What You Need to Know About Dog Fine Needle Aspiration

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

What's a Dog Fine Needle Aspiration?

So you found a suspicious lump on your dog and now your vet is saying he will need a dog fine needle aspiration (FNA). You may be wondering what a fine needle aspiration is and what exactly it entails. My female Rottweiler had one done just last year because of a small lump in her paw. If your dog has a lump that needs to be checked out, it's always good to be prepared in advance so you know what questions to ask your vet and so you can make the most appropriate decisions which are often needed to be made on the spot. In most cases, a fine needle aspiration is a very important procedure that will help your vet determine if that lump is something to worry about or not. Truth is, in most cases, your vet cannot tell from visual inspection alone if a lump, bump, or mole is benign or malignant. It's always best to play it safe and rule out cancerous growths, especially since there are certain forms of cancer that are known for being great imitators, meaning that they look like innocent and benign growths when they are not.

So what's a fine needle aspiration and what does it entail? Also known as fine needle biopsy, a fine needle aspiration is a procedure that requires insertion of a sterile, hollow, small-gauge needle (fine needle) into the suspicious mass. The dog's hair may be clipped prior to the procedure and the skin area will be disinfected. Once the needle is inserted, the plunger of the syringe is drawn back, and cells or fluids are collected (aspirated) in the attached empty syringe. Several areas of the mass may be aspirated. The collected cells or fluids are then placed on a glass slide and stained so they can be evaluated by the veterinarian by using a microscope (cytology is the term used when studying cells) or they can be sent to pathology for evaluation. When done in house (in the vet's office), test results may be attained within hours. When sent out to a lab, it may take anywhere between three and five days.

While in most cases, lumps and bumps are evaluated through fine needle aspiration, this procedure may also be utilized to collect cells from internal organs like the liver, lung, kidneys, or lymph nodes. In some cases, fluids may also be collected. For instance, a fine needle aspirate of the bladder may collect urine (a procedure known as cystocentesis) or synovial fluid may be collected from the joints. Even fluid may be collected from the chest or abdomen in the case of dog ascites.

What does a fine needle aspiration reveal? The fluid collected may reveal the type of cells, fungi, or even parasites present in the mass or abnormal organ. Often, fine needle aspirates are successful in correctly diagnosing the following benign or malignant tumors: lymphosarcoma/lymphoma, mast cell tumors, histiocytomas, lipomas, and sebaceous cysts.

In most cases of fine needle aspiration of a lump, the pain is minimal and consists of only the sensation of the needle piercing the skin. Sedation or anesthesia is generally not required. However, fractious pets may benefit from a light sedative if they tend to move too much and are uncooperative. In some cases, things can be a bit more complicated. For instance, in the case of internal organs, the fine needle aspirate be done during an ultrasound or in the case of lumps in the mouth, heavy sedation, or anesthesia may be needed for a fine needle aspiration, which is why many vets prefer to directly perform a surgical biopsy.

Dog Fine Needle Aspiration Cost

As seen, a fine needle aspiration is commonly a minimally invasive procedure that plays an important role in dog diagnostics. Best of all, it's fast and well tolerated by most animals. If you are in a financially unstable situation, you may be wondering about the costs of fine needle aspiration. The procedure per se is rather inexpensive, but costs can quickly add up if you consider the office visit along with the associated cytology fees.

Generally, office visits for dogs range between $45 and $75. The fine needle aspiration can range between $20 and $40, some include the cytology costs associated with sending it out to the lab, some do not. Usually, the total office visit should not amount to more than $100 to $150. Of course, costs may vary between one place and another. And if other tests needs done, the amount will be obviously superior than that. Therefore, expect costs to sum up if several needle aspirates need to be taken, if the stained slides are sent to an outside pathology laboratory, rather than in house, and if your dog requires sedation.

The money spent for a FNA is for priceless peace of mind since a fine needle aspirate is helpful in ruling out cancerous conditions. According to Pet Cancer Center, a fine needle aspiration was 97.9 percent accurate in diagnosing cancer as compared to surgical biopsy. In the case that the cytology results do not match up with what a veterinarian suspects as a malignancy (sometimes, fine needle aspirates come up inconclusive), a surgical biopsy should be done to be sure. Overall, the long-term savings can be substantial when performing a fine needle aspiration if a lump is removed in the early stages of cancer versus when it has been allowed to spread, or worse, metastasize, requiring a more aggressive approach. Not to mention the tranquility that derives when the suspicious lump turns out being nothing to worry about.

