Browse our veterinary-reviewed Dog and Cat Illness Guide to learn more about pet health. Always talk to your veterinarian if you have a concern about your pet's symptoms or health.
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Panniculitis is inflammation of fat tissue under the skin, which you will see as lumps on top of the skin. There may be one lump or multiple lumps. They are not cancerous.
Most commonly, the cause is trauma (especially when there is only one lump). This includes bite wounds from fighting.
Other rare causes may include (usually only when there are multiple lumps):
- Poor nutrition
- Immune disorders
- Infections: fungal or bacterial
- Diseases of the pancreas or liver
- Diseases that decrease blood supply
- The most noticeable symptom is a red, firm lump on the abdomen, chest, neck, or feet. It may bleed or get infected
- Depression, fever, anorexia: because the fat tissue is dying, and toxic substances may go into the blood
If your veterinarian suspects panniculitis, they will perform a skin biopsy. There are a few ways to get a skin sample for this study. Some options are a fine needle aspiration or a punch biopsy.
Your vet will also do tests to rule out cancer, which has some of the same symptoms as panniculitis.
- Surgical removal of the lump: this is usually a complete cure. Your veterinarian can study the lump further to confirm the diagnosis. Following surgery, keep the incision site clean
- Antibiotics for any underlying infections
If the panniculitis is caused by one of the rare non-traumatic causes, there may be a recurrence soon after removal. In that case, your veterinarian will do more tests to determine the cause.
In some recurrent cases, corticosteroids are used and are effective.
Your vet may recommend a long-term diet of low fat and vitamin E supplements.
Most patients have a full recovery; however, some pets will have recurrences.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM