Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Before You Treat a Dog's Sebaceous Cyst at Home
So your dog has a sebaceous cyst and you're wondering how to get rid of that unsightly growth at home? Before trying anything, it's very, very important to have your vet see the lump and determine if it's something to worry about or not.
First, Get a Diagnosis and Make Sure It's Benign
The fact is that some innocent-looking lumps turn out to be cancer. If this happens, the lump will need to be removed as soon as possible. Don't try home remedies, don't wait too long, and don't gamble with your dog's health when it comes to lumps!
What the Vet Can Do
Once at the vet, they will look at the lump, but don't expect it to end there. In most cases, a visual inspection is not enough to determine what it is. At this point, depending on the location and type of lump, your vet may decide to perform a fine needle aspiration, a tissue biopsy, or a complete biopsy of the lump by removing it totally under general anesthesia.
If It's Just a Cyst
Once your vet has ruled out anything major and the lump turns out to be a benign cyst, you will then need to decide which approach to take. Your vet is the best source for this type of recommendation.
- If the lump isn't interfering with your dog's life, your vet may suggest just letting it be. In that case, you will always have to keep an eye on it and report any changes to your vet.
- If it's inconvenient or causing problems, your vet may recommend surgical removal. This might be the case if the lump is on the eyelid, where it may potentially rub against the cornea or if the dog tends to lick the cyst a lot or scratch at it.
- Surgery is also advised if the cyst ruptures often, if it is recurring, or if it tends to lead to infection.
Some Vets Just Want Your Money
Be wary of vets who are too quick to recommend surgery without a very good reason. If the vet seems eager to perform surgery and you don't feel comfortable with it, consult with another vet and see if there are other alternate options.
I found this statement from veterinarian Karen Becker interesting. She said,
"In vet school I was advised to remove sebaceous cysts because I could make money with the procedure and dog owners are generally happy to have the things gone. However, I don't recommend removal of any benign cyst 'just because.' Removal is only necessary if the cyst recurs and is prone to infection or if your dog's quality of life is impaired by the presence of a cyst."
When It's Okay to Treat a Dog's Cyst at Home
The only time it's okay to try home remedies is when your vet has confirmed that it's just a cyst and it's safe to wait a bit or just let it be. Ask your vet's opinion about this, and always consult them before trying anything at home.
In some cases, home remedies are a good option when a dog is too old to undergo surgery and the vet doesn't recommend traditional surgical removal.
If you don't want your dog to go the surgical route, it may be a good idea to consult with a holistic veterinarian for more options.
Home Treatment Options
A Bit of Controversy
There is a lot of conflicting information on this topic. One the one hand, some veterinarians claim that sebaceous cysts don't go away on their own. This is due to the fact that if the sac isn't removed, the cyst will likely continue to fill up, occasionally rupture, and then start the whole cycle again.
However, there are oodles of reports from dog owners who were actually able to get rid of these cysts once and for all through old remedies. In some cases, veterinarians share home remedies that clients can try out.
The following are my findings through extensive research. These are in no way to be used as a substitute for veterinarian advice. If you want to try them, have your vet diagnose the lump first to make sure it's harmless.
Don't gamble with your dog's health!
Should You Pop a Dog's Cyst?
Despite many dog owners posting videos of them popping cysts (something not for the faint of heart), it's not a good idea because it likely won't cure the cyst and you also run the risk of your dog getting an infection.
Instead, try the following at-home treatments.
If the cyst has opened and is draining, warm compresses may help it drain and prevent it from scabbing over. The following process is recommended by veterinarian Dr. Fiona:
- Trim the hair around the lump.
- Add a tablespoon of antibacterial soap such as Hibitane or chlorhexidene soap to a cup of warm water.
- Place a sterile wash cloth in it, wring it out and then place it on the cyst for about 10 minutes, rewarming it about every 2 minutes and then patting it dry.
- Do this 3 times a day for about 3 days, then twice daily for another 3 days. The secret is to prevent the cyst from scabbing over as this will just trap the bacteria inside.
- Applications of plain Neosporin can help prevent further infection.
Several dog owners have had success using castor oil topically on the dog's cyst.
- Pour some very warm water into a bowl
- Soak some cotton balls in the water, then place on the bump until they begin to cool. (Don't forget to squeeze out excess water)
- Dip some more balls in the water.
