When Fido Has Mystery Lumps : Dermal Masses of Various Types Common on Older Dogs

Q Several months ago we noticed that our 13-year-old terri-poo had developed a large, rather sharp bump on the top of her head. At one point the growth appeared to be receding, only to suddenly pop up again. Not only does she still have this bump, but she seems to have grown several smaller ones next to it. To look at her you wouldn't think anything was wrong--the bumps aren't readily apparent (unless you pat her head), and they don't appear to be causing her pain or discomfort. What could it be? Are they potentially serious? Should we get her to our vet?

G. Maltesta,

Laguna Beach

A "Bumps" or dermal masses of various types are common on older dogs. Most are papillomas or "warts," which are benign and generally cause no problem unless they are scratched and become infected. They are often very unsightly and can be removed surgically with minimal after-care. The next most common skin masses are sebaceous adenomas. These are benign swellings or growths of the sebaceous glands of the skin or hair follicles and tend to occur most commonly in older dogs, such as cocker spaniels or short-coated breeds. These adenomas are commonly found on the head and neck and are generally removed by surgery. They can become infected and need medication. Your dog should be seen by your veterinarian to get a better diagnosis of the skin masses. If the bumps are solid and appear ulcerated or easily inflamed, your vet will want to remove them and have a biopsy done to rule out the possibility of malignant skin masses.

Q Recently I bought a 2-year-old cockatiel named Wolfgang. The woman I bought the bird from said he had just finished moulting. He picks and scratches at himself continuously and then shakes his feathers, and a big cloud of dust flies through the air. I would like to find some relief for the poor boy. Do you think that he may have a different problem, such as dry skin, and, if so, what should I do for him?

C. Fabu,


A Often birds will leave a "cloud of dust" after preening their feathers. This is normal and comes from the removal of the shell that surrounds new feathers and the breakage of individual feather fibers. Bathing in water tends to keep this "dust" less noticeable. If your bird has a lot of broken or missing feathers or his skin seems to be irritated, your vet should examine the bird. Nutritional disorders can lead to skin and feather problems. Dietary supplementation may be necessary. Mite infestation should also be ruled out by checking the loose feathers under a microscope. Dust or dirt from the cage may also be collecting on your bird, so frequent cleaning of the cage may be necessary.


Sadie is a 1 1/2-year-old female Australian shepherd. The tri-colored pooch is very obedient and playful. Sadie is good-tempered, gentle and would make a great family pet. She has not been spayed and is available for adoption at the Newport Beach Animal Shelter, 125 Mesa Drive, (714) 644-3656.

Also waiting to be adopted at the Newport Beach Animal Shelter:

Doberman: Major, a gentle and loving male, is black and rust-colored, and is about 3 1/2 years old.

Mixed Labrador: Goldie, a 5-year-old spayed female, has a beautiful yellow coat, is extremely sweet, and would make a good addition to any family.

Poodle: Abby, an 8-year-old spayed female, has a black coat, and would make a great pet for an older couple with lots of love and attention to give.

The Newport Beach Animal Shelter is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Fee: $21 plus $20 neutering deposit refundable by the city. Adoption agreement allows owners to return pets having adjustment problems within 30 days.

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