Sebaceous Cyst in Dogs

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Table of Contents

The majority of this article is written by a certified veterinarian.

Feeling a sudden lump on your dog’s skin can be concerning, but there are many harmless conditions that result in bumps. One such condition is a sebaceous cyst.

This article will discuss in detail the symptoms, general appearance, types, causes, treatment, and prevention of sebaceous cysts.

What is a Sebaceous Cyst?

A cyst is a liquid- or solid-filled hollow space within tissues.

A sebaceous cyst is a clogged sebaceous gland, which are glands associated with hair follicles. These glands are responsible for producing the waxy, oily secretion known as sebum.

Sebaceous cysts are a common condition in dogs, comparable to a large pimple, and generally harmless. However, they are prone to secondary infections.

What Does a Sebaceous Cyst Look Like in Dogs?

A dog with sebaceous cyst photo.

There are many symptoms of sebaceous cyst in dogs, but they typically present singly, as white or slightly blue well-defined bumps on the head, neck, torso, and upper legs.

The main sebaceous cyst symptoms are:

• Raised Bump

A raised bump or lump is usually the first sign dog owners notice.

The bumps in sebaceous cysts are typically 0.5 to 5 cm in size, either round or elongated and can be one or more in number.

They can be either raised areas or nodules.

• Inflammation

Inflammation is a common symptom of a sebaceous cyst.

It is not unusual to find inflammation and redness in the area around the cyst. Swelling and infection can also occur.

• Pain

While not normally painful, sebaceous cysts are prone to infections, and the infected cysts can be quite painful. They might also bleed.

• Hair loss

When left untreated for long periods, sebaceous cysts can result in hair loss in the skin immediately around the bump or cyst.

• Discharge

Another sign of sebaceous cysts is grayish-white, brownish, yellowish, or cottage cheese-like discharge from the raised bump on your dog’s skin. This fluid discharge also hints towards sebaceous cyst rupture.

Types of Sebaceous Cysts

A closeup photo of a sebaceous cyst near dog's eye.

Sebaceous cysts in dogs appear in many different types.

These sebaceous cyst types are described in detail here:

1. Sebaceous gland hyperplasia

Sebaceous gland hyperplasia is a benign type of sebaceous cyst that may develop anywhere on your dog’s skin. These cysts are most commonly found on the head, limbs, eyelids, and abdomen.

It is an overgrowth of sebaceous gland cells and is especially common in older dogs.

Appearance:
As for appearance, it is generally a raised, wart-like, shiny lump with a diameter of 0.5 to 1 cm and a pink to orange color. They can be more than one in number and do not typically cause irritation. Certain breeds are more prone, like beagles, cocker spaniels, poodles, dachshunds, and miniature schnauzers.

2. Sebaceous Gland Adenoma / Epithelioma

An adenoma is a type of benign tumor that affects various body organs, while an epithelioma is a tumor of the surface layer of tissue known as the epithelium.

Appearance:
Sebaceous gland adenoma and epithelioma greatly resemble sebaceous gland hyperplasia in behavior and appearance, but epitheliomas have a higher chance of recurrence. Look out for a raised, shiny lump of a pink or orange color.

Older dogs are most frequently affected, and the head and eyelids are common sites of occurrence.

Dog Breeds Commonly Affected:
Breeds like Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Husky, Coonhound, English Cocker Spaniel, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, and Irish Setters are especially predisposed.

3. Sebaceous Gland Hamartoma

A hamartoma is a local, benign malformation where the cells of a particular area exceed the surrounding area. A sebaceous hamartoma is an abnormal benign growth found near conspicuous sebaceous glands, which can be either circular or elongated in shape and is usually about 2 inches in size.

This type is usually present from birth, although it is possible for it not to be noticed until the dog is an adult.

Most vets recommend treating these via surgery or medication as they can easily result in secondary infections, obstructions, and neoplasia.

4. Sebaceous Gland Adenocarcinoma

An adenocarcinoma is a malignant tumor (cancer) that originates in the glandular structures of epithelial tissues.

Sebaceous adenocarcinomas are rare malignant cysts of the sebaceous glands commonly found in middle-aged or senior dogs.

These sebaceous cysts show characteristic ulceration and inflammation of the surrounding tissues and have the potential for metastasis and recurrence.

Dog Breeds Commonly Affected:
Males from breeds like Cocker Spaniels, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Scottish, Cairn, and West Highland White Terriers are most prone.

Causes of Sebaceous Cyst in Dogs

While the exact cause of sebaceous cyst in dogs is not known by scientists, some theorized sebaceous cyst causes are:

• Genetics

Dogs can be genetically predisposed to certain diseases, with some breeds suffering more than others.

For example, your dog has a high chance of developing sebaceous cysts later in life if they  have a family history of sebaceous cysts.

• Hormones

Hormones affect sebum production, so hormonal imbalances often result in sebaceous cysts.

This is true for both young puppies experiencing hormonal changes and older dogs with increased testosterone and progesterone activity.

• Trauma

Any kind of injury or trauma to the sebaceous glands can result in the formation of a sebaceous cyst.

This includes skin infections, scar tissue, trauma, and inflammation.

• Blockage

Sebaceous cysts can be caused by blockage of the hair follicle openings, which result in the produced sebum accumulating inside the gland.

