How to Treat a Sebaceous Cyst on a Dog

A sebaceous cyst on a dog is nothing to worry about.  My dogs are about middle-aged now, which is 7 years old for them. Their youthful glow still lurks, but I’ve noticed changes too. For one thing, they have a lot of lumps and bumps that I find unnerving. 

The veterinarian says a sebaceous cyst on a dog is nothing to worry about, yet I keep poking and manipulating them. My dogs think I’m weird.

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The one thing I do know about are a sebaceous cyst on a dog (also known as sebaceous pimples) is that you cannot pop them.

Have you ever heard that you shouldn’t squeeze a pimple no matter how tempting it is? Same thing for a sebaceous cyst on dogs.  When you squeeze, the waxy material inside (made up of keratin, blood, and pus) sinks back into the skin tissue.

Some of it will come out, but the stuff left inside will just make the cyst return and might even cause an infection.

You can detect an infected sebaceous cyst by touching it. An infected cyst will feel warm. However, if you can leave it alone while preventing your dog from biting it, it shouldn’t get infected.

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. 

Here are some tips for 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.

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

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.

What if The Sebaceous Cyst on my Dog Ruptures on its own?

If the cyst happens to burst on its own, you’ll need to keep the area clean and disinfected. It’s not going to be pretty, but you will need to really keep that area clean to prevent serious infection. You’ll also need to prevent your dog from digging at the wound, or licking it. You should bring your dog to the veterinarian if the sebaceous cyst bursts. 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.

Are There Any At-Home Treatments I Can Use?

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.

Personally, I am a big fan of Burt’s Bees products. They have a great line for dogs that are naturally pH balanced.

Some people like to use a turmeric paste to apply topically, and others sprinkle it into the dog food. I have never tried turmeric in my dog’s diet, and I always recommend checking with your veterinarian before trying it.

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!

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