Popping the Pimple on Your Pooch. Should You Squeeze Your Dog’s Sebaceous Cyst?

What are sebaceous cysts?

Sebaceous cysts, also known as follicular cysts, are fluid-filled sacs that form under the skin. They develop from hair follicles or oil glands in dogs (VCA Hospitals). The cysts contain sebum, a fatty lubricating fluid secreted by these glands.

appearance of sebaceous cysts on dogs

Sebaceous cysts often appear on the head, back, or upper legs in dogs. They form small bumps under the skin that may feel firm or spongy, and can range from pea-sized to several inches wide. The cysts usually do not cause pain or discomfort unless they rupture or become infected (ToeGrips).

Common symptoms of sebaceous cysts in dogs include:

  • A raised lump under the skin
  • Hair loss over the cyst
  • Reddening, inflammation, or ulceration if ruptured or infected
  • Drainage, bleeding, or pus if ruptured

Certain breeds like Cocker Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers are at higher risk, as are dogs with allergies or hormone imbalances. Obesity and poor hygiene may also increase chances of developing sebaceous cysts.

Should you pop a sebaceous cyst?

Popping or trying to drain a sebaceous cyst at home carries serious risks and is not recommended. According to veterinary experts, these cysts should only be drained or removed by a veterinarian under sterile conditions (https://wagwalking.com/condition/sebaceous-cysts).

Attempting to pop or drain the cyst can lead to infection, abscesses, and scarring. The contents of the cyst can leak into surrounding tissue and cause cellulitis or a spreading skin infection (https://toegrips.com/sebaceous-cyst-dog/). This requires extensive treatment with antibiotics and wound care. Scarring and hair loss can also occur if the area is not properly cleaned and closed.

Veterinarians have the proper tools and training to drain or excise the cyst safely. They will also check for any underlying disorders causing the cysts to form. Allowing a vet to remove the cyst helps avoid complications and minimize risks to your dog.

When to see a vet

If you notice your dog’s sebaceous cyst beginning to change in size, leaking fluid, or giving off an odor, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Some signs that indicate a sebaceous cyst may require professional veterinary attention include:

signs a cyst may need veterinary attention

  • The cyst rapidly increases in size
  • The area around the cyst becomes red, inflamed, or swollen
  • There is a discharge or odor coming from the cyst
  • Your dog seems bothered by the cyst or is repeatedly scratching or licking it

Your vet can assess the cyst and determine if it needs to be drained, surgically removed, or biopsied to check for cancerous cells. They may also prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication if the cyst appears infected or inflamed. Getting prompt veterinary attention is recommended, as sebaceous cysts left untreated can rupture, become infected, or develop into more serious skin conditions.

According to veterinarians, “If the lump gets very big, is located in an area where it gets traumatized easily, or ruptures, it should be removed surgically.” (Source)

Home Treatment

While sebaceous cysts often go away on their own, there are some home treatments that may help speed up healing and reduce chances of infection:

Apply warm compresses to the area for 10-15 minutes several times per day. The warmth can help promote drainage and healing. Do not apply heat directly to the cyst.

Avoid squeezing or popping the cyst, as this can cause trauma and increase chances of infection. Let the cyst open and drain on its own.

Monitor the cyst for any changes in size, color, drainage or other symptoms. Redness, heat, pain and pus indicate infection. See the vet promptly if infection occurs.

Ask your vet about using over-the-counter topical antibacterial ointments on the cyst to prevent infection. Do not use ointments without your vet’s approval.

Keep the area clean by gently washing with antibacterial soap and patting dry. Do not rub, which could further irritate the cyst.

You can try placing a warm teabag on the cyst to help draw out fluids and promote draining. Change teabags every few hours.

While home treatment can help some cysts, surgery may ultimately be needed for cysts that are large, painful or prone to infection. Always contact your vet if the cyst persists or worsens.

Surgical removal

Surgical removal is the most common treatment for sebaceous cysts in dogs. The procedure involves putting the dog under general anesthesia and making an incision over the cyst to remove it. The veterinarian will use a scalpel or laser to excise the cyst and drain any fluid inside. They will also remove the sac so the cyst does not grow back.

surgical removal procedure for sebaceous cyst

There are some risks associated with surgery including infection, bleeding, reactions to anesthesia, and recurrence if the sac is not fully removed. Most dogs recover fully within 1-2 weeks. The incision site will be closed with stitches or staples which need to be monitored for proper healing. Owners will need to restrict activity while their dog recovers. Pain medication will likely be prescribed for a few days after surgery.

