Seromas in Dogs: What are They & How are They Treated?

Seromas in Dogs: What are They & How are They Treated?

Author WDF Staff


If your dog had surgery, you know how stressful and nerve-wracking that can be. It is like a huge rock off your shoulders if everything goes well. However, there is still a chance of complications, and responsible owners need to provide good post-operative care. One of the things that can happen is seromas. If you’re worried about your dog’s health after surgery and you think they might develop seromas, here’s what you should know.

What are seromas?

Seromas are bumps on the place of the incision. More precisely, it is an accumulation of serous fluid that forms on the site where the vet had to make an incision. They occur after surgery and can be pretty uncomfortable. Seromas usually contain inflammatory fluid and blood plasma. It contains no red blood cells, which means it is different from a hematoma.

What is serous fluid?

Serous fluid is a fluid that fills the area inside of the body. More precisely, it fills body cavities. Serous fluid is a term that actually describes several types of fluids that come from serous gland secretions, which are enriched with protein and water. It is pale yellow or transparent, and it can be seen on wounds while they’re healing.

belgian tervuren

How many types of seromas exist?

Seromas that appear strictly on the incision site are not the only type of seromas dogs can develop. They are generally split into two types;

  • Surgical seroma - Appears on the incisions site.
  • Non-surgical seroma - It can appear anywhere on the dog’s body.

For now, we will focus on the surgical seroma that occurs on the incision site.

What causes seromas in dogs?

Seroma is considered a surgical complication, and about 1 in 10 dogs (10%) will develop seroma after surgery. It is most common after spaying or neutering. There are a few possible reasons dogs might develop seromas. The most common one is moving too much during the healing process.

This is not the only reason a dog can develop it. It can also happen if the veterinary surgeon “mistreated” a dog. Unfortunately, seromas can be a result of;

  • Careless tissue handling
  • Poor incision closure
  • Excessive dissection of the dog's subcutaneous tissue and skin

Non-surgical seromas can appear anywhere on the dog’s body, but they are most commonly caused by;

  • Punctures
  • Trauma
  • Abnormal blood clotting

great dane on bed

How can I know if my dog developed a seroma?

It is pretty hard to miss a seroma, especially if the incision was on the dog’s belly, where the coat is absent. Some owners might miss it if the incision is made somewhere where the coat grows. However, most dog owners will notice a little bump on their dog’s incision, which is when they’ll call their vet and tell them what happened. It is a good idea to learn seroma symptoms, so you can notice them and react as soon as possible.

Symptoms of seromas in dogs

As we said, it is pretty hard to miss seromas, but it can happen. Since this is considered a surgical complication, it will come with some symptoms. The most common seroma symptoms in dogs are;

  • Skin redness
  • Bump on the incision site
  • Increase temperature around the wound
  • Clear fluid leaking from the incision
  • Swelling
  • Infection

If the dog develops a non-surgical seroma, the symptoms will be more connected to the area it has affected. For example, a brain seroma might cause seizures or coma, and shoulder seroma might affect the dog’s movement. Plus, the bump should feel soft and squishy, unlike skin cancers that usually appear hard.

How are seromas diagnosed?

Your vet will diagnose a surgical seroma pretty quickly. If the seroma appeared on an incision site, there is little doubt about what it is. Most vets will immediately notice the issue. In most cases, an ultrasound is all that’s necessary to confirm the diagnosis. In complicated cases, vets can order magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography.

How dangerous are seromas?

A seroma’s danger will depend on the type of seroma and the place where it appeared. Most surgical seromas will resolve on their own after a couple of weeks. Non-surgical seromas can be pretty dangerous, especially if they develop on the brain or close to the spinal cord.

How are they treated?

In most cases, seromas don’t require veterinary attention. Mind you, it is best for the vet to look at the dog, but they might decide not to do anything. Most seromas get reabsorbed by the body in 10 - 20 days. However, some cases might need treatment, and your vet might decide to do one of these things;

  • Drainage - If the seroma is severe, the vet might decide to temporarily place a drain in the skin. The drain will allow the serous fluid to leak, preventing it from accumulating.
  • Extraction - If the body didn’t fully reabsorb the seroma, the vet might use a fine needle to extract the remaining fluid.
  • Antibiotics - In case the seroma gets infected, the vet might prescribe antibiotics to the dog to kill the bacteria that infected the seroma.
  • Corticosteroids or surgery - If the seroma gets complicated and is left untreated, it can become encapsulated. If that happens, it can leave a nasty scar. In that case, your dog might have a second surgery or take corticosteroid therapy.

What is the prognosis for dogs with seromas?

The prognosis is generally fantastic. Surgical seromas are usually nothing more than a minor complication that mostly gets resolved on its own. However, dogs with non-surgical seromas developed in delicate places can have further complications. Death because of seroma rarely happens, but anything on the dog’s brain shouldn’t be taken lightly.

World Dog Finder team

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