What is Fatty Tissue Inflammation?
Fatty tissue inflammation is the swelling of the fat cells just underneath of the skin, which can cause bumps that may be painful for your dog. This disorder is most common in dogs with other disorders, such as cancer. These bumps can be found in any area of skin on your dog, but is most often found in the neck, back, legs, and abdomen. This disease can be caused by infection (infectious), too much fat in the diet (nutritional), lupus (autoimmune), injury (traumatic), pancreatitis (neoplastic), vaccinations (post-injection), or unknown (idiopathic).
Fatty tissue inflammation can be one of two disorders, which are panniculitis and steatitis. The only difference being that panniculitis can happen at any age, but steatitis only affects older dogs. Inflammation in the fat tissue usually presents as painful nodules in the skin that may be large or small, movable or fixed, hard or soft.
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Symptoms of Fatty Tissue Inflammation in Dogs
- Lumps or nodules in the fat containing tissue right under the skin
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme tiredness
- Tenderness in areas with lumps
- Higher than normal body temperature
- Abscessed sores or ulcerations
- Change of color in areas of skin affected
- Infectious panniculitis/steatitis can be caused from a bacteria, fungus, virus, or microbacteria
- Nutritional panniculitis/steatitis is caused by too much fat in the diet
- Autoimmune panniculitis/steatitis is from lupus, erythema nodosum, vasculitis, or a reaction to a drug
- Traumatic panniculitis/steatitis may be from an injury, frostbite, or sunburn
- Neoplastic panniculitis/steatitis is caused by mast cell tumors, lymphoma, or pancreatic cancer
- Post-injection panniculitis/steatitis can be the result of immunizations, subcutaneous injection, or steroids
- Idiopathic panniculitis/steatitis (non-conclusive) can be anything not on this list, but it means that they cannot find a cause of the condition
Causes of Fatty Tissue Inflammation in Dogs
- Bacterial infection
- Fungal infection
- Viral infection
- Microbacterial infection
- Too much fat in your dog’s diet (i.e. feeding your dog human foods)
- Erythema nodosum
- Reaction to medication
- Pancreatic cancer
- Injections (i.e. corticosteroids, immunizations)
- Vitamin E deficiency
- Radiation therapy
- Unknown cause
Diagnosis of Fatty Tissue Inflammation in Dogs
Be prepared to let the veterinarian know a thorough medical history including any recent illnesses or injuries, changes in diet, what the symptoms are and when they started, changes in behavior. Let the veterinarian know if you have been feeding your dog any kind of people food or scraps or if he has been on a high fat diet because that may indicate nutritional panniculitis/steatitis, which is easy to treat just by changing his diet.
Your veterinarian will also need to do a complete physical examination, which usually includes body temperature, weight, heart rate, and blood pressure. He will also check your dog’s eyes, teeth, and skin for any clues that may help the diagnosis. A complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry, needle biopsy of one of the lesions for microscopic evaluation, urinalysis, and possibly digital radiographs (x-rays) of the affected areas. The veterinarian may also run fungal, viral, and bacterial swab cultures to rule out these as causes for your dog’s condition. In some cases, if the veterinarian suspects cancer, he will remove the lumps and perform a microscopic biopsy to get an accurate diagnosis to rule out a cancerous tumor.
Treatment of Fatty Tissue Inflammation in Dogs
Your dog’s treatment is dependent on the cause of the panniculitis/steatitis. The veterinarian will probably remove the lumps that can be removed and any necrotized (dead) tissue that was damaged. For infectious, traumatic, and idiopathic panniculitis/steatitis, the veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics (i.e. amoxicillin), immunosuppressant (i.e. cyclosporine), antifungals (i.e. ketoconazole) antimicrobials (i.e. cephalexin) and steroids (i.e. prednisone) to relieve the inflammation and pain. If your dog has nutritional panniculitis/steatitis, the veterinarian will prescribe vitamin E and a special diet. It is very important that you stick to this diet.
Autoimmune and neoplastic panniculitis/steatitis is treated with a variety of medications depending on the actual cause, but it will usually include antibiotics and steroids as well. Sometimes surgery is needed to remove excessive or cancerous tumors, but with early treatment, your dog has a great chance of a full recovery. Traumatic panniculitis/steatitis is treated with the removal of the lump and supportive care. Post-injection panniculitis/steatitis is treated by discontinuing the steroid shots.
