Are Maltese Skin Bumps Dangerous?

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Is the tiny little bump on your Maltese’s skin giving you sleepless nights?

While it might be tempting to jump to conclusions and assume the worst, it’s important to remember that not all skin bumps are cause for alarm.

In fact, Maltese skin bumps are quite common and can have various causes, some of which may require veterinary attention while others may resolve on their own. Here’s how to know when to worry and when to wait it out.

maltese skin bumps

Types of skin bumps in Maltese dogs

Lipomas

Lipomas are the most common type of skin bump often found in older, overweight Maltese dogs. These benign tumors are made up of soft fatty tissue and can feel like round, movable lumps under the skin.

While lipomas are generally harmless and don’t require treatment, if they grow in size or interfere with your dog’s movement, it’s recommended to have them checked by a veterinarian. In some cases, they may need to be surgically removed.

Papillomas

Papillomas, or warts, are small growths caused by a viral infection (that’s highly contagious to other dogs).

They’re usually found on the skin around the mouth of Maltese puppies and can vary in size and shape but are typically round and have a rough texture.

Most papillomas will resolve on their own without any treatment within a few months. Older dogs, however, may require treatment such as surgical removal.

Skin tags

Skin tags are small, benign growths that mostly affect older dogs. These soft, wrinkled pieces of skin are attached to the body by a thin stalk and are found in areas where there’s friction, such as the neck, armpits, and groin.

Although skin tags don’t necessarily require treatment, some owners may choose to have them removed for cosmetic reasons or if they become bothersome to the dog. Removal can be done through surgical excision or cryosurgery (freezing the skin tag off).

Abscesses

Abscesses happen when bacteria or foreign objects enter the skin and cause an infection. They’re basically swollen, painful lumps filled with pus, and if left untreated, they can become larger (or rupture) and cause more distress to your Maltese.

Treatment of abscesses involves draining the pus from the lump and cleaning the affected area thoroughly. In addition, antibiotics may be prescribed by your veterinarian to help clear up any remaining infection and prevent further complications.

Hives

Hives (otherwise known as urticaria) are a cluster of raised, itchy bumps that appear suddenly on the skin.

They’re caused by an allergic reaction to certain foods, insect bites, shampoos, or plants, but can even be triggered by medications or vaccinations.

If the cause of the hives is unknown, your veterinarian may recommend performing allergy testing to determine the specific allergen. In the meantime, steroids and antihistamines can be given to help relieve itching and irritation.

Sebaceous cysts

Sebaceous cysts are noncancerous lumps that occur just beneath the skin. They form when the sebaceous glands, which produce oil for the hair and skin, become blocked or damaged, similar to a pimple.

In most cases, sebaceous cysts don’t cause any issues to the dog unless they become infected or irritated.

If this happens, the cyst may enlarge in size and become red, painful, and may develop a white or yellow discharge. In this case, you need to have the cyst evaluated by a veterinarian.

Sebaceous adenomas

Sebaceous adenomas are benign tumors that arise from the sebaceous glands. They’re common in older dogs (and certain breeds like Terriers, Poodles, and Maltese) and appear as raised, hairless bumps on the skin.

Sebaceous adenomas are typically harmless and don’t require treatment unless they grow in size or become bothersome to the dog.

In most cases, your veterinarian will diagnose sebaceous adenomas through a physical examination and may recommend monitoring the growth or removing them if necessary.

Histiocytomas

Histiocytomas, or button tumors, are round, red lesions that tend to grow on the head or limbs of young dogs under the age of 3.

These benign tumors are believed to be caused by an overgrowth of immune cells called histiocytes and normally resolve on their own without any treatment.

That said, make sure to have this checked by a veterinarian as they can sometimes be mistaken for more serious conditions.

Ticks

If you feel a bump or a lump in areas such as the neck, ears, and armpits of your Maltese, it could be a tick. Ticks are usually visible to the naked eye and can range in size from as small as a pinhead to as large as a grape.

To remove a tick, you’ll need a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool. Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and gently pull upward with steady pressure.

Don’t twist or jerk the tick, as this can cause some parts of the tick to break off and remain in your dog’s skin.

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Microchip

A microchip is a small device, about the size of a grain of rice, that’s implanted under your Maltese’s skin between the shoulder blades.

This chip contains important information such as your contact details, which can be scanned by veterinarians or animal shelters if your dog ever gets lost.

If this is the first time you’re feeling a microchip, it may feel like a small bump or lump. This is normal and nothing to worry about.

Malignant (cancerous) lumps

Malignant lumps are abnormal growths that often develop in older Maltese dogs, with the most common type being mast cell tumors. These lumps are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body if not treated early.

They can also vary in size, shape, and appearance, but they’re almost always firm to the touch and may occur on or under the skin.

If a malignant lump is suspected, your veterinarian may recommend further diagnostic tests such as biopsies or imaging scans to determine the extent of the cancer and to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these methods.

When to be concerned about Maltese Skin Bumps

While not all lumps are cancerous, it’s better to err on the side of caution and have them evaluated.

Some signs that may indicate a malignant lump include rapid growth, changes in shape, ulceration or bleeding, pain or discomfort, and if the lump is hard and immovable.

Never ignore any unusual lumps or growths on your Maltese, as early detection and treatment can greatly improve their prognosis.

If you notice any of these signs or if you’re unsure about a lump, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

In summary

Skin bumps on your Maltese’s skin can certainly be a cause for concern, but they’re not necessarily dangerous. In many cases, these bumps are benign and don’t require any treatment.

However, it’s always best to have any new or unusual skin lumps checked by a veterinarian, especially if they change in size, shape, or consistency over time.

About the author

Li-ran Bukovza

Li-ran believes that our dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He's fascinated by the dog-human bond and loves researching and writing about new pet trends. With the help of Richie (his trusty Maltese sidekick), he hopes to help as many people as possible understand the beautiful, complex world of canine companionship.