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Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment (2023)

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sebaceous cyst dogYou wake up one morning to find a strange lump on your beloved dog. Don’t panic – sebaceous cysts are more common than you think. Nearly 20% of dogs develop at least one sebaceous cyst in their lifetime. While alarming at first glance, these cysts are typically benign.

However, they can rupture or become infected, so it’s wise to monitor them closely. Keep reading to learn what causes these pesky yet prevalent pooch pimples and how to prevent or treat them.

Key Takeaways

  • Sebaceous cysts are round, smooth lumps under the skin that can range in size from 1/4 to 2 inches.
  • These cysts are caused by clogged pores and hair follicles, excessive sebum production, skin trauma or damage, genetic predisposition, and seasonal shedding fluctuations.
  • Sebaceous cysts are commonly found on the head, neck, chest, limbs, pressure points like elbows and paws, and eyelids.
  • Treatment for sebaceous cysts often involves pain management, diet changes, antibiotics for infection risk, and surgical removal if necessary.

What Are Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs?

What Are Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs
When fatty secretions accumulate under your dog’s skin, they can form round bumps called sebaceous cysts. Blocked pores, skin damage, and genetics often cause these solitary, smooth lumps that may secrete a white substance when ruptured or infected.

Though common on the head, neck, and body, prompt care is key because sebaceous cysts can bleed, become infected, or require surgical removal if not monitored by a veterinarian.

What Causes a Sebaceous Cyst?

You’ll want to keep an eye out for blocked pores or damaged skin that could let those pesky cysts build up under your pup’s fur. Those hair follicles and sebaceous glands can get clogged with excessive sebum, especially if your dog has a genetic predisposition.

Skin trauma, infections, and other damage can also trigger true cysts filled with that oily secretion.

What Does a Sebaceous Cyst Look Like on a Dog?

Take a closer look – you might spot small, white-blue bumps on your pup’s skin.

  • Round, firm lumps ranging from 1/4 – 2 inches
  • Solitary or multiple cysts
  • White, bluish tint; may have hair growing out

Skin trauma, UV damage, and inflammation can all contribute to your canine companion developing these small sebaceous cysts. Stay alert for new lumps and bumps popping up in dry areas or pressure points prone to skin irritation.

Schedule a vet visit promptly if you find any suspicious bumps to keep your pup healthy.

Why Can Sebaceous Cysts Become a Problem?

Suddenly seepage signals something seriously skewing your sweet pup’s skin health. Cysts carrying keratin-rich crud can rupture, causing weeping wounds vulnerable to wicked infections. Licking leads to more lacerations. Discomfort drives distressing digging. Removing unruly lumps liberates your loving companion’s liberated spirit.

Consult a trusted vet promptly to protect your precious pooch against problematic cysts erupting painfully. Intervene immediately instead of waiting before woeful weeping wounds require surgical solutions.

Where Do Sebaceous Cysts Tend to Occur?

It’s common for sebaceous cysts to appear around the head, neck, chest, and upper limbs of dogs. They can also be found in pressure points such as elbows and paws. These cysts tend to develop where oil glands are abundant in follicular tissue.

The head, neck, and chest have many oil glands, so cysts often emerge there. Hairless breeds, prone to inactivity of hair follicles, also commonly develop cysts on the body. Eyelids contain oil glands that can clog and lead to meibomian cysts. Using a light touch when examining your dog regularly helps detect any new concerning lumps needing a vet’s diagnostic skills.

Which Dogs Tend to Get Them?

Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to developing sebaceous cysts than others, including Boxers and Schnauzers. This is likely due to genetic factors resulting in increased sebaceous gland and hair follicle activity.

The cysts form when secretions build up due to clogged pores and hair follicles. Other predisposing factors include poor nutrition, chronic skin irritation, and seasonal shedding fluctuations. Regular skin checks and prompt veterinary attention at the first sign of any lump can help reduce complications.

How Are Sebaceous Cysts Diagnosed?

How Are Sebaceous Cysts Diagnosed
When your veterinarian finds a new lump or bump on your dog, getting an accurate diagnosis is crucial. To identify sebaceous cysts, the vet will first perform a fine needle aspirate to collect fluid or cells for examination.

