Sebaceous Cyst Dog Treatment – How To Diagnose & Prevent

As responsible pet owners, we aim to keep our dogs healthy and happy. We want them to be comfortable and at ease with their environment. Our dogs rely on us to stay healthy.

But sometimes, there are just things that we can’t prevent. As much as we want them to stay healthy, sometimes they develop some sickness that affects their health, such as sebaceous cyst on dogs.

One of the common sicknesses that dogs get is having lumps or bumps. These are called cysts. Cysts are hollow spaces that are found within the tissues containing solidified or liquid materials. There are many types of the cyst, including dermoid cysts, true cysts, follicular cysts, false cysts, and sebaceous cysts

In this article, we will discuss what sebaceous cysts are, how they form, the sebaceous cysts dog symptoms to look for, and possible treatments for them.

What Are Sebaceous Cysts On A Dog?

Sebaceous cysts are swelling that forms underneath the skin of a dog. They form when the dog’s skin pore or hair follicle is blocked by scar tissue, dirt, or debris. These cysts are also known as sebaceous gland tumors

Sebaceous cysts can happen when the oily substance sebum (which keeps the hair healthy and shiny) clogs the skin pores and hair follicles. The clogged oil glands will form in large pimples when your dog’s body can no longer expel all of this oil from their body through regular ways such as perspiration or urination. Fortunately, most of the time these cysts are harmless

Though this type of cyst is harmless, it can cause infection if left untreated. This cyst can be treated at home using prescribed medication from your vet. However, for safe results, it is best to go to your vet.

Types Of Sebaceous Cysts

There are several types of sebaceous cysts:

  • Sebaceous gland Hyperplasia – occurs when there is an overgrowth of the sebaceous gland. These usually happen in older dogs. They look like shiny lumps mostly found on your dog’s abdomen and head.
  • Sebaceous gland Adenoma/epithelioma – these are usually found on the head or on the eyelids and are covered by crust.
  • Sebaceous gland hamartoma – this usually happens after a dog’s birth, and they are 2 inches long.
  • Sebaceous gland adenocarcinoma – these are harmful and malignant cysts that can be found on elderly dogs, and they can metastasize to the lymph nodes and lungs.

Causes Of Sebaceous Cysts In Dogs

There are several factors that may cause Sebaceous cysts in dogs. Sebaceous cysts or epidermoid cysts develop when the skin gland or hair follicle is blocked. 

dog lying on the floor

It can be caused by infections, genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, injury or trauma, blockage of hair follicles, insect bites, age, or swollen hair follicles.

  • Genetic predisposition – Dogs who have a family history of Sebaceous cysts (like some breeds of Schnauzers or Yorkshire terriers) are more likely to develop them.
  • Hormonal imbalances – During the puppy’s growth period, dogs may experience hormonal changes that can cause Sebaceous cysts. In older dogs, an increase in hormone activity such as testosterone and progesterone could lead to Sebaceous cyst formation.
  • Injury or trauma – A Sebaceous cyst may form if your dog experiences any type of injury or trauma to the oil glands.
  • Blockage of hair follicles – Sebaceous cysts in dogs may also be caused by any type of blockage that prevents hair follicles from releasing oil. Injuries, debris, or infections can also clog the pores, which results in creating cysts.
  • Insect bites –  Sebaceous cysts can also form if your dog is often bitten by insects such as mosquitoes.
  • Age – Sebaceous cysts in dogs may form at any age but are more common among older dogs from specific breeds.
  • Swollen hair follicles – Sebaceous cysts in dogs may also be caused by swollen ingrown hair that is scratched repeatedly which causes inflammation and irritation.

Symptoms Of Sebaceous Cyst In Dogs

The symptoms of sebaceous cyst are very similar to the symptoms of other skin problems, but luckily they are easy to identify. 

If your furry friend has a sebaceous cyst, you will notice a lump on the infected area. It usually looks white or slightly blue in color, and they are usually found on the neck, head, upper legs, and torso of your pet. 

The most common symptom associated with sebaceous cysts in dogs include:

  • Red infection
  • Raised lump and swelling
  • Hair loss around the infected area
  • Pain and bleeding
  • Fluid discharge
  • Multiple lumps

In some cases you might notice an unpleasant smell coming from these types of lesions as well. If left untreated these bumps could become infected which would cause additional issues for your pet. That’s why it’s important to visit your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms.

Diagnosis Of Sebaceous Cysts In Dogs

Sebaceous cysts in dogs are diagnosed through physical examination by your veterinarian. 

They will feel around the lump on your dog’s skin. If it feels like an abnormal growth they might consider taking a sample of it for testing at their clinic (by using needle or syringe). 

