Pet Health
guide to follicular cysts in dogs

Dog Follicular Cysts - The Guide to Follicular Cysts in Dogs

Written by Ryan Gliozzo


Discover everything you need to know about dog follicular cysts in our comprehensive guide. Learn about the causes, symptoms, treatment options and preventative measures to keep your furry friend healthy and happy.
A Jack Russell sitting on gravel and itching his neck.


You're not alone if you've felt that pang of worry when discovering a strange bump on your pet's skin.

Cysts and other skin issues can be quite common in dogs and cats, and require our careful observation.

A dog with follicular cysts may sometimes be mistaken for other health issues—thus highlighting the importance of a meticulous examination.

Rest assured, understanding and addressing these concerns can help ensure that our beloved companions remain both happy and healthy.

Key takeaways

  • Follicular cysts are benign but may require treatment if they become painful or infected.

  • A clear treatment plan is essential in managing cysts and preventing complications.

  • Regular veterinary check-ups help in early detection of skin issues in dogs.

  • Combining proper care with veterinary advice ensures the well-being of our canine friends.

  • Understanding that cysts are common in dogs equips pet owners to handle such situations calmly.

  • Advanced treatment options in veterinary medicine can effectively manage these skin conditions.

Comprehensive overview of dog follicular cysts

Dog follicular cysts are a common skin condition seen in veterinary practice. These benign growths are linked to the hair follicles and display a variety of causes and symptoms.

Understanding the predisposition for follicular cyst formation and identifying early signs can be crucial for timely treatment.

Below is a closer examination of what these cysts are, the factors contributing to their development, and the symptoms that may necessitate professional veterinary assistance.

What is a dog follicular cyst?

A dog follicular cyst typically presents as a benign growth connected to a dog's hair follicle.

The formation of these cysts results in a thin cyst wall that may encapsulate substances like sebum, keratin, or even hair.

Although harmless, if left untreated they can become itchy or painful, particularly when they enlarge or become infected.

In veterinary medicine, proper diagnosis and treatment are essential for managing these skin abnormalities effectively.

Causes and contributing factors

The pathogenesis of dog follicular cysts is yet to be completely understood; however, factors such as genetic predisposition and injury affecting the follicles have been identified.

Certain dog breeds highlight a hereditary component, suggesting that there is indeed a genetic underpinning.

Further, traumatic events leading to the blocking of follicles can also instigate the development of cysts.

An accurate diagnosis typically involves a bacterial culture to rule out infection and subsequent appropriate treatment.

Recognising symptoms of cysts on dogs and when to seek veterinary assistance

The symptoms of follicular cysts in dogs are often visible, characterised by notable bumps on the skin.

A tell-tale sign includes the possible excretion of a thick substance upon applying pressure. In some cases, the cysts may become infected or painful, indicating the need for immediate veterinary advice.

It is essential to monitor for signs of discomfort in dogs, as this may reveal that the cysts have begun to create troubling complications necessitating a thorough evaluation and treatment.

Here's a concise guide to symptoms and actions:




Bumps on skin

Large, benign lumps associated with hair follicles

Monitor and consult a vet if growth persists


Release of sebum, keratin, or hair when cyst is pressed

Clean the area and seek veterinary assistance

Itchiness or pain

The dog may scratch or show discomfort around the bump

Visit a vet for potential treatment of follicular cysts

Infection signs

Redness, swelling, warmth and pus around cyst

Immediate veterinary attention for possible antibiotic treatment

A dog itching his neck sat outdoors.

Effective treatment of follicular cysts on dogs

When addressing the management of canine skin growths, specifically follicular cysts, it’s essential to consider the individual case details.

A comprehensive approach involves everything from topical treatments to dietary management and even the right bathing practices.

Regularly bathing your dog with a gentle shampoo can soothe irritated skin and may prevent cysts from becoming itchy or infected.

For specific product recommendations, consider exploring options like those discussed in ‘
Dog Shampoos for Itchy Skin’, which can offer relief and aid in the overall management of your dog's skin health.

A veterinary caregiver will often develop a personalised treatment plan, factoring in the size, location, and impact on the dog's well-being.

For small, non-problematic cysts, non-invasive methods such as monitoring or applying topical medications may suffice.

These treatments are usually aimed at soothing the area and preventing further complications.

In the instance of larger or infected cysts, a more aggressive approach might be required.

If inflammation, rupture, or infection is present, antibiotic treatment is often administered to combat infection and prepare the site for potential surgical removal.

This initial step helps to ensure that the area is free from infection and that inflammation is reduced before any surgical procedure is carried out.

Topical medication:
For small and non-infected cysts to ease symptoms.

Antibiotics: Used when infection is present or if there is significant inflammation.

Surgical removal: Recommended for relief from larger, bothersome cysts or those that may interfere with the dog's daily activities.

Fine-needle aspiration: Occasionally utilised for both diagnostic purposes and cyst management.

For cysts suspected to be malignant, such as adenocarcinomas, treatment typically extends beyond surgery.

Here, a comprehensive approach involving chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended following the surgical removal of the growth to ensure any remaining cancer cells are eradicated.

