As you snuggle with your pup, it’s normal to notice new bumps, bruises, and even cuts. Sebaceous cysts on dogs are just one example you may find, and we’ve created this guide to help you out. If you’ve spotted abnormalities on your dog’s skin, you may wonder if there’s cause for concern.
Thankfully, sebaceous cysts aren’t typically harmful to your dog. However, we recommend that you read through the following information to determine whether a vet visit is in order.
A sebaceous cyst is usually just a small bump on your pup’s skin. We’ll talk about causes, treatments, and prevention. However, it’s important to call your vet should you have any questions about lumps. Better safe than sorry — early detection may be key to keeping your dog in good health.
Ready to learn more about sebaceous cysts on dogs? Let’s dive in!
Before you read this guide, “Sebaceous Cysts on Dogs: What to Expect and How to Treat Them,” check out: Hard Bump on Bridge of Dog’s Nose: Causes and How to Treat It! (2023) and Kennel Nose Guide: How to Properly Treat It! (2023).
What Are Sebaceous Cysts on Dogs?
First things first, let’s take a look at what sebaceous cysts are.
There are several types of cysts that can present themselves on a dog’s body. For instance, lipomas (harmless fatty tumors) and sebaceous cysts can appear, particularly on older dogs’ skin.
A sebaceous cyst is another type of cyst, usually found at the site of a hair follicle. Sebaceous cysts are generally harmless and form after the excessive release of a natural oil called sebum.
Sebum is a natural lubricant that conditions your dog’s skin and prevents chafing; its presence is perfectly normal! Unfortunately, when a pore is blocked, a cyst can appear.
Pores get blocked for a number of reasons. Most commonly, they’re a result of:
- Scar tissue or injury to the area
- Blockage by dirt or other debris
- A sebaceous duct that doesn’t form properly
Usually, sebaceous cysts on dogs aren’t anything to worry about. However, they can be prone to infection, so keep an eye out for redness, swelling, or tenderness. These cysts typically don’t hurt, so if your dog shows signs of discomfort, it may be time to see a vet.
If you’re curious, a sebaceous cyst usually contains lipids, keratin, and skin particles. The inside of a cyst typically has a sour, infected smell, and the consistency of the fluid will range from very liquid to a partially hardened solid.
Sebaceous Cyst Removal
Generally speaking, your vet won’t recommend the removal of sebaceous cysts. The cysts aren’t usually problematic, and most will remain small.
In some cases, though, your dog’s vet may advise you to have the cysts removed. There are a few uncommon reasons.
- Aesthetics – The cyst may be unattractive in appearance, and may be removed for cosmetic reasons. When your pup’s cyst is little, it’s usually not an issue. However, sebaceous cysts in dogs can grow over time and become unsightly. In addition, your pup’s cyst may rub against his collar or against another body part. This may be cause for removal.
- Discomfort – Your dog usually won’t show signs of discomfort due to a sebaceous cyst. However, these growths can become sore or painful when they become infected. The area around the cyst may become red and tender, or you may even notice foul-smelling liquid draining from the cyst. Seek a vet’s attention immediately for sebaceous cyst removal.
- Biopsy – Your dog’s vet may remove a sebaceous cyst if its origins or contents are unknown. It’s important to determine whether a cyst — particularly one that is growing in size — is cancerous so that necessary treatments can be begun.
Never attempt to remove a sebaceous cyst on your own. Bring your dog to the vet so she can perform a sterile, medically sound procedure if necessary.
Treatment for Sebaceous Cysts
The treatment for sebaceous cysts in dogs will depend on their location, size, and need for a biopsy. Again, you should bring your dog to the vet for medical treatment. Attempting to treat the cyst on your own can lead to infection and other complications.
Sebaceous cysts can resolve on their own. You may notice that your pup’s cyst shrinks — if so, there’s usually no further action required. Just note that the cyst may come back. Keep an eye on the area and call your vet if necessary. A cyst that refills over and over can be cancerous.
To treat sebaceous cysts in dogs, your vet may inject the site with a local steroid. This is a virtually painless process, and the steroids may decrease inflammation in the affected area.
If the cyst is infected, your doctor may need to cut and drain the cyst. They will cut a hole in the affected area, drain liquid, and clean up the site. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics for the wound.
Sebaceous Cysts: Healing and Prevention
The healing process for sebaceous cysts in dogs is typically very simple. In many cases, the cysts will even go away on their own.
For surgery, your vet will ask that you keep the site covered to prevent infection. She’ll likely also ask you to avoid touching the site of the sebaceous cyst, as it may be tender following removal.
