Sebaceous adenomas in dogs are benign growths that develop within the sebaceous glands (oil glands) of the skin. They tend to appear on the faces, trunks and toes of middle-aged to older dogs. The uglier the lump, the more alarmed we tend to get. However, in this case there’s nothing to worry about. They’re ugly, but not dangerous.
As we age, our bodies show wear and tear. Unfortunately, it’s no different for our dogs. Mysterious lumps and bumps suddenly appear and, of course, we worry about them. It’s always a good idea to have suspicious lumps checked out by a veterinarian. They may recommend a biopsy/fine needle aspirate to determine whether the lump is malignant (cancerous) or benign.
This post will take you through some of the more common types of lumps and skin conditions in dogs, including the development of sebaceous adenomas. You’ll learn what they are, what to do about them, and how they could impact your dog in the long-run.
How to Identify Sebaceous Adenomas in Dogs
Sebaceous adenomas (also known as sebaceous hyperplasia) are, essentially, warts. They appear on middle-aged to older dogs and look like a florette or stalk of cauliflower. You’ll notice a stack of tiny bumps clumped together and can expect them to become (in some cases) quite large.
Some tell-tale signs of a sebaceous adenoma include:
- Sebaceous adenomas feel oily when gently squeezed.
- Look like a stalk of cauliflower.
- Sometimes secrete liquid that dries up and crusts.
Malignant Tumors You Should Know About
Any time you hear the word “carcinoma”, think cancer. Roughly 2% of sebaceous tumors are malignant meaning it can spread to other parts of the dog’s body. However, this specific type of tumor is rarely malignant and is unlikely to spread. For that reason, treatment options are easier and quicker.
In the unlikely event that your dog has sebaceous carcinoma, the veterinarian will discuss the treatment options with you. Don’t be afraid to ask about the prognosis, staging, or grading of the tumor.
Again, in most cases removal of sebaceous gland tumors is straightforward and can frequently be done with a simple local anesthetic. If further treatment is needed, your veterinarian will inform you of options.
Mast Cell Tumors
The first malignant tumor that comes to mind are mast cell tumors. Generally speaking, they don’t have the same cauliflower appearance of a sebaceous adenoma, but they still require the care of a licensed veterinarian.
Mast cell tumors can appear anywhere on the body and are not as easily identified without a biopsy. Depending on the stage and grade of the tumor, surgical removal is typically recommended. During the operation, a wide margin of skin around the tumor is taken for further testing. The idea is to get all of the cancer out and to make sure it hasn’t had a chance to spread.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can affect people and pets. The disease is caused by exposure to direct sunlight and results in a dark sore or lump on the dog’s body. Like many new lumps and bumps, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re dealing with until you seek the help of a veterinarian.
If you spot a lump on your dog’s head (including the mouth, lips, and eye) that doesn’t share any of the characteristics of a sebaceous adenoma, make an appointment with the veterinarian as soon as possible. The life expectancy of a dog with malignant melanoma depends on the stage and grade of the lump. Other factors that could play into your dog’s life expectancy include age and underlying health conditions.
Learn about mouth cancer in dogs HERE!
Stop Messing with It!
Unless the wart is in a place that is really going to bother the dog, there’s really nothing that needs to be done. Surgical removal is generally not recommended. The risk of surgery for an older dog outweighs the need for the cosmetic removal of the wart.
If the wart is in a spot where your dog tends to lick at it, you might want to consider having it removed. This is especially true if your dog is scratching at it or chewing on it. On its own, sebaceous adenomas cause no harm. If they’re turned into bleeding sores, however, the skin is at risk of bacterial infection. Plus, if the location of the wart is causing your dog that much discomfort, having it surgically removed might just be the best option.
Which Dog Breeds are More Likely to Develop Warts?
Sometimes, however, sebaceous adenomas in dogs grow in places where the dog can get at them. If your dog is always itching, biting, and chewing at the wart, you might consider having it removed. These benign tumors are harmless, but constant irritation of the area can lead to bleeding and infection.
Dogs between 8-13 years are at an increased risk and the breeds that are genetically predisposed include English Cocker Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Cock-a-poo, Alaskan Malamute, West Highland White Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Dachshund, Miniature Poodle, Toy Poodle, Shih Tzu, Basset Hounds, Beagles and Kerry Blue Terriers. However, no sex predilection has been reported so far.
Watch this short YouTube Video where they use laser technology to remove a sebaceous adenoma.
This One Won’t Go Viral!
There are different types of warts in dogs, but only warts with a viral cause are contagious. The one type of dog wart that is viral is called a papilloma. These tend to occur in younger dogs and are spread from mouth-to-mouth contact, sharing toys, food, etc.
