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Fatty Tissue Inflammation in Dogs

Steatitis in Dogs

Steatitis in dogs manifests as inflammation within the fatty tissue, often linked to nutritional factors. The condition arises when dogs consume excessive quantities of unsaturated fats without adequate antioxidant support, leading to peroxidation. This process, where free radicals attack lipids in cell membranes, can cause cell damage and fat cell death, resulting in steatitis.

Apart from nutritional causes, steatitis can also stem from infections, inflammatory ailments, vasculopathy, cancer, injuries, and immune-related disorders. Some instances occur without an identifiable cause, termed idiopathic. While uncommon, the prevalence of steatitis has decreased due to the inclusion of antioxidants in standard commercial pet foods. It is frequently diagnosed in dogs with concurrent illnesses like liver or pancreatic cancer and is more common in older dogs.

Steatitis may present as a lump under the skin and can be mistaken for a tumor. Hence, it’s crucial to promptly examine and biopsy any detected lumps to distinguish steatitis from other conditions.

Symptoms and Types

  • Presence of a lump in the subcutaneous tissue (fatty tissue)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Reluctance to move, jump, or play
  • Pain experienced during handling or abdominal palpation
  • Fever


The causes of steatitis in dogs include:

  • Deficiency in Vitamin E
  • Reduced antioxidant capacity leading to the peroxidation of lipids by free radicals
  • Homemade diets primarily consisting of large fish or pig’s brain
  • High intake of dietary unsaturated fatty acids
  • Presence of pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer
  • Infection from viruses, fungi, or bacteria
  • Immune-mediated disorders or cancer
  • Trauma, pressure, exposure to cold, or foreign materials
  • Administration of radiation therapy
  • Cases where the cause is unknown (idiopathic)


To diagnose steatitis in your dog, your veterinarian will require a detailed history of your dog’s health, including when symptoms began and any potential incidents that may have contributed to the condition. This information can help your veterinarian identify underlying factors that might be causing the outward signs.

The diagnostic process begins with a physical examination of the affected area by your veterinarian. A comprehensive physical assessment will include a thorough evaluation of your dog’s overall health. Additionally, your veterinarian will conduct various tests, including a complete blood profile, chemical blood profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis.

To further assess the inflamed tissue mass, your veterinarian will perform a fine-needle aspiration. This procedure involves extracting a sample of tissue and fluid from the affected area for examination under a microscope. Additionally, a fungal or bacterial culture may be conducted to identify any microbial involvement.


Treatment for steatitis in dogs focuses on ensuring your dog’s comfort and managing pain while addressing concurrent disorders. Dietary adjustments are often recommended, which may involve eliminating fish products and transitioning to a balanced, commercially-prepared food diet to promote healing and overall health.

Your veterinarian may suggest tube feeding if necessary to support your dog’s nutritional needs during recovery. Additionally, Vitamin E supplements and corticosteroids may be prescribed to alleviate inflammation and aid in healing. Surgical intervention might be necessary to drain or remove the lump, especially if it poses a significant discomfort or risk of complications.

If the lump is infected or there’s a risk of infection, antibiotics will be administered. To prevent further complications from licking or biting at the wound, your veterinarian may advise using an Elizabethan collar until the area has fully healed. Overall, treatment aims to alleviate pain, address underlying issues, and promote your dog’s recovery and well-being.


Prevention of steatitis in dogs involves feeding a commercially-prepared diet that is carefully balanced to fulfill all of your dog’s nutritional requirements.

Living and Management

The resolution of steatitis in dogs may take weeks to months, but the prognosis is favorable once the underlying cause has been addressed, and a suitable diet has been established. Regular monitoring and ongoing management are essential for ensuring your dog’s continued well-being.

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