Recovery of Fatty Tissue Inflammation in Dogs
This condition may take a long time (3-6 months) to clear up depending on the cause of the panniculitis/steatitis. Because it is usually such a painful disorder, it is important that you provide your dog with whatever medication your veterinarian prescribed or recommended. You should also be sure to stick to whatever diet regimen your veterinarian prescribed along with any other medications. You will have to take your dog back for a follow-up to be sure the condition is being treated correctly. Since panniculitis/steatitis sometimes recurs, you have to be vigilant about watching for signs of it returning.
Fatty Tissue Inflammation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have a 6 year old Golden who has several fatty lumps under his skin that have been diagnosed as Panniculitis. The lumps don't seem to bother him but he has swelling on his nose with a few small bumps that don't look very similar to the ones on his back. Have you ever seen the nose affected in a dog with Panniculitis?
Thanks in advance.
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Hi. My Husky has a huge lump/swelling on the side of his hip above the hind leg. This lump appeared after his last visit to the groomer, and he got a hot spot. The vet shaved the area and treated the hot spot. The hair took exceptionally long to grow back, and as the hair started growing again, the area also increased in size. It's the size of a football now. I haven't taken him back to the vet as I have been told that this could be a fatty deposit under the skin brought on by the trauma of the hot spot. He is healthy, still runs, eats and plays. He has seemed to have lost weight though. He is 12 yrs old, so I don't want to put him through any further stress if this is something serious.
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I have a 14 y.o. male lab mix dog 80 lbs who developed a tennis ball sized lump of his right rear back/rump area (Gluteal muscles) over the last year. It is firm and appears to be under the right gluteal muscles. Over the last couple of months, he has been favoring that leg. He still squats normally to move his bowels and lifts that leg to pee without apparent pain. Recently he has become restless throughout the night, turning and changing locations.
Previously healthy dog; arthritis to hips have caused some stiffness in the morning but has not prevented him from walking and trotting during the day. He originally weighed 95 lbs and was advised to lose 10 - 15 lbs to take pressure off hips. He takes Rimadyl 150 each day. I am uncertain how much the lump was there when he was overweight and more hidden vs actual growth over the year.
X-rays showed extensive hip and pelvis arthritis but no signs of bone cancer. A needle aspiration of the lump sent to pathology showed lipoma fat cells, steatitis, and some mesenchymal cells. It is unknown if the lipoma is encapsulated under the muscle or infiltrative into the muscle which would make it much more difficult to manage. The growth appears to be putting pressure on his arthritic rear end causing discomfort.
My questions are about treatment options: Surgery? Liposuction? Steroid Injections? Pain management only?
Would an ultrasound give more information on its location, steatitis etc.?
Removal of part of the lipoma may be beneficial to help with movement and reduction of pressure on Bear’s hips. Ultrasound as a diagnostic tool to look at the level of infiltration isn’t very specific and has poor detail. Other factors such as Bear’s liver and kidney function may make surgery too risky given his age. There are reports and some scientific articles about the use of some synthetic corticosteroids administered into the lipoma and the reduction is size. Speak with your Veterinarian about different options available for treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
I have an 11year old Weimeriner that has a softball size tumor on the upper front leg and the bottom part is swollen I'm not sure it can be removed and he doesn't walk on that leg anymore what do you think it is and is it worth it to just remove it
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Hi , we have a Maltese at home and she about 7 years old now. She been fed the Cesar wet dog food since she a years old till now plus all the human food my mother in law fed her. And she start to have lump on her back early this year and she chew her paw till her hair is all gone all 4 paws. And the lump on her back is pus with yellow discharge. We took her to vet and we change her dog food to limited ingredient dry dog food. And the vet prescribe her actopica. She been on th medication for. Few months now. The dog start to grow back hair on her 4 paws plus the back the lump is reducing, still have lump but without pus or discharge. But problem is my mother in law refuse to follow up the dry dog food but change it back to cesar can dog food plus all the human food again. She still think the dogs is allergy of dry dog food. My questiin is how long a dog can allergy to certain dog food, I read some article it said it can take years to it to happen. So what should I do now. Does the dog need to avoid certain food for it to heal? Thanks
Dogs like humans can develop allergies and other problems at any stage of their life, even to things they were exposed to without incident in the past. Your Mother-in-Law shouldn’t feed human food to Jessie as human food is seasoned with salt and other seasonings which can be dangerous if not deadly to dogs. Also, if your Veterinarian has prescribed a dry food and you are seeing progress with it along with the Atopica, your Mother-in-Law should see the treatment plan through to resolution. It is possible that Jessie may require a special diet which cuts out any allergen she may have for the rest of her life to reduce the risk of recurrence. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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