Sebaceous Cyst on Dog Tail, Paw, Head, and Back – Causes and Removal

sebaceous cyst on dog's kin
sebaceous cyst on dog's kin

A sebaceous cyst on dog’s skin may be worrisome to pet owners but it is usually benign (non-cancerous) and therefore not a health concern unless it gets ruptured and infected, or impacts on your dog’s quality of life. In that case, your furry friend would benefit from medical treatment and possibly surgical removal. It is still a good idea to have a vet assess the cyst.

What Is A Sebaceous Cyst on Dog Skin?

A sebaceous cyst is a small fluid filled or semi-solid sac beneath the surface of a dog’s skin comprising of sebum and other materials such as dead cells, sweat, etc. Other names used to refer to sebaceous cysts are epidermal inclusion cysts, epidermoid cysts, wens, and epidermal cysts. You may see some people describing sebaceous cyst as a sebaceous pimple.

sebaceous cyst on dog's kin
sebaceous cyst on dog’s kin

Sebaceous cysts can appear anywhere on your dog’s skin including the back, stomach, legs, neck, paws (interdigital cysts), tail, anus, and head (on the ears, eyelids, nose). A Sebaceous cyst on dog’s skin is not a cause for concern; the cysts are usually benign (non-cancerous) and clear away without treatment in most cases but they may tend to resurface on and off.

All dog breeds can get sebaceous cysts but the Cock Spaniel is particularly susceptible to them according to T. J. Dunn, DVM, a veterinarian based in the Naples, Florida.

What Does A Sebaceous Cyst On A Dog Look Like?

A sebaceous cyst is a small, pale, benign (non-cancerous) and painless growths (bumps) in the skin that look like a small volcano. It may continue to grow slowly over time. It is commonly whitish in color but may have a slight blue streak. The cyst feels like a circular or oval formation beneath the skin when touched.

Although usually painless, a sebaceous cyst can become infected and turn sore, tender and red. An infected canine sebaceous cyst also makes the affected area feel warm to the touch. If it ruptures, the cyst may give a grayish white, brownish, or cottage cheese like discharge which gives an offensive smell.

What Causes Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs

Now that you have an idea what a sebaceous cyst on dog’s skin is you may be wondering what causes it and how you can remove it. Well, each skin pore comprises a hair follicle that is surrounded by tiny oil glands called sebaceous glands.

These glands produce an oily substance called sebum to keep dog’s skin and fur lubricated and lustrous. Sebaceous glands ducts drain into the hair follicles as shown in the diagram below:

structure of the skin
structure of the skin

A dog sebaceous cyst (or canine sebaceous cyst if you like) is thought to develop when a hair follicle (and hence the skin pore) gets blocked by scar tissue, debris, dirt, or as a result of infection, leading to an abnormal accumulation of sebum. When produced in too-thick a texture, sebum could also plug the hair follicles and skin pores leading to the formation of a sebaceous cyst on dog’s skin.

A canine sebaceous cyst may or may not have a visible hair in its center and typically grows slowly. Your furry friend can get one or more cysts at a time. Others get these cysts on a recurring basis.

Ruptured Dog Sebaceous Cysts

As Dr. Becker writes on, a sebaceous cyst will take on one of three paths: resolving on its own, getting walled off, and rupturing.

A sebaceous cyst is said to wall off when it turns into a small bump that feels like a small pea beneath the skin. Such a cyst will not heal away since it is walled off, but on a positive note, it will also not cause any problems. The best option is to let it be.

A ruptured sebaceous cyst simply means that it came to a head and burst open to release its content.

This opens it to the outside world which often leads to infection. Infected sebaceous cysts ooze a foul-smelling discharge. This is usually a cottage-cheese-like substance but it can also appear thick, dark, and waxy.

If a dog sebaceous cyst bursts open, the best course of action is to keep it clean. Disinfect the area numerous times each day as Dr. Becker writes. When disinfected properly, ruptured cysts clear up within a few days.

Dog sebaceous cysts can also burst below the skin, spilling its content into the area surrounding them. When that happens, the affected area turns red and itchy causing the dog to lick, scratch and rub it frequently. Such a ruptured canine cyst can be confused with granuloma. It is advisable to take your dog to a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Sebaceous Cyst Dog Removal and Treatment Options

I see people asking how to remove a sebaceous cyst from a dog in forums.

As stated earlier, a canine sebaceous cyst is painless and will resolve itself without treatment. As long as the cyst is small, intact (that is, not ruptured), and not inflamed (thus turning from white to reddish in color) it is okay to just leave it alone. Another cause of concern is a sebaceous cyst that grows large too fast.

There is always the temptation to squeeze the cysts to ahead but as Dr. Becker says, you shouldn’t as this can trigger a bacterial infection in the skin (cellulitis), in which case antibiotics would have to be prescribed for treatment.

As for dog sebaceous cysts that rupture (burst) on their own, disinfecting them and keeping them clean is all that is needed but if they get infected, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications. Your vet may also deem it necessary to have surgical removal of canine sebaceous cysts.

This is usually necessary for some cases of infection (especially those associated with pus-like discharge) and inflammation and for ruptured sebaceous cysts that cause considerable bleeding.  Dog cysts that impact significantly to your furry friend’s quality of life may also necessitate surgical removal.

NB: Although sebaceous cysts are benign cysts, they resemble numerous other cancerous types of lumps and bumps in dogs. It is still a good idea, therefore, to get a proper diagnosis done by a veterinarian. In most cases, this involves physical examination but fine needle aspiration, and sometimes biopsy may be necessary to rule out cancer.