- Squeeze out excess, then apply some castor oil. Apply to bump until they begin to cool.
- Repeat the process 10x, 3x a day, for one week.
Earth Clinic has several success stories of owners giving their dogs turmeric, an Indian spice known for helping fight infection, some forms of cancer and inflammation.
- Add 1-2 tsp to your dog's food per day, depending on your dog's size.
- Mix with olive oil to make a paste and help it blend with the food.
While it may be tempting to use this herb, it's important to know that it may interfere with antibiotics, according to Livestrong, and that it may also interfere with blood's ability to clot.
What this means is that should your dog need to go under surgery, it is best to wait for this herb to get out of his system. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, turmeric is a blood thinner and should be stopped at least 2 weeks prior to surgery.
In large amounts and for prolonged periods of time it may cause stomach upset and ulcers.
Consult with your vet before trying any of these remedies, and if your dog is prescribed medications or scheduled for surgery, make sure your vet is aware of the fact he is taking turmeric.
Coconut oil has recently become quite popular among people and pets. When applied topically, some pet owners report that it reduces the size of cysts. Apply it in a manner similar to castor oil (above).
Many owners are also adding it to a dog's food for many other added benefits.
Better Overall Health
A good natural diet, exercise, fresh air, and weight loss in obese dogs can help as well since lumps and other medical maladies are often due to the dog's body wanting a healthier lifestyle.
Occasionally, there is a connection between lumps and tightness or injury of a certain spinal segment. If this is the case, it would be best to see an animal chiropractor or a physiotherapist.
There are some things you can do to prevent the formation of cysts.
Diet and Exercise
Make sure your dog is eating a healthy diet with plenty of Omega-3's and Omega-6's (found in fish and sunflower oil—you can mix this into dog food).
Keeping your dog's coat nice and clean with regular brushing helps distribute the oils in your dog's fur and keeps the sebum glands from clogging in the first place.
Dr. Karen Becker Discusses Sebaceous Cysts
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: Heidi is a ten-year-old mix Border Collie. She has a cyst on her paw. It's in between her toes. This is the 3rd time that she has had one. The 1st time we had surgery done. It was a long process for it to heal. The stitches kept breaking out when she did any kind of walking. The Vet said she should have surgery again. The vet put her on antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory. It went down in size. In two weeks it has gotten bigger. What should I do?
Answer: If this is a reoccurring thing and it is not getting any better, surgical excision as suggested by the vet may be the only solution. Walking should be minimized during the recovery period. Make sure she wears an Elizabethan collar. Some vets may offer ablation with a laser, which may speed up recovery. A consult with a veterinary dermatologist could be insightful.
© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli
Have a dog sebaceous cyst story to share? Post it here!
Gloria Carballo on December 26, 2019:
My 14 year old Cairn terrier, has a sebacious hepithelioma cyst, it has been removed twice and is now growing back after 3 months...it is now the size of a cherry tomato, any suggestions, should I do a 3rd surgery or is radiation the only option.
Cris on July 14, 2019:
My female Maltise had a huge lump on her breast it's getting bigger but she eats good drinks plenty of water I've moved it around she doesn't react in pain she walks good but it looks ugly I don't have money for vet visit let alone surgery what do u recommended I do what can I do for her at home
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 07, 2019:
Paula, it sounds like your vet carried out a procedure that is known as "fine needle aspiration." In general, this test can help look for cancer by looking at a sample under the microscope. Although a fine needle aspiration is not 100 percent accurate in cancer detection, if your vet found an infection, most likely the cyst should shrink after finishing the antibiotics. Follow up with your vet if it doesn't and inform him/her of your concerns.
Paula on April 23, 2019:
My Yorkie is 3 yrs old, has a cyst near her shoulder, it doesn’t show, it’s in side, under skin. The doctor removed some liquid and tested it, it was infected, she is now on antibiotics. Could this be cancer
T.R. Morris on March 27, 2019:
I adopted a ~3 year old male DDR German Shepherd rescue from the Seattle Humane Society 8 months ago. He wasnt fixed, and was found as a stray in small town central California. Pretty bad separation anxiety, and had been on Gabapentin, trazadone, valium as he bounced through three shelters. History unknown.
