Diagnosing Canine Skin Lumps on Older Dog

by Nicole Alexander
(East Syracuse NY)

My lab is a 13 year old bench black labrador retriever. He has large lumps all over him. One is larger then a softball. I noticed his vocal is not so well any more and he is always gagging. He is also going blind and deaf.

In the past couple weeks his back legs have gotten very bad and give out on him. Sometimes he falls and sometimes I am lucky enough to catch him. He also pants non stop all day no matter the temperature. Are these things normal or should I start to prepare my kid ? (we have had him since he was 6 weeks old and i cant imagine my family without him but i dont want him to suffer either)

Vet Suggestions for Diagnosing and Treating Dog Skin Lumps

Hello Nicole,

Some loss of vision and/or hearing is typically seen in older dogs, and most individuals adapt well, but the other symptoms you describe are not normal in animals of any age. The change in your dog’s voice, gagging, and panting could be the result of a condition called laryngeal paralysis, which is common in older Laborador Retrievers, but a veterinarian would need to examine him to give you a definitive diagnosis.

Masses in or under the skin in older dogs can be either benign (e.g., fatty tumors called lipomas) or cancerous. Again, a veterinary exam is necessary to determine the difference. Hind end weakness is another common problem in older large breed dogs and can have causes ranging from neurologic dysfunction to arthritis.

Your veterinarian can examine your dog and give you an idea about what is going on and the pros and cons of moving forward with diagnostic procedures and/or treatment. If the doctor feels that your dog is suffering and little can be done to improve his condition, he or she can talk to you about euthanasia and proceed with the procedure at that point.

It is best if you prepare your family for this possibility before the appointment so it doesn't come as a surprise.

Best of luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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