Follicular Cysts in Dogs

Follicular cysts (sebaceous gland cysts or epidermoid cysts) are benign cysts and therefore complete removal is not necessary. However, a biopsy is necessary in order to determine whether or not the lump is benign or cancerous. Not all lumps or bumps are cancerous. Some cysts are liquid filled bumps underneath the skin. The dog may not even notice its presence.

Not All Bumps Are Cancerous

Not all bumps are indicators of the presence of cancer. A bump is just an abnormal growth or swelling made of tissue masses or is filled with fluid. Therefore, squeezing these bumps is not advised since that may cause a severe skin reaction. Surgical removal is optional depending upon the location, age of the dog and the dog’s health, which will determine the recovery period and degree of recovery. If a dog has many other medical conditions, is taking other medications and/or is older, surgery would not be a good choice since it may make other medical conditions worse or it may stress out an older dog.

A biopsy is also recommended in order to determine the presence of cancer. Since follicular cysts are the most common cysts occurring in dogs, the odds are very good that most bumps or lumps are non-cancerous.

Follicular cysts are single round nodules (hard tissue masses) on or underneath the skin that appear bluish in color (if present on the skin). They usually contain thick, yellowish or grey material. They usually occur on the neck, head or trunk but can appear anywhere. It is a good practice to check the skin while grooming for any lumps since this should occur every two weeks. It is also advisable to run your hands along the dog to detect any variations in the skin on a regular basis. This is especially important since it will monitor any changes in the skin and give an early detection of any irregularities that may indicate a serious medical condition. This can be life saving since early detection and treatment allows for a more successful recovery.

Problematic Bumps

Bumps that are in locations that are constantly irritated should be removed even if they are not cancerous. Constant irritation can cause the lumps to grow and/or become infected. Bumps that are filled with fluid should be monitored for any discharges since this could indicate a change in the status of the cyst(s), from benign to cancerous.

Any lumps that have any of the following characteristics should be inspected by a veterinarian:

  • Oozing any discharge
  • Changes in color
  • Changes in shape
  • Rapid growth in size
  • Changes in appearance
  • Changes in type (hard, soft, liquid-filled)

These changes do not necessarily mean that the lump is cancerous, but it may mean so. Cancerous lumps must be surgically removed otherwise the cancer can spread to other tissues or vital organs. Prognosis regarding cancer depends upon the type of cancer and its location.