SHS had him fixed, teeth cleaned and also removed three large sebaceous cysts (benign inclusion custs) removed from his neck, shoulder and hip the week before I signed papers. Fast forward 8 months, and he had three cysts on his neck and one on his hip. Two on his neck got big and ruptured... $900 surgery to remove all 4, at a discount.
My concern is recurrence. What can I do? Brushing? Baths?, Radically clean diet (e.g. 100% raw meat and sweet potato)? I'm all ears.
Shelene on February 16, 2019:
My dog is 14 she has a cyst growing fast between her toes when I aspired it nothing would come out I hope oils will wrk
holly on December 29, 2018:
my dog is 13 years old, they suggested surgery, she has murmur, the cyst does not bother her, it opens sometimes and bleeds, I don't want to do surgery, I bought omega fish oil for her, do you think I can use castor oil or leave it alone,
Sharon Armstrong on December 22, 2018:
My yorkie had a cyst on her neck. It has went away and came 4 times now. Each time it comes back it is bigger each time. This time is so big. It sticks way out from her hair. About the size of a golf ball.
Janet White on May 13, 2018:
Have 6 year old pure bred poodle who has (or had) large cyst on back about 2/3 way to tail. Also a couple other tiny ones starting. I had asked Vet about it and he recommended leaving it alone. A few weeks ago CoCo discovered it and chewed out hair and opened cyst. It must now itch because I catch her licking and chewing at it. I tried putting placing collar on her but she learned how to get to the cyst anyway. Would like to apply antibiotic to it but afraid she would lick and be sick. Any suggestion?
Linda on February 23, 2018:
My mini schnauzer is 10 year old. I put her on a low fat diet She had a cyst on her eyelid for 4 years and it has just disappeared. I changed her diet one year ago. I now make her treats and a meat, vegetable and fruit diet that is added to Acana Lean and Fit kibble.
For the treats I grind down the kibble and add steam banana, blueberries and apple or pear and the juice from the fruit for moisture to form the cookies. I bake them and freeze the batch and leave a few in the fridge at a time.
Meat is 8 large white chicken breast the low fat type poached in the oven. Added to this is cooked carrots, celery, peas, green beans and blueberries, pinch of oregano, thyme, ginger, dill and garlic. I grind all in a food processor and add the vegetable blueberry juice to the meat. I don't use the liquid from the chicken as there may be a trace of fat. She also gets omega 3 drops on her food each day. I have mini containers and freeze the meat mixture.
Not sure why her weeping cyst disappeared but I thought it was her diet. Also this diet I made up cured my other schnauzers pancreatic problem. Her lab results came back cleared.
Always check with your vet before changing your dogs diet. This diet may not be suitable for your dog.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 21, 2018:
Debby, many dogs act this way after being groomed. It may be just "nerves." Some dogs act differently after their coat is shaved down especially if their whiskers are trimmed too. Razor burn is also a possibility and this may cause dogs to act weird. If glands were expressed some dogs have a bit of discomfort too. Some dogs just feel more cold. Has he ever acted this way after being groomed or is it the first time? Has he even been shaved down before? I would not think the cyst popping would be particularly painful. Keep an eye on your dog and if he still acts weird or in pain, contact your vet.
Mary on February 21, 2018:
One of our pair of year-old bichons, Ozzie, has developed a sebabaceous cyst on his shoulder (per Vet I.D. the first time it happened.)
Since then, it has repeatedly cycled through
swelling/ popping/oozing/scabbing/ healed with hair grown over it - x3 over the past 3 months.
I keep it clean and trim the hair away & use teatree oil as an antibacterial - mainly because its the only compound that his buddy, Moe, doesn't lick off.
There is no bacterial odor and it heals cleanly.
The vet told us that if we have it surgically removed, there are no guarantees that another cyst capsule won't reappear; she seemed to discourage surgery.
Warm compresses, coconut oil, etc., are difficult to maintain due to "patient noncompliance" (even if Ozzie leaves it alone, Moe won't...).
Would consider removal if I thought it would conclude the issue, but it doesn't sound like a reasonable expectation.
Debby Cook on February 19, 2018:
My Pomerania got shaved at the groomers an she found 3 little cyst. She popped them an cleaned them when she shaved him. Ever since I brought him home he sits an shivers an don’t act himself. Do they have pain after the cyst are popped? He eats an drinks normal just acts like he is in pain.