For Further Reading

  • Dog Sebaceous Cysts Home Remedies
    Can your dog's sebaceous cyst be treated naturally with home remedies? Learn when it's best to try home remedies and why surgery is often the best option.

Diagnosing Dog Cancer With a Biopsy or Fine Needle Aspirate

AP on May 14, 2015:

embarrassed to admit it -- I allowed a Guelph Veterinarian to remove 2 cysts -- one was fatty tissue the other was not diagnosed -- for $1500.

She did not suggest fine needle aspiration !

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 09, 2014:

Thank you DDE, I am happy to hear you enjoyed reading it.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 09, 2014:

I tweeted and facebook shared this useful and interesting hub.

Pet Cancer 101: What You Need to Know

By Baillie James, Case Manager/Certified Claims Adjuster for Companion Protect™

Roughly six million dogs and six million cats receive a new pet cancer diagnosis each year in the United States (National, 2019). Pets over 10 years are especially at risk nearly 50% of dogs over 10 years will get cancer (AVMA, 2019). These estimates might inspire dread and cold sweats, but pet cancer is often treatable and sometimes preventable.

Why do so many pets get cancer?

Pet health care has improved significantly over the past several decades – vaccines prevent common diseases, and preventive medicines and supplements keep the worst ailments at bay. Because pets are protected from common diseases and have a heightened standard of care, they live longer, healthier lives. Unfortunately, dogs and cats age significantly faster than humans. On average, a dog develops spontaneous pet cancer at 8.4 years – about 50 human years (Paoloni M., Khanna C.,2008).

Pets are exposed to the same environmental factors as their human owners. Smog, drinking water, packaged food, cigarette smoke, and other conditions take their toll. Because pets share so many biological and environmental similarities with humans, they sometimes develop the same diseases. In fact, humans and dogs share so many biological similarities that the Comparative Oncology Department – a branch of the National Cancer Institute – exclusively studies dogs with naturally occurring pet cancers to better understand cancer and treatment for humans (National, 2019).

So, how can you decrease your pet’s risk of developing cancer, or at least catch it early?

Visit the vet once a year at minimum, and more frequently for older pets. Veterinarians are certified professionals, and their keen diagnostic skills might notice weight loss, masses, or other concerning pet cancer symptoms that the average owner might not discern.

Other Ways to Minimize Your Pet’s Cancer Risk:

  • Monitor for new or changing lumps and bumps
  • Spay/neuter your pet (eliminates risk of ovarian/testicular cancer significantly lowers risk of mammary cancer) (AVMA, 2019)
  • Limit exposure to tobacco smoke and household/lawn chemicals
  • Maintain a healthy weight (While obesity is not a proven cause of cancer in companion animals, there is a direct link in humans)
  • Adopt a mixed breed (instead of pure bred). Studies show that purebred pets are at a higher risk of developing cancer. (Animal, Nutrition)
  • Feed a complete and balanced diet. Most commercial pet foods contain all needed nutrients, but conduct research and consult with your veterinarian about what diet is right for your pet.


Many pet insurance policies cover cancer treatment if not a pre-existing condition. While pet insurance will not stop your pet from getting cancer, it can protect your wallet and enable you to provide the best care to your furry friend.

I think my pet has cancer…what next?

As with any disease, the sooner pet cancer is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated. Early detection is a key factor in cancer survival rate – so call the vet and schedule an appointment.

Take notes before the appointment, and write down any symptoms, frequency of occurrence, size or location of new masses, or other details.

Possible cancer warning signs (AVMA, 2019):

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Drastic changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Non-healing wounds
  • Lumps, bumps, or discolored skin
  • Discharge or bleeding
  • New or changing mass/tumor

Some neoplasia or masses are benign, meaning harmless. If your pet has a lump, the doctor will examine it and suggest diagnostic testing if appropriate, often beginning with a fine needle aspirate (FNA) and cytology of the cells. Depending on those results, the doctor will determine if the neoplasm is malignant and needs to be removed – or benign (AVMA, 2019).