Turmeric for Dogs Cysts

turmeric for dog sebaceous cyst removal
Turmeric is the most popular home remedy for cysts

Turmeric is a popular home treatment remedy for not only dog canine but also human sebaceous cysts. Online dog forums are awash with positive stories.

The best way to use turmeric for dog cysts is to add it your dog’s food but some people have as well reported success using it topically, that is, applying a turmeric paste on dog’s skin and fur.

Dog Cyst Removal Cost

As part of this research, I hit the road trying to determine the cost of having a sebaceous cyst on a dog’s skin removed. As I found out the cost varies greatly from one location to another and from facility to another.

It seems to vary between $200 and $1500. This may cover sedation fee, facility fee, and medications. Whether or not a biopsy is required will also have an impact on the cost. The number of cysts to be removed will also have an impact on the cost.

It may be a hard thing for the veterinarian to give you a precise figure for the price without taking a look at the cyst.

Most facilities have payment plans so don’t be afraid to ask.

Preventing Sebaceous Cysts in Dogs

There is little you can do to prevent sebaceous cysts in dogs but you can always reduce their chance of formation by taking proper care of your dog’s skin and coat.

Here are a few tips:

  • Brush and groom your dog frequently. This helps to not only get rid of dander and keep the sebum flowing out of the skin pores smoothly but also throws in the added benefit of strengthening the bond with your furry pet.
  • Increase your dog’s dietary fatty acid intake. These help to keep sebum secretion at its optimal level. Adding omega 3fatty acid sources such as krill oil is a great way to achieve this and so is coconut oil.
  • Avoid over-bathing as well as under-bathing your dog. Different dog breeds require different bating frequencies depending on the nature of their coat. A grooming specialist can help you determine the best frequency for your particular dog breed.

Sebaceous Cyst on Dog Pictures

We have already explained what a dog sebaceous cyst looks like but what a better way to complete the picture (pun intended) than with several pictures of dogs with sebaceous cysts. So without further ado, here we go:

sebaceous cyst on dog picture
Canine sebaceous cyst
Photo of sebaceous cyst on dog’s paw
photo of sebaceous cyst on dog’s paw



  1. Our Best Friend 8 year Hershey has a growth on the top of her nose. It appeared two weeks ago. We cant afford or trust our local vets so 5 days ago I did research and started administering 500 Ml Amoxicillin daily. Today she had a nose bleed and sneezed a couple times sneezing up blood. Then blood then stopped. We love Hershey and want to do whats best but we are a one income family and cant keep the lights and water on if we take her to the vet. What can I do.

    • Betsy, have you tried reaching out to a rescue group in your area? Rescue groups work with vets all the time and I’m sure they would be able to recommend a trustworthy vet that would see and treat your dog at a reasonable cost!

      • This is one of the most foolish and irresponsible replies I have ever seen. Please stop giving your dangerous, ill-informed advise.

    • Betsy try castor oil. My dog had one on his ankle the size of a quarter and I read about using castor oil and it worked. All gone within a week.

  2. Betsy, have you tried reaching out to a rescue group in your area? Rescue groups work with vets frequently and I’m sure they could recommend a trustworthy vet that will see and treat your dog at a reasonable cost!

  3. My sweet lil Buddy (Australian Kelpie X) has had two, approximately pea sized, sebaceous cysts on top of his head for about 6 years now. We had them biopsied 3 seperate times (1st to find out what they were, 2nd when one split, 3rd when I thought one was growing). All 3 times we were reassured. About 2 days ago I noticed a rough patch when petting his head, and noticed the bigger one has split open again and was oozing a bit of blood, but mainly a nasty looking whitish/beige substance. ** Note. I did call the vet and did a lot of internet research before I did the next fews steps** I am SO weak in the tummy, but knew I had to do something. So I grabbed a clean cloth, qtips, gauze, alcohol, polysporin, container of hot water, whatever else I thought I may need, took a huge deep breath, and VERY lightly squeezed from underneath outwards, and expressed the contents of the cyst. Just typing this im fighting with my gag reflex… what came out was the most vile looking dark white, with a bit of light brown, waxy like substance. To be honest I hurled… a few times. This is DEFINITELY NOT for faint of heart, but he’s my boy and it needed to be done.

    After expressing it, I put some alcohol on to kill any bacteria, a TINY touch of polysporin (original regular) around the hole it expressed from, but not ON the hole itself as you want it open to be able to leak more if need be, dry out and heal better… clean 3x a day with warm soapy water (regular soap nothing scented or anything like that, i use dove bar soap), then I dab some alcohol on with a qtip and again polysporin around the hole. Its healing nicely 🙂 it will likely refill in the next couple years for a do-over… but they are harmless. Just INCREDIBLY GROSS!!!

  4. My friend noticed a cyst on her cat and started to feel it to see if it was infected or not and it popped on her. Alot of fluid and material kept oozing out and while she had taken a pet first aid course it was continually weeping all the next day so she called me for advise. I asked her if she had any ebsom salts and luckily enough she did. (A small bag can be found at most drug stores and should be under 10 bucks easy.) I advised her to wet a cloth in a solution of ebsom salts, (two tablespoons to 6 cups warm water, warm to dissolve the salts better.) Do not allow to cloth to be soaking wet when washing around the open cyst. I then advised her to rinse the cloth and repeat a few more times. I then told her to wet the cloth one more time and then apply it over the cyst and keep her cat calm by petting it for at least 30mins at a time if the cat would allow this. It did! I advised her to keep doing this at least several more times if the cat would allow it. Again, the cat complied. By the next day the cyst had closed up and she had no further trouble with it since. Okie, good luck all!

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