How to Treat a Sebaceous Cyst on a Dog

I can tell you from personal experience how to treat a sebaceous cyst on a dog. My Labrador retriever, Emma, developed a small cyst about six months ago. It was firm but movable. In fact, it didn’t seem to bother her at all! Still, I brought her in to see the veterinarian who confirmed that it was a sebaceous cyst.

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I asked her what I should do and her answer was basically, nothing. She told me to bring Emma back in if the cyst suddenly grew, but that didn’t happen. The months went by and it was only this week when I noticed the lump had grown significantly. In fact, it was seeping and red. Once again, I made an appointment and brought Emma to see the veterinarian..

I thought the veterinarian would lance the cyst and drain the fluid but she didn’t. In this post, I’m going to tell you exactly what she said in how to treat a sebaceous cyst on a dog. If you scroll down you’ll see a photograph of what Emma’s cyst looks like today.

Get a Diagnosis First

It’s important to have a licensed veterinarian look at any new lumps or bumps on your dog. Newly formed lumps could be a sign of cancer or, more likely, is a benign tumor. Never assume you know what the lump is. If the veterinarian is concerned, they might want to do a biopsy or take a small sample of fluid for further investigation.

Lumps and bumps are usually a normal part of aging for dogs, but sometimes they can be serious. The veterinarian will want to make sure it’s not something like a mast cell tumor, hemangiosarcoma (these are typically benign), or another type of cyst.

The following image is what Emma’s cyst looks like now:

How to Treat a Sebaceous Cyst in Dogs
Sebaceous cyst that grew, burst, and was seeping. It is now being treated with antibiotics and warm compresses.

Don’t POP the Pimple

The one thing I do know about are a sebaceous cyst on a dog (also known as sebaceous pimples) is that you should never pop them yourself. It seems like the best way to relieve the pressure and build-up, but it also leaves your dog with an open wound that is vulnerable to infection.

My Emma rolls over dead things for fun. She runs through stagnant ditch water and ends up in all kinds of unsanitary places. She’s a dog! Her vaccinations keep her safe, but if your dog isn’t up-to-date on vaccines, they could come in contact with leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a nasty bacteria found in stagnant water, especially in humid areas.

Dr. Pimple Popper isn’t a show about dog cysts, but there are striking similarities between sebaceous cysts in dogs and humans. Take a look at the video below. Warning: Might be too gross for some people!

Inflamed Cyst Waterfall on the Back with Dr Pimple Popper

Do I Just Ignore an Ugly Sebaceous Cyst on a Dog?

Kind of, yeah.  If the cyst is in a place that doesn’t bother the dog or hinders his/her eyesight or movement, it’s best to leave it alone. That said, what you think is a sebaceous cyst might be something else (cancerous), so please have it checked out as soon as you can. 

Identifying a Sebaceous Cyst on a Dog.

1) It should feel slightly firm but moveable just under the skin.

2)  These cysts are painless growths that have a white-tinge to them (and sometimes blueish streak).

3) They might grow over time.

4) Sebaceous cyst on a dog are will feel round just beneath the dog’s skin.

5) Dogs are most likely to develop sebaceous cysts on their paws, head, back, and tail. Of course, Emma didn’t. Her cyst growth is on the side of her tummy.

Treating a Sebaceous Cyst on a Dog

Treating a sebaceous cyst is actually quite easy, but you must bring your dog to a licensed veterinarian FIRST. Until your veterinarian is confident about what the lump actually is, there’s not much you can do to treat it at home.

NOTE: If it’s an uncompromised cyst with no sign of eruption, pain, or infection, the veterinarian may just send you home. Watch the cyst and if any changes occur, bring your dog back for further evaluation.

If, however, the cyst has ruptured and is seeping, the veterinarian will very likely prescribe antibiotics to keep infection at bay. Do follow the instructions and make sure to give your dog the entire course of treatment.

Stopping antibiotic treatment too soon is dangerous. There could be silent bacteria still lurking around that will take any opportunity to make itself known. In addition, antibiotic resistance can develop if your dog requires another round.

Warm Compresses & Epsom Salts

The best way to allow the cyst to drain naturally is to apply a warm compress to the area. I heat a face cloth in a basin filled with hot water and dissolved epsom salts. If it’s too hot for me to handle, it’s too hot for your dog. Be careful.

EPSOM SALTS are inexpensive and can be purchased at any drug store. Do not use salts with added fragrance. Plain is best. Follow the instructions on the package to know how much to use.


Emma has been prescribed Apo-Cephalex 500 mg, 1 and 1/2 tablets every 12 hours. This is Day 2 and she has not shown any side-effects at all. It’s important to make sure she has food in her stomach before giving her the medication as this helps reduce gastrointestinal upset.

What is The Worse-Case Scenario for a Dog Cyst?

The worst-case scenario here would involve interference of the cyst through manual popping.  It’s going to hurt your dog and leave the wound open to infection. Once infection sets in, your dog will require antibiotics. 

Will Sebaceous Cysts on Dogs Go Away on Their Own?

A sebaceous cyst on a dog will take one of three trajectories:   1) It will dissolve on its own.   2) It will rupture naturally.   3) It will wall itself off.   

When a sebaceous cyst walls itself off, it forms a protective barrier keeping it from erupting.

If it feels like little peas inside, just leave it alone. Once walled off, the cyst will remain the same. Remember, these are typically benign and don’t need a lot of medical intervention.  That said, I think it’s important to mention again that you should get any new lumps and bumps checked out by a veterinarian. He/she will provide you with the best advice.

What Caused A Sebaceous Cyst to Grow on My Dog?

A Sebaceous cyst on a dog forms within the skin when sebum (the oily substance created by the sebum glands on the skin before blocked). Normally, sebum is released from hair (or fur) follicles through the sebaceous gland ducts beneath the skin. 

Sebum is normally distributed through your dog’s fur with protects the skin and gives the fur a healthy shine.   When blocked, the sebum has no way of escaping through the skin. As a result, the material backs up into one place causing a raised cyst.

The cyst itself is made up of when a collection of dead skin cells, dirt, bacteria, or pus. The matter within the cyst has a horrible smell and can look like curdled milk or a dark, waxy substance.

He/she will provide some medication to help heal the area. In more extreme cases, surgical removal might be an option, especially if it affects your dog’s quality of life.

Preventing Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs

The best treatment is a preventative one. Too much bathing and too little bathing can both cause the development of sebaceous cyst on a dog. Maintain a regular bath routine with a good quality shampoo formulated specifically for dogs.

At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is leave it alone. If you see signs of infection (redness, warmth) see the veterinarian.

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Interested in learning more about skin problems in dogs including dermatitis?  Check out this post!To find out what Lisa is really about…click here.

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