Other pet cancers are internal and cannot be easily visualized the most common cancers in canines are lymphoma, osteosarcoma, mast cell tumors, and melanoma. Some of the most common in felines are vaccine-related fibrosarcomas, lymphoma, mammary gland tumors, and mast-cell tumors (Animal, Cancer).

Fortunately, many cancers are treatable. Treatment depends on the type and location of cancer, stage of advancement, and other individual factors. After a cancer diagnosis, many veterinarians will refer to a veterinary oncologist. These cancer specialists obtain certification from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) to exclusively treat canines and felines.

If your pet has recently been diagnosed with cancer, the Veterinary Cancer Society website has answers to common pet owner FAQs (Veterinary, 2019). The Animal Cancer Foundation established November as National Pet Cancer Month starting in 2005, so awareness and research will only continue to surge.

Bottom line:

Oncology research is a rapidly expanding area of veterinary study, and new treatments are constantly being tested and developed. Doctors are especially motivated because studying cancer in canines and felines often aids cancer research for humans.

A cancer diagnosis is just that — a diagnosis. Check your calendar – if it’s been more than a year since your pet’s last vet visit, it’s time to book an appointment. Detecting early will help you and your veterinarian come up with the best plan for your pet!

Baillie James is a Case Manager/Certified Claims Adjuster for Companion Protect™. James has worked both in the education and pet welfare fields since graduating from Truman State University with a Bachelor’s in Communication. She shares her home with one dog and four cats.

“If there's something that you love so much to do that you'd even do it for free … that's passion . Go and do it. Pursue it. You will never feel like you worked a day in your life.”

Similar to our latest Pet Game Changer, Dr. Marc Sommer, a certified chiropractor for animals big and small. Find out why he encourages pet parents to learn how to read their pet’s body language:

*All Pet Game Changers are nominated by Healthy Pets readers.

Dr. Karen Becker

Everything You Need to Know About Ultrasounds for Your Cat or Dog

Your vet has recommended that your cat or dog have an ultrasound. What is it, and how can it help your pet? Our Rock Hill Emergency and Specialty Vets explain.

What is an ultrasound?

Seasoned pet owners know their four-legged friends can easily get into things they shouldn’t, or develop tumors that require treatment. Ultrasounds transmit sound waves into your pet’s body to create an image of a specific part of the body.

This non-invasive technology can also be used to diagnose hemoabdomen and pericardial effusion (blood in the abdomen and around the heart).

Why would my pet need an ultrasound?

An ultrasound can help us see the architecture of your pet’s organs so we can find and identify objects.

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Rock Hill, we use this and other diagnostic tools to provide a proper diagnosis of your pet’s medical issues, so effective treatment can be provided.

Using this tool, soft tissue masses can be distinguished from fluid or foreign bodies - a task that may be difficult to accomplish with a digital x-ray. The sound waves generated from the ultrasound are not painful or harmful to your dog or cat.

Here are specific examples of conditions that may require an ultrasound:

Abnormal Urine or Blood Test Results

If abnormalities are found in your pet’s urine or blood tests, your vet may recommend an abdominal ultrasound to help visualize the internal organs, such as urinary bladder, liver, spleen, kidneys, lymph nodes or other areas to determine what’s causing the abnormalities.

Heart Conditions

If your cat or dog has a heart condition, your veterinarian may recommend an echocardiogram to help determine whether your pet will need heart medication.

Examination of Soft Tissues

We can examine almost all soft tissues in the body with an ultrasound to evaluate:

  • Tendons
  • Thyroid glands
  • Eyes
  • Fetal viability and development
  • Ligaments

If a veterinarian discovers abnormal tissue during an ultrasound, they may be able to collect tissue samples using the ultrasound.

How are samples collected?

We typically use these methods to collect samples:

  • Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration
  • Tru-Cut biopsies

With these methods, your dog will sometimes be sedated. Using ultrasound imaging, we can perform biopsies in a less invasive fashion than surgery would allow.

Types of Ultrasounds

These are two types of ultrasounds your vet may perform:


Echocardiograms are also known as cardiac ultrasounds. These are detailed ultrasounds that allow us to closely examine the heart and its surrounding structures, including the pericardial sac to determine whether the heart is working properly. It can also help reveal the problem if there is a malfunction in the heart.

Echocardiograms are typically painless, but require numerous calculations and measurements. Your pet may need one if he or she was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur or if there are signs of heart disease.