However, because fine needle aspirates can sometimes show normal fat cells even from a cyst, your vet may ultimately recommend a surgical biopsy to get a definitive diagnosis. Dealing with diagnostic surprises emphasizes the importance of following your vet’s advice even if the initial findings seem unclear.

Fine Needle Aspirate

You’ll need a vet to perform a fine needle aspirate of the bump for diagnosis. This involves carefully inserting a thin needle into the cyst and withdrawing a small sample for examination under a microscope.

Proper sampling technique is key to obtaining an accurate diagnosis. The minimal tissue damage of FNA makes it preferable to biopsy in some cases, although it does carry the risk of introducing infection.

Your vet will determine the best diagnostic method to distinguish benign sebaceous cysts from concerning skin tumors.


Excisional biopsy is often the go-to diagnostic for nailing down those tricky subcutaneous bumps on your pup. Your vet takes a small ellipse of tissue under local anesthesia, seeking complete removal of concerning growths for microscopic examination.

Though requiring anesthesia, sutured closure, and infection prevention steps during recovery, biopsy allows inspection of cyst cell composition and potential skin irritation sources. Recurrent infected cysts with a foul smell suggest the need to uncover underlying factors impacting your dog’s skin health.

Dealing With Diagnostic Surprises

Despite thorough pre-biopsy exams, cyst surprises still sneak up post-procedure. The offender involved may be controversial findings like test misinterpretation, delay in diagnosing, or unnecessary procedures.

Follicular cysts in boxer dogs often require further diagnostic investigation, such as surgical excision, to analyze sebaceous secretions.

What Types of Treatments Are Available for Sebaceous Cysts?

What Types of Treatments Are Available for Sebaceous Cysts
Funny you should ask about treatments the same week your vet scheduled Fluffy’s cyst removal surgery! Managing pain is a priority, as well as dietary changes that may help reduce inflammation. Early detection of these cysts can also make treatment easier and less invasive.

Good grooming habits are important in preventing the development of sebaceous cysts. Brushing regularly helps to keep hair follicles clear from obstruction or infection. Natural remedies like aloe vera or tea tree oil could be effective for small solitary lesions, but won’t address multiple smaller follicular ones which require surgical removal by veterinarians who specialize in this procedure.

Laser treatment may be used if there is significant scarring. Post-surgical care must include antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to prevent recurrence. Special attention should be given to how often they groom their pet and what type of shampoo they use in order to maintain healthy skin conditions overall.

Regular checkups are also important. By following these steps, owners can ensure their pets receive appropriate medical care while reducing risk factors associated with developing sebaceous cysts through prevention strategies such as good nutrition and diligent observation at home.

Is There Any Special Care That I Should Provide to My Dog?

Is There Any Special Care That I Should Provide to My Dog
You can help keep your dog’s skin healthy by providing quality nutrition, regular grooming, and monitoring for new lumps or bumps. Prevention measures include making sure to feed a balanced diet with omega-3s and using benzoyl peroxide shampoos to reduce oil production.

Hairless breeds are more likely than other dogs to develop sebaceous cysts due to inactivity of the hair follicles, so check these areas regularly too.

When you notice any type of mass on your pup, it’s time for a vet visit! The veterinarian will be able to examine the appearance as well as take a fine needle aspirate (FNA) sample from within the cyst contents if needed.

Biopsies are preferred when accuracy is desired. Common treatments involve antibiotics and anti-inflammatories if inflammation is present. Surgical removal may be necessary in some cases, while laser treatment could also be used where there has been significant scarring.

Allergic reactions have been reported after shifting of cyst contents, so care must always be taken before attempting home remedies like aloe vera or tea tree oils – consult with your vet first! By following these steps, owners can ensure their pets receive appropriate medical care while reducing risk factors associated with developing sebaceous cysts through prevention strategies such as good nutrition and diligent observation at home.