Canine oral papilloma looks a bit like a regular dog wart. They have the same cauliflower appearance in that they both resemble a cluster of small bumps. They are both considered benign, but oral papilloma is caused by a virus and affects the mucous membranes. If you spot a cluster of bumps on the inside of your dog’s mouth, it could be oral papilloma.
Sebaceous adenomas in dogs develop in the sebaceous glands and are not caused by a virus. For this reason, they are not contagious.
What Causes Sebaceous Adenomas in Dogs?
Your dog’s skin is complicated. The epidermis, which is the uppermost level, covers and protects your dog against heat, cold, and protects the organs from damage. Any hormonal or chemical disruption to the skin can cause disturbances that result in infection, inflammation, clogged pores, and even infected hair follicles.
As we age (and as our dogs age), the skin changes. The natural oils and elasticity of youth disappear. Your dog’s skin may become drier or oilier. The coat may thin and even the texture of the fur might change somewhat. All of these hormonal shifts and changes in the body trigger the epithelial cells into action. Sometimes, the result is a cancerous growth. Other times, the changes result in the common dog wart, or sebaceous adenoma.
Sebaceous adenomas are benign tumors of the oil gland (sebaceous) cells of the skin. The result is a cauliflower-like eruption that is unsightly, but not dangerous. In some cases, dogs may develop sebaceous cysts or even seborrhea (dermatitis).
Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs – Which Breed is More Susceptible?
It seems that there are specific breeds that are prone to various ailments. In this case, sebaceous adenomas are more common in older dogs. The breed types most susceptible include terriers, poodles, cocker spaniels, and miniature schnauzers. That doesn’t mean your dog will develop these cysts, it’s just worth noting that some breeds are more prone than others.
Warts are common in dogs, particularly older dogs. Any breed can be affected, but there are some breeds noted to be more predisposed. These include miniature schnauzers and cocker spaniels.
Take a look at the infographic below for statistics.
How Do I Know for Sure That It’s NOT Cancer?
You don’t. You can look up images of sebaceous adenomas in dogs to get a better idea of what you’re looking for, but only a licensed veterinarian can tell you what that mystery lump really is. Keep in mind that warts are common in dogs, especially older dogs. That top-of-the-head cluster is probably a benign growth. Some growths are simply fatty tumors. Unfortunately, malignant sebaceous tumors can look the same (or similar) as a non-cancerous growth.
Keep in mind that not every veterinarian will want to immediately do a biopsy. I recently brought my pit bull mix into the veterinarian for a suspicious lump on his gums. At 7 ½, he’s pretty much considered “senior” and, at this stage of life, anything could happen. I expected the veterinarian to suggest a fine needle aspiration (biopsy) but, instead, she suggested a wait-and-see approach.
If you’re given that option but don’t feel comfortable waiting, go ahead and ask for the biopsy anyway. The cost will depend on the clinic, but sometimes the added expense is much better than constant worry.
Sebaceous WHAT? I’m Confused!
The terminology used to define the different lumps and bumps found on dogs is confusing. An adenoma, for example, simply means “a benign tumor”. Adenocarcinoma, however, is an entirely different beast. Carcinoma means cancer.
When speaking to the veterinarian about your dog’s particular condition, don’t be afraid to take notes and ask questions. You don’t want to go home thinking you heard one thing only to find out it was something entirely different. Don’t worry over nothing if you don’t have to.
You might think you’ve got it all memorized at the time, but the minute you get home you can’t remember if the veterinarian was talking about sebaceous adenomas in dogs, carcinoma or malignant tumors. Of course, you can always call back for verification. For peace of mind, however, it doesn’t hurt to ask questions.
I Can’t Stand the Look of That Thing!
Old dog warts are pretty ugly, especially if they’re big and in a prominent place. If the veterinarian has determined there is no risk to your dog’s health, the best attitude to take is one of acceptance. Surgical removal, however, might be an option if you really can’t stand the appearance. Again, the veterinarian will make a sound judgement based on risk factors including age and other underlying conditions your dog may have.
As long as it doesn’t bother your dog and it’s not cancerous, the best bet is to leave it alone.
Let’s Sum This Up
If you’re lucky enough to age, your skin will eventually wrinkle. Age spots might appear on your face and hands. You might even develop unsightly moles. It’s not pretty, but that’s the reality of this thing we call life.
If your dog is lucky enough to age, he too will probably develop some lumps and bumps that he wasn’t born with. As long as there’s no cause for concern, just keep loving him/her the way you always have. And remember…one of the reasons we love our dogs so much is because of their unconditional love.
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