What is Lipomas ?

Lipomas are a common development in many animal species.  It is extremely common to find in overweight animals in areas where there are fat deposits.  A lipoma is just a collection of fatty tissue that happens to be in a lump or mass type of formation.  It will not hurt your bird unless it is in a poor location where it affects his movement or if it becomes so large that he can no longer get around.  Treatment of a lipoma consists of surgical removal if you desire, but most veterinarians do not recommend it.  You have to weigh the benefits versus risks of surgical removal.  In the majority of cases, lipomas are more of an aesthetic issue to you as the owner than it is an issue for your bird.

A lipoma is also known as a fatty tumor, or an abnormal but benign collection of fat cells in a localized area.  If you find a mass on your bird and suspect it may be a lipoma, it is best to have it evaluated by your veterinarian.

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Symptoms of Lipomas in Birds

  • Regurgitation 
  • Soft mass
  • Firm mass
  • Mass can be mobile or not
  • May be subcutaneous or within the muscle

Types

A lipoma is also known as a fatty tumor and can be found in many animal species.  A fatty tumor consists of it being a defined, firm lump that can vary in size from a pea to even a walnut size.  Upon opening the tumor, you will see a yellow, tough material enclosed in a distinct capsule.  Lipomas can appear at any area of the body, but are more common where there is extra weight being stored, such as the crop, abdomen, and thighs, and in older versus younger birds.  Masses may be mobile but are commonly embedded in the subcutaneous fat.

Causes of Lipomas in Birds

In cases of birds with lipomas, they are frequently associated with diets consisting of mainly or all seeds as well as a sedentary life style. Lipomas are typically a sign of underlying disease in your bird.  It can be a sign of liver issues, thyroid issues, possibly diabetes mellitus, or even heart disease.  As you can see, there is no exact cause of lipoma formation in your bird.

Diagnosis of Lipomas in Birds

For your veterinarian to diagnose the lipoma in your bird, she will want to start by performing a full physical exam.  This will allow her to check your bird over entirely and to see if he has any other related issues.  She will also collect a history from you to get information about how and when it formed, if is has been changing in size, and if your bird has been finding the lump irritating.  

If desired or needed, a radiographic image of the suspected lipoma can determine if it is a hernia or not.  This is important because if it is a hernia, treatment will be completely different.  Another option your veterinarian may suggest is a fine needle aspirate (FNA).  She will take a needle, stick it into the mass multiple times and then look at the collected cells under the microscope to see if the cells are fatty or possibly cancerous.  However, the down side of this diagnostic test, the sample is so small, it is not always conclusive.  This means just because there was no cancer seen in the sample, it cannot guarantee there is not cancer in it somewhere.

Treatment of Lipomas in Birds

If you choose, you can have your veterinarian surgically remove the lipoma.  It is one of the quickest and most reliable ways to have it removed.  However, since birds are so delicate and there is always risk associated with anesthesia, many veterinarians do not recommend having it removed.  As long as the lipoma does not interfere with your bird’s ability to move or interfere with his range of motion, it will not harm him.  Leaving the lipoma alone is one of the safest forms of treatment you can offer your bird.  While it may not be pretty, it will not harm him.

Weight management and dietary monitoring are also important if trying to prevent more from developing.  Since lipomas are literally just fatty growths, watching his weight should help reduce the chances of him developing more.  There are also some veterinarians treating this condition with levothyroxine, a thyroid medication that studies have shown to help.

Recovery of Lipomas in Birds

There is no need for your bird to ‘recover’ from a lipoma.  As long as it does not interfere with his mobility, it will not harm him.  Lipomas seem to bother the owners more than the bird.  If you do choose to have the lipoma surgically removed, there will be a recovery process associated with that.  Most birds live a long normal life with a lipoma present on their body and do not require any form of treatment whatsoever.