Dogs, like humans, can develop various skin conditions, one of which is sebaceous cysts. These are benign (non-cancerous) growths that form under the skin and are typically filled with a thick, oily substance called sebum. They can occur anywhere on a dog’s body, but are most commonly found on the head, ears, and trunk.

While sebaceous cysts are not typically harmful to dogs, they can cause discomfort and even infection if left untreated. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for sebaceous cysts in dogs.

sebaceous cyst dog leg

Causes of Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs

Sebaceous cysts are caused by the overproduction of sebum, which is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. These glands are responsible for moisturizing the skin and hair, but when they become blocked, the sebum can build up and form a cyst.

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of sebaceous cysts in dogs, including:

  • Genetics: Certain breeds, such as Boxers and Labrador Retrievers, are more prone to developing sebaceous cysts.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Changes in hormone levels, such as those that occur during puberty or pregnancy, can increase sebum production and lead to the formation of sebaceous cysts.
  • Trauma: Injury or irritation to the skin, such as from insect bites or scrapes, can cause the formation of sebaceous cysts.
  • Bacterial infections: Bacteria that infects the sebaceous gland can lead to cyst formation.

Symptoms of Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs

Sebaceous cysts (sometimes called follicular cysts) in dogs typically appear as small, round, and firm lumps under the skin or paws. They may be painless and can vary in size, from pea-sized to golf ball-sized. The cysts can be found anywhere on the dog’s body but are commonly found on the head, ears, and trunk.

In some cases, sebaceous cysts can become infected and cause the following symptoms:

  • Redness, swelling, and warmth around the cyst
  • Drainage of pus or other fluid from the cyst
  • Bad odor
  • Loss of hair around the cyst
  • Itchiness

Treatment of Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs

The treatment of sebaceous cysts in dogs depends on the size, location, and severity of the cyst, as well as the overall health of the dog. In most cases, sebaceous cysts do not require treatment and can be left alone, unless they are causing the dog discomfort or are at risk of infection.

  • Observation: For small, asymptomatic sebaceous cysts, your vet may recommend observation and wait for the cyst to resolve on its own.
  • Surgical Removal: Larger cysts or those that are causing discomfort may need to be surgically removed. The surgery typically involves making an incision over the cyst, draining its content and removing the cyst wall.
  • Antibiotics: If the cyst is infected, your dog may need to be placed on a course of antibiotics to clear the infection.


The best way to prevent sebaceous cysts in dogs is to keep the skin clean and healthy. This can be done by:

  • Regular grooming: Brushing and bathing your dog regularly can help keep the skin and coat clean and healthy.
  • Avoiding injury
  • Keeping a close eye on any new or changing lumps or bumps on your dog’s skin, and consulting your vet if you notice anything concerning.


After surgery, your dog may experience some discomfort and swelling around the surgical site. Your vet will provide you with instructions for at-home care, which may include administering pain medication and keeping the area clean and dry. It is important to keep your dog from licking or biting at the surgical site, as this can increase the risk of infection and delay healing.

It is normal for the incision to be red, swollen and may have some discharge for a few days. But if you notice any signs of infection such as increased redness, swelling, or discharge, or if your dog seems to be in a lot of pain, contact your vet immediately.

After the surgery, the cyst will be sent to a laboratory for further examination. The cyst will be examined under a microscope to ensure that it is benign and that all of it has been removed. The cyst wall can also be used to identify the type of cyst it is and if it is a result of a bacterial infection.

sebaceous cyst


The prognosis for dogs with sebaceous cysts is generally good. Most cysts are benign and do not pose a threat to the dog’s overall health. However, if the cyst becomes infected or if the cyst is malignant, the prognosis will depend on the underlying condition and the stage of the cancer.

If the cyst is benign, surgery will generally result in a complete resolution of the cyst and no recurrence. However, in some cases, cysts may return, especially if they are not fully removed or if they are related to an underlying condition such as hormonal imbalance or a genetic predisposition.

Additionally, sebaceous cysts can be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition, such as Cushing’s disease or a hormonal disorder, and these conditions will require separate treatment to manage.

Overall, sebaceous cysts in dogs are a common and generally benign condition that can be effectively managed with proper care and treatment. Regular grooming, proper skin care, and keeping an eye out for new or changing lumps or bumps on your dog’s skin can help prevent the development of sebaceous cysts. If your dog does develop a sebaceous cyst, it is important to have it evaluated by your vet to determine the best course of treatment.


Sebaceous cysts are benign growths that can develop on the skin of dogs. These cysts are typically filled with sebum and are most commonly found on the head, ears, and trunk of the dog. While these cysts are not harmful to the dogs, they can cause discomfort and even infection if left untreated.

Knowing the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for sebaceous cysts can help pet owners understand and manage this common condition. Regular grooming, proper skin care, and consulting with a veterinarian when needed are important steps to take to prevent and manage sebaceous cysts in dogs.

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