Mary Liebler on February 16, 2018:
My Bichon had a small bump near her tail.The Vet said a
Sebaceous cyst and let it be, don't
squeese as that would start infection.I followed his instructions.After about two months, it opened + leaked a fluid on it's own, like a diluted blood.I just wiped it dry and overnight it formed a dark scab.Scab was about the size of a
dime, after 2 wks of this dry scab
thought I would try coconut oil.
Rubbed a hard piece of coconut
oil, which became soft and the scab became black gum instantly.Wiped it off several times with soft paper towel, no smell of any kind.Once the scab was gone, the spot was flat, no bump and pink, not red or inflamed.Wiped spot several times with fresh coco oil, for several days.All healed and no
residual effects.Also gave coco oil with food.Highly recommend
the natural coconut oil.Watched
many UTUBE videos on this subject + read quite a bit.Felt safe with the coco oil topically
but would never squeeze the cyst.It has been months now and
our Vet is very impressed, I'm grateful.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 09, 2017:
Karen, please keep your dogs separated (baby gate, another room, crate). Bacteria from licking can cause an infection. Consult with your vet if the hole is still open.
karen on December 08, 2017:
the cyst was drained but the hole wont heal because my other 2 dogs wont leave it alone...they lick it constantly...the hole is still open
Sylvia on September 25, 2017:
My dog had a sebacious cyst about 10mm. The vet saw it and told me that's what it was, and we decided to leave it alone. A little while later I noticed it had popped on its own and was oozing a little creamy coloured stuff. Not pus, and no bad smell. I bathed it gently with warm salt water and gently eased all the substance out until it looked clean and pink. I always have a tincture of Echinacea Angustifolia in the house, and use it for wounds as well as for colds, etc. I soaked a small cotton wool ball with the tincture and held this on the wound for a few minutes, then re did that twice more that day. By morning there was no oozing or bleeding, and I bathed the wound with the tincture three times the next day. The skin healed normally, did not get infected. That tincture is my go-to for any infection and it works well for dogs and humans, and will prevent infection in any surface wounds. The cyst did not return.
Ruth on August 05, 2017:
So, I just adopted a little 48lb boxer. Not only do I need to ad some wt to her, but I see shd to has some cycts pressing on her eye. The fluid that came out was a chocolate pus. Now, in the mean time I am using tea tree oil which seems to work really well.
moira jones on June 19, 2017:
I have an old lady who is about 14yrs old a Mini poodle she has them all over her body, she keeps scratching them and they are driving her mad. I am applying coconut oil at the moment with some small improvement, she has under her chin and on her lip that she keeps making bleed I am seeing vet today routine check and will see what they say. Any help would be great thank you.
Kathy on June 10, 2017:
My 15 year old dog has had a large sebaceous cyst on his flank for his entire life and is under the skin which has erupted or my dog caused a hole in the cyst because of fleas (he is white) my dog was scratching for fleas and then licking and since I recently shaved him he is able to get directly at the cyst which is beside where his tail joins his body. The Cyst is now oozing and smells bad and I cannot move him because he is in pain and will bite - I am bathing him in warm water and would like to know if I can use hydrogen peroxide or just warm water and keep it clean or any other suggestions please? "Thank you"
vicki on March 05, 2017:
My 12 year old cocker spaniel has a growth that the vet says in just gland build up but it is the size of a hard golf ball. Should I remove it at $1,200.???
Tonya on November 22, 2016:
I just noticed on my one year old female Yorkie what looks to be a sebaceous cyst. I pray that is all it is but I worry because it is in the middle of her back, middle of her spine. Taking her to Vet next week. She just got spayed about 10 days ago as well. No microchip placed. Prayers please.
JJ on November 17, 2016:
I am dealing with one of these now on my 7 year old golden's neck . I put lavender and frankinsense oil on it twice a day until it finally ruptured. No yuck came out, just some bloody oil. Doesn't have a smell to it. Now I clean her with warm water and a clean washcloth twice a day. I mixed a jar of coconut oil and oregano oil. About one drop of oregano essential oil to one tablespoon of coconut oil. I get a q-tip good and lathered with the oil mixture and place it inside the hole twice a day. I don't cover it. I like to let it air out. So far, it continues to drain nicely with no signs of infection or pain. Once I am confident it has drained completely, I will probably dress it to encourage scabbing. I will post again with progress.
