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Surgery-free options for dogs with lipomas

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surgery-free options for dogs with lipomas

Holistic vet Rohini Sathish has a host of surgery-free options for dogs with lipomas


Our 10-year-old female spaniel, Magi, has a couple of fatty tumors on her body just under the skin. Our vet called them lipomas. We are not keen on surgery, but one of them is quite large. Can you suggest any holistic alternatives?

J.H., via email


 Lipomas, benign tumors of mature fat cells or adipocytes, are extremely common in older dogs. Most fatty tumors are subcutaneous—just under the skin—but there are some that can grow in between muscle layers or in the chest or abdominal cavities. 

Some lipomas are called infiltrative as they keep invading into surrounding tissue. Very rarely do vets come across cancerous fatty tumors known as liposarcomas. 

What causes lipomas?

Older obese female dogs are more likely to develop lipomas, especially on their trunk and legs, which suggests that diet has a role to play. However, obesity does not seem to be a factor in lipoma development in cats. 

Mainstream veterinary medicine seems to underestimate the consequences of toxic overload or toxin buildup over time. Holistic vets, however, believe that fat and toxins may become encapsulated or trapped by the body’s immune system as it attempts to eliminate contaminants from inside the body to the surface. This is the body’s protective mechanisms coming into play to preserve organ function. 

Another theory is that the lymphatic system, which plays a key role in waste elimination, can get blocked or slow down due to toxic waste buildup, which in turn leads to stagnation and lipoma formation. 

Some examples of toxic chemicals that can build up in the system include pesticides, herbicides, medications, heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride and chemicals from vaccines. 

Diagnosis and treatment

In most cases your vet can diagnose a lipoma just by palpating (examining by touch) a soft subcutaneous mass that is mobile and unattached. However, mast cells can have a similar feel and appearance, which is why I strongly recommend fine needle aspiration to rule out mast cell tumors, which can be cancerous. A CT scan may be necessary to diagnose other types of lipomas.

The conventional treatment for lipomas is surgery to cut them out. But this is only necessary if these fatty lumps are affecting your dog’s range of movement or are located in awkward places like the armpit or groin. Very large lipomas need to be debulked as they can be heavy and compromise your pet’s quality of life. 

Fortunately, there are many things you can do at home to help prevent lipomas and stop them getting larger.

Holistic options


Overconsumption of starch and fat and feeding processed diets can play a role in lipoma formation. So try switching Magi to an unprocessed, grain-free home-cooked or raw diet. The type of fat in your dog’s diet is more important than the amount of fat. Avoid foods that contain rancid oils commonly found in kibble made with rendered animal fat and GMO soy, vegetable and canola oils. See my book You Can Heal Your Pet for more information on the best diet for your dog.


Liver detoxification and cleansing the lymphatic system are important both to prevent and treat lipomas. Try the following to aid detox:

Apple cider vinegar can be added daily to your dog’s food to help detox. 

Suggested dosage: give 1 tsp daily to small dogs, 2 tsp to medium dogs and 1–2 Tbsp to large and giant-breed dogs. 

Super Cleanse and Daily Defense by Glacier Peak Holistics are two great herbal detox products. It’s a US company but offers international shipping.

Suggested dosage: follow the label instructions

Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM)

After carrying out a full diagnosis, a vet trained in TCVM will be able to choose an appropriate formula for your dog to help prevent more lipomas and also reduce the size of existing lipomas. Four Marvels (Kan Herbs) is a very popular formula used to resolve lipomas. 

Western herbs

The following herbs are all good options:

Chickweed (Stellaria media) has anti-inflammatory properties, helps fluid circulation and also removes tissue toxins. It is packed full of vitamins A and C as well as minerals including magnesium, copper, silicon, zinc and iron. It is a gentle restorative that helps animals with a variety of health problems.

Suggested dosage: give as a tincture at a dose of 3 drops per 10 kg (22 lb) body weight twice daily 

Violet (Viola odorata) is considered the best lipoma herb by many herbalists as it has the ability to shrink lipomas via the lymphatic system. 

Suggested dosage: feed 1 drop/10 kg (22 lb) body weight of violet tincture to your dog twice daily. Feed for six days and then take a one-day break. Repeat for two months to observe any benefit. Violet leaves can also be applied as poultices directly onto lipomas

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is a safe and gentle herb that can be used internally and topically. It’s a bitter herb that can help increase fat metabolism. 

Suggested dosage: make a tea by steeping dried chamomile in hot water for 30 minutes, then give 1 Tbsp per 20 kg (44 lb) body weight. You can also apply the tea topically to the lipomas using a cotton swab 

Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) is an herb that stimulates circulation and enhances fat metabolism. It works on the liver to relieve stagnation. 

Suggested dosage: add 5 drops of the tincture/10 kg (22 lb) body weight to your dog’s food. Alternatively, rub a few drops of the tincture directly onto the lipoma 2–3 times a day 

Hemp or CBD oil. Some companies make high-quality salves using a combination of hemp extract mixed in coconut oil with essential oils added in and report good success with shrinking lumps and warts including lipomas.

Essential oils

Dump-a-Lump by AnimalEO (available from Glacier Peak Holistics) contains a blend of essential oils including frankincense, sandalwood, myrrh, oregano and lemon and is designed to shrink all kinds of superficial lumps and bumps.

Bovine colostrum

Many skin-related problems are now being treated with colostrum as it helps to maintain proper gut function. Four Leaf Rover Bovine Colostrum is one high-quality product.

Suggested dosage: follow the label instructions


A homeopathic vet will be able to prescribe the right remedy and dosage for Magi, but here are some that may be helpful.

Thuja 30C. Thuja has a powerful ability to completely dissipate fatty accumulations and is therefore thought to be of benefit in lipomas.

Suggested dosage: dose once daily for 7–10 days then once or twice a week for 4–6 weeks.  

Sulfur and Calcarea Carb. These two remedies can be helpful for lipomas, but they are best used after consulting with a homeopathic vet.


Just getting your dog to play or walk more can boost the circulation and keep the lymph flowing. At least 30 minutes a day of brisk walking is needed. Brushing your dog daily can also improve circulation.


Acupressure massage

Try the following massage technique weekly or even daily to improve circulation and help prevent lipomas from developing.

1) Start your session with an opening massage:

Using your fingers, thumbs or the heel of your hand (whichever is easy for you), gently squeeze the muscles, provided your pet is fine with it. 

2) Start at the base of the skull, with hands on either side of the head, then travel down the spine, working your way right down to the base of the tail. Do this twice. 

3) The third time, start from the skull base as before, but stop where the ribs end and follow the ribs round until both your hands meet underneath the belly. 

4) Finish with a closing massage, by repeating the same procedure as described for the opening massage: the only difference is in your intention. Make a silent wish that your gift of acupressure should be beneficial to your pet and help her heal.


Rohini Sathish, DVM, MSC, MRCVS, MHAO, MCIVT

Dr Sathish is an award-winning holistic vet with 22 years of experience. After training in acupuncture, acupressure, energy healing, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), animal communication and herbal medicine, she now actively integrates conventional veterinary treatments with complementary therapies and is co-author of You Can Heal Your Pet (Hay House UK, 2015). You can contact Dr Sathish at her website:

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Article Topics: Benign tumor, Fat, Lipoma
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