With the sample they can determine whether or not there is actually something wrong with it (like tumor) or it’s just another Sebaceous cyst that can be treated easily.

Sometimes the vet might consider doing a biopsy which is done by taking out an extremely small piece (instead just using a needle) and sending it to their lab for evaluation and definitive diagnosis.

Treatment Of Sebaceous Cyst

Although Sebaceous cysts are benign, it can be difficult to distinguish them from other forms of cysts, which can be harmful to your pet. So for best treatment it’s best to consult your vet regarding this matter. 

If you notice that your dog has a lump or hump and gets irritable about it, bring your dog to the vet for proper inspection. If it happens to be a Sebaceous cyst, the vet will prescribe some medications, or in some cases, surgical removal. 

Although Sebaceous cyst can cause no harm to your pet’s health, it is important to treat it on time to avoid infection, rapture, and bleeding.

The treatment depends on:

  • the status of the cyst, 
  • the number of cysts, and 
  • your pet’s health condition. 

If the cyst is new and you’ve caught it on time, the vet may prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs as treatment. 

If the cyst is in the advanced stage, your vet may need to do a biopsy or open and drain the cyst. If the cyst has ruptured, the doctor may need to treat it as any other infection or inflammation.

In cases of cyst removal, you need to keep the cyst area clean to avoid infection. The vet will advise you to avoid bathing your dog until they heal. The vet will also require your dog to wear an Elizabeth collar to prevent it from licking, scratching, or biting the area as it heals. 

Monitor if the wound is healing. If you notice that the wound is not healing or is not improving, consult your vet right away. 

Medications To Treat Sebaceous Cysts On Dogs

Antibiotics – In many cases, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics (pills or ointments) to treat sebaceous cyst on dogs. Antibiotics are used for treating secondary infections which is very common with Sebaceous cysts in dogs because they tend to grow back even after being surgically removed and can cause a lot of pain if left untreated. Usually, soon after the antibiotics treatment is completed, you may notice that the sebaceous cyst on your dog shrinks.

Anti-inflammatory medications – Sometimes the Sebaceous cyst can become inflamed and very painful for your dog, so your vet will prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate the pain associated. These medications can be in the form of pills, or sometimes topical steroid creams.

General Cost To Treat Sebaceous Cysts

Depending on the size of your dog and the stage of the cyst, the cost for treatment can be anywhere from $100 – $500. 

If they are causing pain or discomfort for your pet it might be worth getting them surgically removed even if it is a bit expensive (from $500 to $1000) since most cases will require an additional treatment anyways. 

Prevention Of Sebaceous Cysts In Dogs

Keeping a healthy routine for your dog is the best way to prevent Sebaceous cyst. Prevention is always the best treatment. 

Maintain a regular bath routine. A good quality shampoo specially designed for dogs can also keep your dog clean and healthy.

Keeping the fur healthy of our best buddy is our responsibility. Dogs have always been known to be very loyal, loving, and a great companion to us. They rely so much on us, and they deserve a lot of tender loving care from their human best friend in order to prevent these cysts or any kind of health issues.

Recovery From Sebaceous Cysts In Dogs

If Sebaceous cysts are surgically removed, recovery time is about a few weeks. 

beagle relaxing in bed

Your dog may have some pain for the first couple days after surgery and it usually takes up to two months before they heal completely.

As we mentioned previously, during the recovery period you may need to avoid bathing your dog and consider using an Elizabeth collar.

When To Visit A Veterinarian About Sebaceous Cysts In Dogs

If you notice any of the symptoms associated with Sebaceous cysts in dogs (that we’ve mentioned previously), it is important that you visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

The vet must examine the lump carefully to determine whether it’s an innocent cysts or cancerous tumor.

People Also Ask About Sebaceous Cysts

Can I Pop A Sebaceous Cyst On My Dog?

If Sebaceous cysts are extra small and do not cause any pain it can be alright to pop them yourself. However, to be on the safe side, we highly recommend visiting a vet first, especially if you notice the growth getting bigger or causing your dog discomfort.

What Does A Sebaceous Cyst Look Like On A Dog?

Sebaceous cysts in dogs are usually small, round lumps underneath the skin (from half inch to two inches in rare cases) that can be easily felt by your veterinarian. 

If left untreated they can grow very large and might become uncomfortable for your dog to move around. Sebaceous cyst on dog’s paw if left untreated can interfere with your dog’s normal ability to walk and run. Sebaceous cyst on dog’s eyelid if left untreated can interfere with their blinking (or can cause excessive blinking).

Are Sebaceous Cysts On Dogs Bad?