Cora on October 03, 2016:
THANK you so much for the tip on Turmeric and Coconut Oil!! I have had a 19 year old dog with skin cysts for over 18 months. He has a heart problems so he can't have surgery. The vet told me there was nothing I could do for it. I finally thought to look for herbal remedies because I hate putting him through the pain of cleaning them. I bought some organic Turmeric from Harmons (in baking section) and mixed it with defractionated Coconut Oil (from Doterra- I use it but I'm not selling so this is REAL). I put about 3 T of Organic Turmeric with 1-2 T of Defractionated Coconut Oil and put it in the microwave for about 2 minutes. Then I let it cool in the fridge.
My dogs cysts had been burst for 18 months - one was about an inch in diameter and the others were 1/4 and 1/2 inch. The big one, the inner skin had actually risen above the surface by 1/8 of an inch. I put this paste on thick and covered it with gauze and tape (cut his hair down so it would stick). 24 HOURS LATER they had shrunk to meet the surface of his skin! :) :) :) I also put 1/4 t of turmeric in his breakfast and mixed it in. He's not ecstatic about the flavor, but he'll eat it. THANK YOU AGAIN!! :)
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 28, 2016:
Carol, thank you for your story about healing your dog's sebaceous cyst naturally!
Natalia on September 20, 2016:
For the cyst not to refill the vet has to remove the sac
Betty on September 01, 2016:
Carol, hopefully your dog's sebaceous cyst is going to shrink and never come back! thanks for sharing your experience.
Emaleigh W on August 31, 2016:
Daily Mositure your Black lab Bailey seems to have a full anal sac, not a cyst. You can look up methoods to emptying it. It can be harful for Animals, it is not hard to do, and can be kind of gross. I would definitely recommend emtying it. upon research if you decide you cannot do it a vet will do it for you. best of luck
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 27, 2016:
Carol odea, I hope your dog's sebaceous cyst is gone by now!
Daily Moisture on June 04, 2016:
My 12 yr old black lab Bailey has had a growing cyst for the last 1 1/2 yrs near her rectum that is so big I have actually given it "his" own name "Ernesto" and am about to give "him" his own facebook page. Wish it would rupture so i could try some of these home remedies.
Valerie Strong on June 01, 2016:
Lavender oil...cures cysts... apply a couple times a day on the cyst... it works wonders !
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 21, 2016:
What does your vet recommend? Eight is not that old to undergo surgery if she is healthy and many dogs get a dental cleaning as they go under.
Julie on May 15, 2016:
My dog has a cyst on her chest, she's had it drained twice now but has filled up and has got bigger. What should I do? She's nearly 8 years old.
Mary G. on April 26, 2016:
I was about to have my 15 year old cocker spaniel euthanized because of the huge lump on her neck until I read your article on cysts. The vet has twice drained the "growth" and of course it refilled rather quickly. It doesn't seen to cause her any pain but has pushed her ear onto her face and the ear is pushing on her right eye. (Wish I could post a picture to show you how large this thing is.) I hate to have her put to sleep if it's just a matter of removing a clogged gland. The vet does not want to sedate her because of her age but there has to be a better solution than having it emptied out every 3 weeks. As a senior citizen living on Social Security, that gets costly as well. The growth is bigger than a standard size baseball now, very firm in some areas, and warm to the touch. I just hate to put my furry family member to sleep if there are other options. :(
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 06, 2015:
Hello Carol, I hope your dog's sebaceous cyst is finally cured! i have heard many good things about raw honey, I am not surprised it may work as well for cysts! As always, home remedies for dogs may work, but should only be done once a vet has done a diagnosis to rule out other conditions. Best wishes!
carol odea on May 06, 2015:
Sebaceous cyst on my boxers hip opened. I cleaned w soapy warm water. Then I applied orgsnic raw honey to gauze and held in place with paper tape, replacing honey/bandages ea day for about 4 days. honey pulls the fluid out and heals. After 4 days I replaced bandages to just dry gauze and taped down. Im on day 6 changing dry bandage daily. Its not coming back yet and seems to be drying out.