This comprehensive approach also involves everything from topical treatments to dietary management.

For an in-depth look into optimising your dog's diet for skin health, consider exploring ‘
The Ultimate Guide to Fresh Dog Food'.

Make sure to consult with your veterinary caregiver to establish an effective treatment plan catered to your dog's specific needs and circumstances.

An informed and well-considered approach to treatment ensures the best possible outcome for your canine companion.

A cyst on a dog's nose.

Understanding other canine skin growths: benign vs malignant tumours

When it comes to dog health, distinguishing between various skin growths can be pivotal.

Canine skin tumours can range from harmless bumps to serious, life-threatening conditions.

Recognising the nature of these tumours is essential for the health and well-being of your pet.

The importance of early diagnosis

Spotting the difference between benign and malignant tumours early on can significantly impact your dog's treatment plan.

Through early diagnosis, including a thorough physical examination and potential biopsies, the best treatment routes can be determined.

This is particularly true for conditions like follicular cysts, which might require timely surgical intervention or antibiotic application if infected.


Common types

Physical characteristics

Diagnosis method

Potential treatments

Benign tumours

Histiocytomas, lipomas, dermoid cysts

Non-invasive, may regress spontaneously

Physical examination, fine-needle aspirate

Observation, surgical excision if needed

Malignant tumours

Angiosarcomas, basal cell carcinomas

Aggressive, potential to metastasise

Biopsy, histopathological examination

Surgical removal, chemotherapy

A brown dog being bathed.


Ensuring the health and comfort of our canine companions involves recognising and addressing skin conditions such as follicular cysts promptly and effectively.

Being aware of and addressing other common skin issues, such as
interdigital cysts, is crucial for maintaining the overall well-being of our pets.

Also, by differentiating between benign and malignant tumours, dog owners can seek timely veterinary intervention and select the most suitable treatment plan for their pets.

While a variety of treatment options exist, surgical excision is regularly identified as the preferred treatment for follicular cysts that are causing discomfort or have become infected.

Particularly for older dogs or those breeds with a predisposition to skin issues, the presence of disseminated cysts or any unusual growth demands close attention.

These instances underline the importance of understanding all aspects of your dog's health, our other helpful guides ‘
Fishy Breath in Dogs’ can encourage more comprehensive health checks.

Any responsible pet owner should be prepared for the financial aspect of treating health conditions in dogs, including follicular cysts.

The Ins and Outs of Pet Insurance’ can provide you with vital information on how pet insurance might cover treatments, including surgeries, potentially saving significant costs and ensuring your dog receives the best care possible.


What exactly is a dog follicular cyst?

A dog follicular cyst is a benign skin tumour that originates from the hair follicle, often filled with substances like sebum, keratin, or hair.

The cyst walls are made up of a multilayer of epithelium and can become large and discharge a material if squeezed.

These cysts can cause discomfort and become itchy or painful for the dog as they grow.

Are cysts common in dogs and what types can develop?

Yes, cysts are quite common in dogs. The types that can develop include follicular cysts, dermoid cysts, sebaceous cysts, and other benign or malignant tumours.

Follicular cysts, in particular, are associated with hair follicles and are among the most common types diagnosed in canine skin issues.

How can I differentiate between benign and malignant tumours on my dog’s skin?

Benign tumours, such as follicular cysts, lipomas, or histiocytomas, are generally non-cancerous and don't spread to other body parts.

They usually have defined edges and grow slowly.

Malignant tumours, like angiosarcomas or squamous cell carcinomas, can be more aggressive, spread to other tissues or organs and may grow more quickly.

Accurate differentiation usually requires veterinary assistance, and often a biopsy or other diagnostic tests.

What is the importance of early diagnosis of skin growths in dogs?

Early diagnosis is vital to differentiate between benign and malignant growths accurately, to evaluate any potential health risk, and to implement the best treatment plan.

Early detection allows for more effective management of the condition, which could include anything from monitoring to surgery, and in the case of malignancies, potentially life-saving interventions such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

When should I seek veterinary assistance for a follicular cyst in my dog?

You should seek veterinary assistance if you notice any large bumps on your dog's skin that may discharge material when pressed, or if the cysts become itchy, painful, or infected.

Additionally, any rapid changes in size or appearance of the skin growth warrant a visit to the vet, to rule out more serious conditions and discuss appropriate treatment options.

What treatment options are available for follicular cysts in dogs?

The preferred treatment is often surgical removal, especially if the cysts are large, bothersome, or infected.

However, for smaller or less severe cysts, a treatment plan may include monitoring, topical medication, or antibiotics if there's evidence of infection.

Advanced treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation, may be considered for certain malignant growths following surgical excision.

How can I manage my dog's skin health effectively to prevent cysts?

Regular veterinary check-ups, particularly for older dogs or breeds predisposed to skin growths, are essential. Keep an eye on your dog's skin for any new lumps or changes in existing ones.

Maintaining a healthy diet, regular grooming, and hygiene can also help in managing your dog's skin health. However, some cysts may have a genetic component, making prevention more challenging.

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