especially if it’s painful or getting bigger. Dogs are part of the family, so we need to take their health seriously. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


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