Wondering how to prevent sebaceous cysts in dogs? Well, there’s not much you can do. Due to the nature of cysts, we recommend the following steps to prevent their appearance:
- Keep your dog clean and bathed to avoid the buildup of sebum and blocked follicles.
- Prevent injury and scratches to your dog as best as you can.
- If your dog has acne, see a vet for treatment, as sebaceous cysts in dogs can be exacerbated by the presence of this skin disorder.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve outlined the causes and treatments of sebaceous cysts, but you may have more questions! Take a look at the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from our readers.
Generally, your dog’s cysts may go away on their own, and if they do not, there’s usually no cause for alarm. Most are benign, but if you have questions or concerns you may consult your vet.
In some cases, your vet may recommend the surgical removal of cysts, or he may recommend having the site drained. This may be because the cyst has grown to cause discomfort, is suspicious and possibly malignant, or is unsightly.
Absolutely not. Under no circumstances should you squeeze your dog’s sebaceous cyst.
Squeezing too hard could cause bruising on your dog, or even nerve damage.
You may inadvertently cause the cyst site to become infected.
You may not remove the entire cyst, which may cause the need for surgery later down the road.
The cyst might be misidentified, preventing the detection of cancerous growths.
Sebaceous cysts are usually harmless and won’t require removal. In fact, many of these cysts will go away on their own. If you have concerns that the cyst is growing, causing pain, or simply unsightly, talk to a vet to discuss your options.
If your dog has frequently recurring sebaceous cysts, it may be a good idea to see your vet. The cysts themselves are harmless, but if they keep showing up on your pup, it could be because of an underlying problem.
Your vet can discuss options with you. Treatment may be as simple as more frequent baths! Remember that trauma also causes these cysts, so if your dog plays rough outdoors, you may need to keep a closer eye on him. Finally, sebaceous cysts on dogs could be an indicator of acne; your vet can talk about remedies for this common skin condition.
In most cases, no. Sebaceous cysts are just that — a buildup of sebum and other particles. However, in very rare cases your dog’s cyst may become malignant.
Keep an eye on the cyst, and make note of the following occurrences:
Signs of infection (redness or swelling, pus drainage)
A large diameter (particularly if the cyst continues to grow)
Quick regrowth after removal or drainage
Should you notice any of these symptoms, a trip to the vet is in order. Your vet can remove or biopsy the cyst and advise you whether further treatment is required.
The short answer is that you don’t drain the cyst at all. This should be left to a vet. Curious about the procedure? Here’s what will happen.
In many cases, your vet will inject the animal with a mild, local anesthetic. This will eliminate any pain your dog could experience during the procedure.
Next, the vet will puncture the surface of the cyst with a needle or a scalpel. Finger compression is used to loosen the material within the cyst, and the material is expressed either manually or extracted with a needle.
Once the cyst has been drained, your vet may stitch the incision or leave it open — but covered — to heal on its own.
Draining of a sebaceous cyst is usually an outpatient procedure, and doesn’t take long at all. Aftercare is also minimal. You may be instructed to apply an antibiotic ointment to the incision site or bandage the area.
If your dog’s sebaceous cyst bursts on its own, talk to your vet. A phone call is usually fine, so long as you’ve taken note of the details of the cyst. Let your vet know these details, including:
Any unusual smell (a sour, “infectious” smell is normal but should be discussed with your vet).
The size of the break in your dog’s skin (large breaks may require stitches while smaller breaks usually will not).
Any redness or discoloration around the site of the burst cyst.
Discomfort you’ve noticed your dog experience.
Signs the cyst is re-filling.
Your vet can talk you through the process of dressing the wound and can direct you as to whether an in-person visit is necessary.
Conclusion for “Sebaceous Cysts on Dogs: What to Expect and How to Treat Them”
Generally speaking, a sebaceous cyst on your dog is nothing to worry about. These cysts form when a buildup of dead skin, sebum, and other materials accumulates under your pup’s skin.
In most cases, sebaceous cysts are harmless and benign. However, it’s important that you keep tabs on the site of the cyst. Abnormalities in size, color, or shape are an indication that a vet visit is in order. Sometimes, too, your pup will experience discomfort in the affected area.
When in doubt, call your veterinarian! Never attempt to remove a sebaceous cyst on a dog at home, and don’t rely on just the internet for answers. Play it safe, and talk to your vet about cysts.
If you find this guide, “Sebaceous Cysts on Dogs: What to Expect and How to Treat Them,” helpful, check out:
- 3+ Types of Cockapoo Skin Allergies! (2023)
- Cyst in Dog’s Mouth: What Is It and How to Treat It! (2023)
- Follicular Cysts in Dogs: What to Do and How to Treat Them! (2023)
Learn more by watching “Is this Lump Serious? 5 Steps to Know” down below:
Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
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