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Health & Wellness

What’s the difference between a sebaceous cyst and a bump?

Don’t mistake sebaceous cysts for dog pimples.

We pet our dogs to show affection, itch a scratch they can’t reach and feel for any changes in our pup’s skin. Specifically, rubbing our hands along our dog’s body can tell us if they’ve developed any skin changes.

New bumps, lumps or masses on your dog are understandably initially a cause for concern. But you can often manage them with proper care. For example, sebaceous cysts are a type of bump that can develop on dogs, and there’s a vet-approved treatment plan if you happen to find one on your pup. 

What is a sebaceous cyst? 

It’s essential to define what a cyst actually is before diving into this specific type. According to Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian, these are fluid-filled pockets that can develop anywhere in a dog’s body or underneath their skin. 

So, you may wonder, what makes a sebaceous cyst different from a regular cyst? “A sebaceous cyst is a pocket under the skin of a dog that's filled with sebum,” Dr. McCullough explains. “Sebum is an oily or waxy substance produced by sebaceous cells to lubricate their skin. Sebaceous cells, and by extension sebaceous cysts, are found around the hair follicles.” Unfortunately, the cause of sebaceous cysts is unknown, but they’re not usually caused by cancer, she adds.

You can find sebaceous cysts by feeling for firm-to semi-firm lumps (often confused with dog pimples) anywhere on a dog’s body, Dr. McCullough says. If the cyst is infected, it’ll likely be swollen or painful, and if it ruptures, yellow-brown or gray discharge may leak from the area, she adds. Dogs with painful sebaceous cysts might lick or chew on the affected spot. 

What to do if you find a sebaceous cyst on your dog? 

After finding a bump, Dr. McCullough urges you to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. That way, they can diagnose and treat the cyst to ensure your dog is healthy. Sebaceous cysts are often diagnosed by performing a biopsy, she adds. 

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Treatment for sebaceous cysts in dogs

If your veterinarian rules that your pup has a sebaceous cyst, surgical removal will likely be necessary. Unfortunately, there aren't home remedies to treat them or ways to prevent them from occurring, so it’s important to follow your vet’s recommendation. 

“Sebaceous cysts typically don't go away on their own. Some dogs may develop multiple sebaceous cysts,” Dr. McCullough says. 

Finding a lump or bump on your pup can be overwhelming, but knowing to get help from your veterinarian as soon as possible will put your dog on the right treatment track. So while sharing your daily cuddles with your pup, feel around for any changes in your dog's skin to protect their health. 

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo. 

Photo by Isabela Kronemberger on Unsplash

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