Why Golden Retrievers Have a Bump on Their Head (Solved!)

While you’re petting your Golden Retriever on the noggin, you might feel something worrisome: a bump on their head! You may wonder if it’s some kind of defect or symptom of a disease, but thankfully, it’s nothing so sinister. There’s a perfectly normal reason why Golden Retrievers have bumps on their heads.

Golden Retrievers have a bump on their head called an occiput, which is a bony protuberance designed to protect a dog’s skull from predators, who would commonly try to kill prey by crushing their skulls. Occiputs are bigger in some breeds, like Golden Retrievers, and smaller in other breeds.

This article will discuss why Golden Retrievers and other dogs have this bump on their head, what it means, and other bumps to look out for throughout your furry friend’s life.

Why do Golden Retrievers have a bump on their head?

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Dog Head Shapes & Sizes

Dogs’ heads come in many different shapes and sizes. From wolf-like Huskies to strangely formed Pugs, both evolution and human breeding programs have further changed their appearances, including head size and shape. If you’re not familiar with a particular breed’s head shape, you may not even notice bumps on their head, or bumps may be particularly pronounced.

Why Does My Golden Retriever Have a Bump on Their Head?

It’s understandably worrying to see a lump or bump on your Golden Retriever’s head. After all, lumps can be a sign of cancer in dogs, humans, and other animals. Thankfully, all dogs have one bump on their head that’s a result of evolution.

The bump towards the back of a Golden Retriever’s skull is called an occiput, and is often referred to as a wisdom bump, knowledge bump, or knowledge knot. These bumps are so well-known that the iconic Pluto from Disney features this bump in his appearances.

Throughout history, the occiput has been speculated to indicate a dog’s intelligence – Golden Retrievers and Bloodhounds sport particularly large occiputs on their skulls.

Another attribute linked to the occiput is sense of smell. This is because Bloodhounds, Golden Retrievers, and other strong sniffers tend to have a large occiput.

However, these beliefs are actually false. The occiput is a piece of bone that sticks out from the skull of a dog, also called a protuberance for the way it juts out. The occiput goes back a long way, to the days when dogs lived in the wild and evolved from wolves.

They developed this protuberance because their predators liked to try to crush their skulls in order to kill them. To survive, dogs developed the bony occiput on their heads, which served as protection from predators and support for head movement.

New dog owners may be unaware of this fact, leading them to seek medical attention for their dog, believing something may be wrong. Fortunately, the occiput is a perfectly natural and even beneficial part of a Golden Retriever’s anatomy.

Golden Retrievers and Abnormal Skin Growths

Veterinarian checking a golden retrievers ears.

While the occiput may be a normal bump, other bumps on a dog’s head or body may not be. While it’s very alarming to find an abnormal-looking bump on your dog, many such bumps or lumps are either benign (non-cancerous) or easily treatable through modern medicine and veterinary techniques.

While a large portion of dog skin growths aren’t anything to worry about, it’s worth a visit to the vet when you spot a weird lump or bump on your dog. Cancerous growths often appear indistinguishable from benign ones and are best spotted by veterinarians trained to spot the differences between them. Vet bills aren’t fun, but I’m sure you’d rather pay to hear good news than to ignore the issue and have it turn out to be a cancerous lump.

There are many types of growths and bumps to be on the lookout for as your Golden Retriever grows and ages. Some are benign, meaning harmless, and some are malignant, which means cancerous. Hopefully, with the aid of this article and your dog’s veterinarian, you can identify what types of bumps can develop on a dog and prevent any further harm that could result from not spotting them earlier.

Abscesses (Malignant Infection) in Golden Retrievers

Abscesses are lumps filled with pus that form in reaction to a wound or foreign object entering a Golden Retriever’s body. They’re basically swollen lumps of infection and are almost always very painful and tender. Abscesses are treated by vets who carefully lance the abscess and flush it out with a sterile solution. If it’s a really bad abscess, they may prescribe medicines like antibiotics to give to your Golden Retriever for them to heal.

Lipomas (Benign) and Golden Retrievers

Lipomas are deposits of fat that form under a Golden Retriever’s skin (aka a fatty tumor). Lipomas are most common in older Goldens and overweight dogs, but are usually benign and nothing to worry about. These types of fatty lumps rarely spread and don’t harm the dog, but if they grow at an abnormal rate or grow on a dog’s legs and hinder their movement, a vet may recommend they be removed for your Goldens comfort.

A lipoma is actually considered a tumor, which sounds scary, but actually just means abnormal growth. Lipomas are examples of benign skin tumors.

Hives (Allergies) in Golden Retrievers

Dogs have allergies too! If you’re familiar with allergies, they present the same way in dogs: raised red welts sensitive to the touch and spread, depending on the severity of the allergy. This can result from a bee sting or plain old contact allergy and will normally go away on its own. To help them go away and your dog remain comfortable, a vet may recommend antihistamines to reduce the hives.

Cysts (Benign) and Golden Retrievers

Cysts are lumps that form when glands under a Golden Retriever’s skin become obstructed by sweat, dirt, or other fine matter. They’re most common in older dogs, who sometimes get them on their backs. A sebaceous cyst can present as pimple-like bumps on your Golden Retriever, and they also rupture or pop like human pimples do, with the same creamy liquid inside. In extreme cases, this can lead to infection, but they don’t usually require any kind of medical intervention.

Histiocytomas (Benign) and Golden Retriever Puppies

Histiocytomas are small, hard bumps that may appear on the heads, ears, and legs of Golden Retriever puppies. These are generally always benign and will disappear on their own. It’s important to get a vet’s consultation on any bumps you can’t positively identify to ensure they aren’t really of the cancerous variety.

Golden Retrievers and Warts (Benign)

Warts, just like in humans, are caused by a common virus and usually show up on young Golden Retriever’s mouths. They’re unsightly, but nothing to be worried about. Like human warts, dog warts will go away by themselves and aren’t a health concern.

Mast Cell Tumors (Malignant) in Golden Retrievers

Mast cell tumors are what you’d call skin cancer in dogs. There’s no single factor that causes this to appear on a Golden Retriever – as far as science can tell, it’s a mixture of environmental and hereditary variables. A Mast Cell Tumor, or MCT, is insidious because they can appear similar to a wart or other harmless growth, leading you to believe nothing is wrong. These growths are easily diagnosable through a procedure called Fine Needle Aspiration or FNA.

How serious mast cell tumors are can be determined by a vet. Some breeds are more vulnerable to them, some cases spread faster than others, and they can also metastasize like human cancer and spread to other parts of the dog’s body. Surgical removal can be done for mast cells if caught early, but aggressive cases can be very serious.

Lumps on pets: How to Know if It’s Serious.

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Final Thoughts

While it’s perfectly normal for your Golden Retriever to have that bump called an occiput on their skull, there are many other types of abnormal bumps and growths to watch out for. If caught early, even malignant growths may be safely removed, and your Golden Retriever will live a long, healthy and happy life.

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Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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