Emergency Ultrasounds

In an emergency situation, we would typically focus the ultrasound on the chest and abdomen to quickly determine whether your cat or dog has serious internal hemorrhaging (bleeding) or pneumothorax (a condition in which air or gas collects in the space around the lungs). This can help us diagnose the problem quickly and plan effective treatment.

How should I prepare for a veterinary ultrasound?

Your vet can tell you what you should do to prepare for the ultrasound. You may need to withhold food and water for 8 to 12 hours, specifically for abdominal ultrasounds.

Your veterinarian will shave the area to be examined so clear images can be captured. While most pets will hold still during the ultrasound, some will require sedation.

What You Need to Know About Ultrasounds for Your Cat or Dog

Your vet has recommended an ultrasound for your cat or dog. What is this procedure, and how can it help your pet? Our Thomasville vets explain.

What is an ultrasound?

Experienced pet owners know that despite their best efforts, their curious four-legged friends may wander into things they shouldn’t, or develop tumors or conditions that need treatment. Ultrasounds transmit sound waves into your pet’s body, producing an image of specific internal structures.

Your vet can also use this safe, non-invasive technology to diagnose pericardial effusion and hemoabdomen (blood around the heart and in the abdomen).

Why does my pet need an ultrasound?

With an ultrasound, your vet can view the architecture of your pet’s organs so objects can be identified and found.

At Thomasville Veterinary Hospital Urgent Care + Surgery , our veterinarians use ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools to provide an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s medical issues, so effective treatment can be administered.

This tool allows us to tell soft tissue masses, fluid and foreign bodies apart - a task that may prove challenging to achieve with a digital x-ray. The sound waves the ultrasound generates will not be harmful or painful for your cat or dog.

Here are a few examples of conditions that may require an ultrasound to detect:

Heart Conditions

If your dog or cat has a heart condition, your vet may recommend an echocardiogram to help find out whether your pet will require heart medication.

Examination of Soft Tissues

An ultrasound can be used to examine almost all of the body’s soft tissues to evaluate:

  • Fetal viability and development
  • Thyroid glands
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Eyes

If abnormal tissue is discovered during the ultrasound, a vet may be able to collect tissue samples.

How are samples collected?

These methods are typically used to collect samples:

  • Tri-Cut biopsies
  • Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration

Your dog may need to be sedated with these methods. Biopsies can be performed with ultrasound imaging, in a less invasive manner than surgery would entail.

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results

If abnormalities are discovered in your dog’s blood or urine tests, an abdominal ultrasound may be recommended.

This can help our veterinary team see internal organs such as lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys, urinary bladder, liver or other areas to find out what’s causing the specific abnormalities.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your met may perform either of these two types of ultrasounds:

Emergency Ultrasounds

In emergency situations, ultrasounds are typically focused on the chest and abdomen to quickly look for pneumothorax (a condition in which gas or air collects in the area surrounding the lungs) or serious internal hemorrhaging (bleeding).

Emergency ultrasounds can help us identify and diagnose the problem quickly, then plan effective treatment.


Also known as cardiac ultrasounds, echocardiograms help us closely examine the heart and the structures around it, including the pericardial sac, to determine whether the heart is functioning correctly. If your pet’s heart is malfunctioning, it can also help reveal the issue.

Typically painless, these detailed ultrasounds need numerous measurements and calculations. Your vet may recommend one if your pet was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur or is displaying signs of heart disease.

How should I prepare for a veterinary ultrasound?

Ask your vet how you should prepare for the ultrasound. Leading up to your pet’s ultrasound appointment, you may need to withhold water and food for 8 to 12 hours, specifically for abdominal ultrasounds.

The area to be examined by your vet will be shaved, so clear images can be captured. While most pets won’t have trouble holding still during the ultrasound, some will need to be sedated.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have questions about your upcoming ultrasound at Thomasville Veterinary Hospital Urgent Care + Surgery ? Our Thomasville vets are here to diagnose and treat your pet, and effectively address your concerns. If your pet has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition and requires specialty veterinary care, contact us today to book a consultation.

Looking for a vet in the Thomasville area?

We're always accepting new patients, so contact our veterinary hospital today to book your pet's first appointment.

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Watch the video: Ultrasound-guided fine-needle breast biopsy (October 2021).

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