The cost of surgical removal can range from $300-500 on average depending on the location of the cyst and complexity of the procedure. Prices may increase with larger cysts or those in sensitive areas. Some clinics may charge additionally for anesthesia, medications, and post-operative care.[1]


Proper aftercare following sebaceous cyst removal is crucial to prevent infection and ensure proper healing. Here are some key tips for aftercare:

Incision care is very important. The incision site should be kept clean and dry. Use an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking or chewing of the incision area. Clean the area gently with a damp cloth and pat dry. Apply antibiotic ointment as directed by your vet to prevent infection.

Your dog will likely be prescribed pain medication to manage discomfort after surgery. Give all medication exactly as directed and do not end treatment early. Pain management helps ensure proper healing.

Restrict your dog’s activity during the healing process. Limit exercise, running, and jumping. Take short leash walks for bathroom needs only. Cyst removal can be invasive surgery depending on the size and location. Allowing ample rest prevents re-injury or damage to the incision site.

Follow up with your veterinarian 7-10 days after surgery for suture removal and to check healing. Alert your vet if you notice increased swelling, redness, bleeding, or discharge as this may indicate an infection. Additional medications or treatment may be needed to prevent complications.


There are several steps dog owners can take to help prevent sebaceous cysts from developing:

Good grooming and hygiene are important. Regularly brushing and bathing your dog can help keep their skin and coat clean and free of debris that could otherwise clog pores and hair follicles. Be gentle when brushing areas prone to cysts, like the head and neck.VCA Animal Hospitals

prevention tips to avoid cysts in dogs

Avoiding trauma to your dog’s skin can also be preventative. Cysts sometimes form after blunt force trauma to the skin. So be careful not to let your dog bump or scratch their body on hard surfaces which could damage hair follicles.Sebaceous Cyst in Dogs: Appearance, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Controlling your dog’s weight and diet may help. Obese dogs tend to have more skin folds where cysts can develop. Feeding a high-quality diet with good fatty acid balance can promote healthy skin and hair coats.

Long-term outlook

The long-term outlook for dogs with sebaceous cysts is generally positive, as these cysts are usually benign growths [1]. However, there are some important factors to consider:

Cysts may reoccur after drainage or removal. It’s not uncommon for sebaceous cysts to return, especially if the sac wall was not completely excised during surgery [2]. Close monitoring is recommended to check for new cysts developing.

Monitor for signs of cancer. While rare, sebaceous cysts can develop into sebaceous gland tumors. Signs to watch for include cysts that rapidly enlarge, bleed, ulcerate, or smell foul [3]. Any suspicious changes should prompt veterinary examination.

Overall, with close observation and monitoring, most dogs go on to live normal lives after sebaceous cyst treatment. Talk to your veterinarian about the long-term outlook for your individual dog.

When To Be Concerned

While most sebaceous cysts on dogs are benign, there are some signs that indicate a vet visit is needed. These “concerning signs” include:

  • Rapid growth – Cysts that rapidly get bigger may indicate a problem like infection or cancer (1).
  • Ulceration – Open sores or ulcers on the cyst could mean it is infected (2).
  • Smell, bleeding, pus – Foul odors, blood, or pus oozing from the cyst points to an infection that requires veterinary attention (3).
  • Difficulty eating/chewing – If the cyst interferes with your dog’s ability to eat or chew, a vet should evaluate whether surgical removal is necessary (1).

In summary, while most cysts are harmless, any sudden changes like rapid growth, ulceration, abnormal discharge, or chewing/eating issues warrant a vet visit. Catching problems early maximizes the chances of successful treatment.


In summary, sebaceous cysts are common skin growths in dogs, often appearing on the head, neck, trunk, or upper legs. While tempting to do, you should never try to pop or drain a sebaceous cyst at home. This can lead to infection, scarring, and other complications. Instead, see your vet for proper treatment.

Your vet may recommend home treatment like warm compresses if the cyst is small. Larger or problematic cysts will likely need surgical removal. After surgery, follow all aftercare instructions from your vet to keep the area clean and prevent infection.

To help prevent cysts from developing, keep your dog’s skin clean and groomed. Check for any new lumps or bumps regularly. Seek prompt veterinary attention if you notice signs of infection like redness, swelling, discharge, or fever.

While sebaceous cysts are usually benign, have your vet assess any new growths as soon as possible. Never try to pop or drain a cyst on your own. With proper treatment and care, most dogs recover well and live normally with sebaceous cysts.

Scroll to Top