Types Of Cysts On Dogs And What They Mean

And what you should do if you find a cyst on your pup.

cysts on dogs

Finding a bump on your dog can be a little nerve-racking because you might immediately start wondering if it’s something you should worry about.

There are many different types of lumps your pup can get, and in some cases, that lump might actually be a cyst.

There are several types of cysts on dogs, and some types can be more concerning than others, according to Jackie Marvel, a veterinary nurse with DodoVet. Here’s what you need to know about the three most common ones.

What is a cyst on a dog?

“Cysts are by definition … hollow spaces within tissues that contain a liquid or solid material filled with a secretion or breakdown of cells,” Marvel told The Dodo.

Most cysts aren’t cancerous, but “occasionally, a cyst may appear inside a cancerous area,” Marvel said.

Common types of cysts on dogs

There are a few different types of cysts commonly found on dogs.

True cysts

True cysts are ones that often form from blockages in sweat glands.

“These commonly form in a gland as a result of blocked ducts, common for dogs and cats, often on the eyelid,” Marvel said.

Follicular cysts

Follicular cysts form when hair follicles fill with fluid.

“These are prone to infections, often the cause of pyoderma (a bacterial skin infection),” Marvel said.

Sebaceous cysts

Sebaceous cysts develop from sebaceous glands — aka oil-producing glands that are often attached to hair follicles.

“These are more common in dogs and found on the head, neck, legs or flank [his upper rear leg],” Marvel said.

These cysts can also lead to bacterial infection.

What do cysts on dogs look like?

Cysts on dogs will look slightly different depending on the type you’re dealing with.

True cysts are slightly translucent nodules that are often blue or dark-colored. Follicular cysts are round masses that can also be slightly blue, but they can fill with keratin, which is thick and either yellow or gray in color. Sebaceous cysts are white — or sometimes a little blue — raised bumps.

What causes cysts on dogs?

There are a couple causes of cysts on dogs.

“Some cysts are from trauma or pressure points to hair follicles, often on thinner dogs with shorter hair coats,” Marvel said. “Some breeds of dogs are predisposed to cysts.”

Where do dogs get cysts?

Dogs can get cysts in many different places.

“Depending on the type of cyst, they can be seen all over the body,” Marvel said. “They may be found anywhere from between the toes to the head, chest, legs or flank.”

What to do if you find a cyst on your dog

If you find a cyst on your dog, or any kind of lump, you should take him to the vet to get it checked out.

“It is always the safest thing to bring your pet to be evaluated if you find something that concerns you,” Marvel said. “Your veterinarian is trained to know what is no big deal and what may need a closer look.”

But before you go in, Marvel recommends documenting the cyst to note exactly where it is.

“Take a picture when you feel one so you and your vet can locate it next time you go to the office,” Marvel said. “Their location and appearance may help your veterinarian determine what kind of cyst it is.”

According to Marvel, you should call your vet ASAP if your dog’s cyst is:

  • Growing rapidly
  • Changing color or appearance
  • Limiting his range of motion
  • Irritating to the point that he’s licking, biting or scratching it

What not to do if you find a cyst on your dog

If you find a cyst on your dog, don’t poke or prod it, as much as you might want to.

“As tempting as it may [be] to squeeze or pop a cyst, please do not,” Marvel said. “This could be painful for your dog, and [the] cyst could become more irritated or infected if there is bacteria on the skin.”

It’s especially important to not mess with a suspected cyst because other things — that shouldn’t be popped — can be mistaken for cysts.

“There is a type of malignant mass called mast cell that if ruptured could cause an anaphylaxis reaction,” Marvel said.

Dog cyst treatment

Dog cyst treatment will vary depending on which kind of cyst your dog’s dealing with.

“Depending on the type of cyst, conservative treatment including antibiotics or antiinflammatory drugs may be prescribed,” Marvel said. “Other times, surgery to remove the cyst may be the best option.”

There are ways you may be able to help out at home, too.

“If you've been cleared to do so by your vet, a warm compress with epsom salt soaks can help keep the area clean,” Marvel said.

So if you find a cyst or lump on your dog, try not to stress too much (and don’t pop it!) — just bring your pup to the vet to figure out what he’s dealing with and how to treat it.

Want access to a vet 24/7? With DodoVet, you can connect via video chat, phone or text with an empathetic veterinary expert who can help you be the best pet parent you can be. Say goodbye to Dr. Google and have all your pet parent questions answered anytime, anywhere. Learn more here.