Free magazine for dog enthusiasts everywhere K9 Perspective on-line magazine. Dog information resource. Go to page one of this issue Go to page 20 of K9 Perspective issue 2 Go to page 22 of K9 Perspective issue 2 mans best friend

Hygromas - what causes them?

WHAT is a hygroma and how best to treat it at home? My dog was diagnosed as having one on his elbow as big as a table tennis ball. The vet drained it and said if it does not heal with the draining it may have to be treated with cortisone injection. What causes them? Is there any way that I can help to get rid of it and stop it returning?

A hygroma is a false bursa, or tissue-lined sac, that occurs over areas of the body that are subject to pressure - the elbows being the most common location. They are most common in large breeds of dogs. Repeated pressure or trauma on an elbow irritates the elbow's bursa, causing it to become inflamed and thickening its pouch-like walls. The enlarged sac is called a hygroma and is usually painless. However, it can fill with serum-like fluid and eventually ulcerate, or begin to fester and become abscessed.

When they are diagnosed while still small, and before they have had time to develop complications, hygromas can often be managed medically by providing the dog with ample padding over the pressure points and soft bedding to lie on.

They should not be allowed to lie on concrete or other similar hard surfaces. Getting up and lying down on such materials can worsen the situation. Elbow pads of some type can help, but keeping these pads on with an animal as active as a dog would be almost an impossibility.

A T-shirt, padded at the elbows, can be made so your dog can wear that when it is playing outside or likely to sit or sleep on hard surfaces. When they become advanced, hygromas often have to be surgically opened, flushed and drained. After surgery padded bandages with drains in place may help the skin adhere to the tissue underneath and seal the hygroma pocket. Sometimes the hygroma sac has to be cut out, but this is not usually necessary.

Recurrence of the problem can occur if damage to the pressure point continues. Corticosteroids are not routinely used in hygromas, but some vets claim they help to keep away the inflammation, as long as there is no infection present. Make sure the dog doesn't rest on hard areas, even when the hygroma appears to be healed. - Dr Jim

Lumps on the mature female

A MATURE female dog (about 12 years usually) can develop soft lumps in various places on her body. Are these dangerous, or just fat?

The dog may have benign tumours called lipomas - fatty lumps that are commonly found on the trunk and legs in older, overweight females. They should not be ignored, as they do get larger over time. They are usually surgically removed and a biopsy of the tissue should later be done to rule out the possibility of the lump being cancerous.

(Lipomas are sometimes confused with liposarcomas or infiltrative lipomas, but both these alternatives are rare in dogs.)

However, normal fat storage may sometimes be mistaken for "fatty lumps" in some breeds. As dogs get older, eat too much and exercise too little, they increase their fat stores in various body areas. Just as men tend to get a "pot belly" and women tend to get larger in the buttocks and thighs, dogs tend to get fatty lumps over the kidney area. From 12 years of age, your dog needs regular health check-ups at least twice a year. Ask your veterinarian to check any lumps that appear on your dog.

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