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Health & Wellness

9 cysts dog parents should know about

Follow these care tips if your dog has a cyst.

Whether it’s through constant petting, putting their harness on or carrying them to the car — your hands are probably on your pup a lot of the day. This physical touch is a good way to feel for any new bumps or cysts on your dog. 

And if you find a new cyst on your dog, you should know that it might not be an immediate cause for concern. However, it’s always a good idea to have your veterinarian check it out, and you should ask them about these nine common cysts while you're at the appointment. 

What are common cysts in dogs?

Cysts grow in a range of shapes, sizes and even textures and can be found in many places on your dog’s body. But, according to Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, most of these growths are benign and harmless to your pet. 

However, each growth type will be managed differently, especially if your veterinarian suspects it’s a concern. Cysts aren’t preventable, and the cause of most is unknown. These are the types found on dogs:

  • Sebaceous cysts: develop on the skin near the sebaceous glands of hair follicles, which can become infected
  • Follicular cysts: dilated hair follicles that are also at risk of becoming infected
  • Dermoid cysts: a rare type of skin cysts that form before a dog’s birth
  • Dentigerous cysts: develop in the mouth around a tooth that hasn’t erupted
  • Meibomian Gland cysts: grow on a dog’s upper or lower eyelid, which can irritate the area or surface of the eye and cause swelling
  • Ovarian Follicular cysts: emerge on the ovary and cause abnormal heat cycles and potentially interfere with a dog’s reproductivity
  • Renal cysts: evolve on the kidneys and sometimes on the liver, pancreas or uterus — they’re often genetic and inherited from polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
  • Tonsillar cysts: develop in the tonsils from a remnant of embryonic tissue
  • Uveal cysts: appear inside the eye and may be attached to the iris, which can interfere with vision or cause glaucoma

RELATED: How to know if your dog’s tumor is cancerous

What do cysts look like on dogs? 

Because there are so many types of cysts, each comes with its own batch of symptoms, Dr. Singler explains.

“A cyst can look like a swelling or growth on or under the skin, the eyelids, in the mouth or in the eye,” Dr. Singler says. “They can be soft and squishy, or they can be more firm.”

Your dog’s veterinarian may be able to diagnose a cyst based on its physical appearance. Still, others may undergo a fine-needle-aspirate procedure — where the veterinarian will stick a needle into the swelled area to see what material is inside the growth.

Some growths, like ovarian or renal cysts, are internal and, therefore, not visible. However, they may cause signs that veterinarians will recognize as cystic activity, which include persistent heat cycles or infertility associated with ovarian cysts, Dr. Singler shares. 

Internal growths (like renal cysts) can also cause chronic kidney disease (CKD) signs, like increased thirst and urination. Your veterinarian’s method of diagnosis depends on the signs and symptoms present in your pet.

“Some pets may need an ultrasound to be diagnosed, especially if they’re on the ovary or the kidney,” Dr. Singler adds. “Others may need surgery and biopsy to diagnose.”

How are cysts treated?

Like their appearance, treatment plans for cysts depend on the type and severity. In many cases, benign cysts that aren’t causing your dog pain don’t need to be treated, Dr. Singler says.

Some treatments include antibiotics if the cyst is causing a secondary infection or removal of the cyst through surgery if it’s causing your dog pain. But, no matter what type of treatment your veterinarian suggests, there are some ways to keep your dog comfortable if you suspect they have a cyst.

“Don’t let your dog lick or scratch at a cyst or a suspected cyst. This can make it break open, get infected and more irritated and inflamed,” Dr. Singler says. “If a growth is bothering your dog, talk to your vet about treatment options. In the meantime, your dog may need to wear an e-collar or protective clothing to prevent trauma.”

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance'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.

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