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Lump on German Shepherd.

Species: Dog
Breed: German Shepherd Dog
Age: 8-11 years
This morning while brushing Sako, a 9-year-old GSD, I noted an area where hair is being sloughed. There is a raised area that you can see in photos that I took. It is back about mid-line between his undercarriage and the top of his back several inches in front of his hip bone. It is quite pinkish-red around a center that is bluish-black. The area itself is perhaps 2 inches in circumference. No discharge, lump is almost subcutaneous although it is raised slightly. Movable side to side yet appears almost to be attached underneath. I cannot get my fingers around it, in other words. The hair sloughing was not wet and it does not seem to be an irritant - Sako is not messing with the area. I thought at first an abscess but I have seen numerous abscesses on a variety of species and it does not resemble any I have seen thus I opted not to squeeze it. Called my vet and got an appointment for Monday afternoon. Then I went online to search for images that resembled Sako's and in so doing found you. Naturally I am scared spitless that it is cancerous but I thought its appearance might clue you into possibilities. Sako is a companion dog - lives inside, sleeps by the bed, goes with wherever I go. We were up at my parents' ranch a number of days ago and we did walk through quite a bit of underbrush. Sako is a bilateral cryptorchid and there was evidence of cancer cells when the vet dug out his testicles. That was around 8 years ago. He has been on metronidazole longterm to suppress the normal intestinal bugs that in him get too concentrated (sorry, I cannot at the moment remember the name for this). He has had intermittent flare-ups of an itchy skin rash that clears with miconazole. I suspect that the retained testicles are/were an indication of these other things that aren't quite right in him but I declined to get a replacement because we were already in love with him when we got him at a little over six weeks. Also, his tail is a couple inches too long for a Shepherd - the end hairs on his tail touch the ground. Hope this is enough info concerning Sako and that perhaps you could look at two photos to see location of the lesion and a close-up of the lesion itself. I don't see a place to upload the photos at this time. Thank you.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi there. I'd love to see a picture. You can email one (or more) to I'll have a look and then type out a more complete response once I've seen them.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for the photos. This is going to be a tough question to answer as I really can't say for certain what is causing this. Here are your photos:

lump on shepherd

purple skin lump on dog

This definitely looks like an angry area and my first thought is that it is indeed some type of infection or small abscess. If this is what it is, then Sako will need to get antibiotics prescribed by the vet.

I have seen some cysts that look like this, but from the picture this looks a little more angry than most cysts.

If it starts to open up at all I would almost wonder about whether this could be something called a cuterebra. A cuterebra is a parasite that Sako could have picked up if he was near rabbit burrows. If it is a cuterebra, the middle of that area will open up and become a hole and eventually a grub will come out. If it does open up, then your vet can get the grub out safely so that you don't need to wait for it to come out on its own.

It is unlikely that this is a cancerous lesion, but it is possible. I have seen something called a hemangioma that looks something like this. I would be surprised if this is what it was though.

At this point it's probably ok to watch it for a day or two to see what it does. If it's not clearing up though I'd definitely have your vet take a look.

Sorry that I can't give you a definitive answer!

Dr. Marie.

Customer reply:

You've given me hope that it is not cancerous. Regardless of what the vet determines on Monday afternoon, thank you for that. I will go look for some hemangioma photos. I have domestic rabbits and because there are cottontails and jackrabbits around here, I have had a cuterebra problem, although not this year probably due to it being so dry. I have dug countless maggots/larvae and even quite a number of what must be 5th instars out of rabbit backs once I figured out what was going on. Having seen warbles on cattle it wasn't much of a jump to getting online and finding out what rabbits could get. I probably lost six to eight rabbits before getting a handle on it. After removing the larvae, I filled the holes with penicillin and sprayed the area with antiseptic and never have lost another, even when I have had to lance the hole to enlarge it enough to get the 5th instar out. I think on some of the rabbits that the route the larvae took also impacted some nerves in the rear end because a few exhibited lameness that gradually disappeared after the larvae had been removed. As an aside, I actually think that a small lump that Sako has had right at his hip bone for over three years is a cuterebra that didn't make it out and died and it walled off. Some of the rabbits that I have are in a rabbit house with a yard. I have prevented any of them getting cuterebra by forcing them to walk through a tray full of 10% bleach water every morning when they go in and out. I believe they pick up the larvae mostly from cleaning themselves, feet in particular, and even when I was having to treat the outdoor population of rabbits I never had an instance in the rabbit house rabbits or the one rabbit I have here in my office.

Sorry, did not mean to get off track. I suspect that you are thinking that the larvae has not reached the surface and that's why there is as yet no breathing hole. I never saw skin discoloration on the rabbits other than immediately around the larvae. Monday afternoon should provide a definitive diagnosis.

Thank you so very much for your reply. This is a wonderful resource. I don't see how $8 can reimburse you for your time and experience but I will certainly recommend you.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.