A client brought her dog to see me last week. She was worried about a mass that was present on his abdomen. I performed a general physical exam to rule out enlarged lymph nodes and other evidence of medical problems. Then I began to search for the mass.
But I couldn’t find it. After a few minutes of feeling around the dog’s abdomen, I asked the client to point out the mass. She directed me to his belly button which, thankfully, was normal.
My client was a bit surprised (and also slightly embarrassed) when I told her that the area of concern appeared to be a perfectly normal umbilicus (also known as belly button). But in my opinion she had no reason to be embarrassed.
First, many people don’t realize that dogs and cats, like all mammals, have belly buttons. Most canine and feline belly buttons look different from ours. They appear as small scars located in the middle of the abdomen midway between the ribcage and the pelvis (hips). If you press on your pet’s umbilicus, you may feel some firm tissue underneath it.
Second, in my opinion nobody should be ashamed of taking a healthy pet to the vet. As a vet, I would much rather discover a healthy belly button than learn that the client had spent months ignoring a malignant tumor.
I explained these points to the client. I hope that by the time she left she felt much more relieved than embarrassed.
Photo info: Newborn Golden Retrievers, with umbilical cords tied off. The site where the umbilical cord meets the body becomes the umbilicus. Photo credit: Gonzalo Garca Jaubert. Photo licensing information: CC.