At Home Treatment for Sebaceous Cysts on Dogs

At Home Treatment for Sebaceous Cysts on Dogs
Instead, jump on checking for new lumps like a hound on a scent since being proactive helps catch problems early or confirm benign. Sebaceous cysts should not be squeezed or lanced at home due to the high risk of infection and further complications.

  • Opt for medicated skin cleansing products like benzoyl peroxide shampoos to help reduce oil production from the sebaceous glands in the epidermis.
  • Gently massage the area with topical applications containing tea tree oil, which has antimicrobial properties to prevent germ introduction if cysts rupture.
  • Focus on improving skin health holistically by adding omega-3 supplements to provide essential fatty acids and increase keratin production for stronger keratinous tissues.

Consult your veterinarian before attempting any at-home remedies, as some may exacerbate the condition. Proper medical treatment and prevention will help avoid recurrent sebaceous cysts on your pup.

Be Proactive About Skin Masses

Be Proactive About Skin Masses
Don’t drag your paws checking your pup for new lumps ’cause being quick on the draw can help nip problems in the bud. Regularly examine your dog’s skin and feel for any new masses or bumps. This allows early detection of potential issues.

Monitor closely so you’ll notice changes right away. Document your findings, like size, texture, and location, to inform the vet. If a new lump arises, ask questions – don’t just wait and see. Focus on the skin’s keratin and oils produced by the sebaceous glands in the epidermis.

Routinely feel the dermis and follicle areas to stay ahead of the game in spotting concerns promptly. Being proactive and on top of regular exams puts you in the best position to act fast when needed.

Has Your Dog Had Sebaceous Cysts?

Has Your Dog Had Sebaceous Cysts
It’s prudent to have the vet evaluate new bumps. Pay close attention to any lumps near your dog’s eyes or other sensitive areas. Note if they vary in size and check multiple locations. Sebaceous cysts often arise solely on the head but may spread.

  1. Antibiotics
  2. Anti-inflammatory medication
  3. Surgical removal

Sebaceous cysts stem from the sebaceous glands in hair follicles. Other names for this common type of cyst include keratinous cysts, epidermoid cysts, and follicular cysts. While usually benign, some may represent more serious sebaceous adenomas or epitheliomas.

Have any new lumps examined promptly to determine the best care. Stay observant for changes and follow up as advised.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What causes sebaceous cysts in dogs?

A clogged pore or damaged hair follicle traps oily sebum and debris under your pup’s skin, causing those pesky cysts. Let your vet assess any lumps; some may need drainage while others heal on their own.

Are sebaceous cysts in dogs contagious or can they spread between dogs?

No, sebaceous cysts aren’t contagious or spread between dogs. They form from blocked pores and oil buildup unique to each dog. Getting cysts checked promptly helps prevent complications, while monitoring small ones lets you know if they enlarge.

How can I tell a sebaceous cyst apart from other skin masses on my dog?

You can tell apart a sebaceous cyst by its smooth, round shape and waxy, cheese-like contents. Unlike other lumps, these originate in oil glands under hair follicles. They lack the fluid-filled nature of lipomas or the vascular appearance of histiocytomas.

Is there anything I can do to prevent my dog from developing sebaceous cysts?

You can help prevent sebaceous cysts by feeding a balanced diet rich in omega-3s, using medicated shampoos, checking your dog’s skin weekly, and scheduling vet visits promptly if you find any new lumps or bumps.

Will sebaceous cysts go away on their own without treatment in dogs?

Unfortunately, sebaceous cysts typically do not resolve on their own without veterinary treatment. These cysts often persist, frequently recur after draining, and can enlarge over time. To effectively remove the cyst and reduce the likelihood of recurrence, surgical extraction or laser removal is usually required.


As you lovingly browse social media for skin and coat tips, take a break from envying glossy dogs to glance at your own pup. Though their skin may seem like a loyal fabric, sebaceous cysts doggedly lurk beneath.

Don’t let neglect unleash bumps and lumps! Stay vigilant against these unwelcome guests, taking your dog to the vet posthaste. With prompt care, you can both avoid the tragedy of ending up as a sad before photo.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief with a team of qualified veterinarians, their goal? Simple. Break the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your furry four-legged friends.