Common causes of such blockages are debris, injuries, and infections.

• Ingrown Hair

Another possible cause of sebaceous cysts in dogs is ingrown hair.

These ingrown hairs can cause swelling and irritation, which, when scratched repeatedly, give rise to inflammation, eventually resulting in a cyst.

• Reactions

Sometimes sebaceous cysts can also form as a result of insect bites or allergic reactions.

The insect bite reaction can be in response to any insect bite, like a mosquito bite.

• Age

Age is a definite factor in the formation of sebaceous cysts, as such cysts are most commonly found in older dogs from sebaceous cyst-prone breeds.

However, this does not mean that a young dog cannot develop a cyst.

Which Dog Breeds Are Most Prone to Sebaceous Cyst?

A brown and a black King Charles Spaniel.

The dog breeds most likely to develop a sebaceous cyst include:

Alaskan Malamute, Cairn, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, Coonhound, English Cocker Spaniel, Husky, Irish Setters, Lhasa Apsos, Samoyed, Scottish, Shih Tzus, and West Highland White Terriers.

How to Get Rid of Sebaceous Cysts

Once a sebaceous cyst is confirmed, your vet will either treat it with surgery, drainage, and medication or leave it alone to see if it develops. You can also use home remedies to treat cysts.

Some dog sebaceous cyst treatments include:

1. Antibiotics

Sebaceous cysts can become infected quite easily, and if this happens, your vet might prescribe your dog antibiotics to help manage and treat the infection.

These antibiotics can be either in the form of oral pills or topical ointments. They should effectively shrink or completely disappear the infected sebaceous cyst.

2. Anti-inflammatory Medicines

Anti-inflammatory medications like NSAIDs and steroids are also prescribed in case of an infected and inflamed sebaceous cyst.

These medications are typically in the form of anti-inflammatory pills or topical steroid creams.

3. Surgery

Surgery is the most effective method of sebaceous cyst removal and is usually performed in cases where:

1. The base abnormality is malignant,

2. The cyst is in a problematic location,

3. The cyst is recurrent, or

4. The cyst has ruptured and becomes infected.

4. Draining

For cysts that do not require surgery, your vet might just open and drain the cyst before applying topical medication to prevent infection and promote healing.

You can also help a cyst drain at home by applying an antibacterial warm compress 3 times a day for approximately 10 minutes.

How To Treat Sebaceous Cysts At Home

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Try these home remedies for sebaceous cysts in dogs, in addition to the above-mentioned antibacterial warm compress.

1. Castor Oil

Castor oil is frequently considered one of the best home remedies for sebaceous cysts.

How To Use:
To use it, first, apply some cotton balls soaked in very warm water to the cyst until cool, and then apply the castor oil.

Repeat three times a day for a whole week.

Castor oil is frequently considered one of the best home remedies for sebaceous cysts.

How To Use:
To use it, first, apply some cotton balls soaked in very warm water to the cyst until cool, and then apply the castor oil.

Repeat three times a day for a whole week.

2. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been reported to reduce the size of sebaceous cysts when applied topically.

How To Use:
To use coconut oil for your dog’s sebaceous cysts, apply it with soaked cotton balls, like with castor oil.

Or, add it in small amounts to your dog’s food and let them eat it.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is known for its infection and cancer-fighting properties, making it a great choice to treat sebaceous cysts at home.

Just add a teaspoon or two of turmeric to your dog’s food.

Important:
Keep in mind that Turmeric can interfere with antibiotics, and the blood’s ability to clot, so only use it sparingly, as needed.

How to Prevent Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs

Of course, effective prevention is not 100% possible without knowing the exact cause of sebaceous cysts.

Some ways to reduce the risks are:

• Diet and Exercise

Despite the sebaceous cyst’s genetic roots, a healthy routine with sufficient exercise and a balanced diet is usually considered the best way to prevent the disease.

Carefully take into account your dog’s exercise needs to give them regular walk/run/playtime and a healthy, balanced diet with a lot of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

You can also add these needed nutrients to your dog’s diet in the form of fish or sunflower oil.

• Bath Routine

A regular bath routine can also help prevent cysts by keeping your dog’s sebaceous glands from getting clogged.

Be sure to have treats and toys on hand to redirect attention from dogs who aren’t used to baths and make it a positive experience.

Also, remember to use a high-quality dog shampoo. Human shampoo is often too harsh for a dogs’s skin.

A regular bath routine can also help prevent cysts by keeping your dog’s sebaceous glands from getting clogged.

Be sure to have treats and toys on hand to redirect attention from dogs who aren’t used to baths and make it a positive experience.

Also, remember to use a high-quality dog shampoo. Human shampoo is often too harsh for a dogs’s skin.

• Regular Brushing

Regular brushing and grooming go a long way in maintaining your dog’s skin and fur health.

As sebaceous cysts are primarily a disease of the skin, keeping your dog’s skin healthy can greatly reduce the chances of developing cysts.

Regular brushing also helps distribute the oils in your dog’s fur better, which can also prevent sebaceous glands from clogging in the first place.

Wrapping Up

If your dog gets a sebaceous cyst, it may need treatment from a vet to get your dog back to normal.

All in all, your dog should be OK as long as you keep infection away. Try these home remedies and contact your vet to help prevent infection.

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