Sebaceous cysts are usually not that dangerous and bad, but they can cause your dog a lot of discomfort if left untreated. If you notice Sebaceous cyst on your dog or any other abnormal growth consult with your veterinarian immediately.

Why Does My Dog Get Sebaceous Cysts?

Sebaceous cysts are fairly common in older dogs. They are caused by the clogging of sebaceous glands which lead to abnormal growths underneath your dog’s skin.

Your dog can get Sebaceous cysts as a result of infections, genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, injury or trauma, blockage of hair follicles, insect bites, age, or swollen hair follicles.

Can I Drain A Sebaceous Cyst Myself?

In some cases, technically you can drain a Sebaceous cyst yourself. However, we don’t recommend this! It is important to consult with your veterinarian first because these types of lumps are very prone to infection and they might be better off draining at their clinic.

How Do You Dissolve Your Dog’s Sebaceous Cyst Naturally?

Sebaceous cysts do not dissolve naturally, but if you notice the growth getting larger or causing your dog discomfort it is important to get them removed by a veterinarian. 

Some people recommend dissolving a Sebaceous cyst with warm compresses or coconut oil, but we highly recommend consulting with your vet first before trying anything.

Do Sebaceous Cysts Go Away?

Sebaceous cysts on your dog do not go away on their own and you should consult with your veterinarian about the best way to get rid of them.

Last Thoughts On Sebaceous Cysts On Dog

So now that you know what sebaceous cysts are, how they form, and the symptoms to look for, it’s time to learn about treatments. 

The first thing you need to do is to consult with your veterinarian who will determine if the cyst can be removed by draining. If not, other treatment options may include antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications, or in rare cases – surgery (which can be quite expensive)

What have you done in order to treat a sebaceous cyst on your dog? Have you ever had to deal with one before? Share your story using our comment section below!

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Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

8 thoughts on “Sebaceous Cyst Dog Treatment – How To Diagnose & Prevent”

  1. My 14 yo still active Blue Tic Heeler/Border Collie/Lab mix male dog has two large sebaceous cysts on the back of his neck. One is bright red and porous and the other is more intact and dark in color with a couple of porous holes. They do ooze blood, especially after ball fetching which he loves. My vet said they are not infected and not painful to him. I do want to avoid surgery do to his age. Per my vet, I treat them once daily with warm compress and Chlorhexidine wipes cleaning and apply Animax ointment which I apply under and around each cyst. Lately, I’ve been been able to apply the Animax ointment directly into the porous holes. Im trying to avoid surgery do to his age. Is it ok to do this with the Animax ointment?

  2. Our 13 year old Bichon has a non-,Malignant cyst. It is itching and making him miserable. Apoquel is not helping. Is there anything that can be done. The Vet said with his heart mumor it would be go to put under.

  3. My 7 year old Cocker Spaniel has three vet diagnosed sebaceous cysts on his back that shrink when I give him lecithin although I have been unable to make them go away completely. Lecithin is 50 calories per scoop so I limit him to 1/2 scoop (1 tsp). I read that baking soda made into a paste by adding water and applied topically helps so I will try that next.

  4. My eight year old German Shepherd grows 6 to 10 of these every year. I pop the small and medium sized ones when I find them, and 40 to 50% of the time they don’t grow back. The large ones, I have surgically removed, but this means a surgery every 12 to 18 months. I noticed a 15-18 mm one was starting to drain on the back of his upper neck, and… I couldn’t resist squeezing it. I got all the sebaceous fluid out, and then pushed out one more plug of congealed sebaceous matter. There was some fresh blood coming out at the end. Now he’s got a tag of loose skin where the cysteine was at with a 1-1.5 mm hole that can let bacteria into this sequestered space. Kinda perfect for infection. It’s Saturday night, and emergency vet visits for this kind of thing are out of my budget. Should I start him on amoxicillin and keep an eye on it? Just watch and wait?

  5. My 15 year old Westie has a raptured sebaceous eipethilomas, has been removed twice. We wrap it everyday, it’s on her hinge lower leg. It smells and bleeds, we have been told the only way to get rid of it is by amputation of her leg but at her age I don’t know if she would recover from that, it breaks my heart to do that. Is there anything else I can do?

  6. We found a mass on my 4 year old Chihuahua. We took her to the vet and the doctor recommended just surgically removing it. It cost us $550….ouch. But my vet also didn’t know (or at least didn’t say) what it was right away. He said the best way to find out is just to remove it. Hoping this doesn’t become a regular thing. I’ll be buying her some special shampoo and bathing her more often.

  7. I have recently taken my 12 year old to the vet with a lump on her leg. Found out that it was a sebaceous cyst. The vet put a needle in and drew off the fluid. She is now on a course of penicillin, very relieved to find that it wasn’t too serious


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