Dogs are prone to all kinds of lumps, bumps, lipomas and cysts, especially as they age. But they’re not always a cause for concern. A sebaceous adenoma in dogs is one type of cyst that’s harmless … but it still sets off warning bells in concerned dog owners.
What Is Sebaceous Adenoma In Dogs?
A sebaceous adenoma is a benign tumor growth that originates from the sebaceous glands. They’re also known as sebaceous cysts.
Sebaceous glands are sweat glands and all dogs have them. They’re located just below the surface of the skin, and secrete sebum through pores around your dog’s hair follicles. Sebum is a yellow oil that’s instrumental in keeping your dog’s coat sleek and shiny. Any time you brush your dog, you’re signaling sebaceous glands to release sebum to moisturize your dog’s skin.
But when there’s a buildup of oil secretions, the hair follicles of these sebaceous glands get blocked so the natural secretions have nowhere to go, and a cyst forms.
Most cysts are benign, slow growing and aren’t harmful. They’re common in middle-aged and older dogs. Some breeds, including Schnauzers, Yorkshire Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Huskies, Samoyeds and Alaskan Malamutes are prone to sebaceous cysts.
What Are Sebaceous Gland Tumors In Dogs?
Sebaceous adenocarcinoma in dogs is a rare type of cancer affecting an oil gland in your dog’s skin. You might see a lump or skin thickening. If your dog has a sebaceous cyst, it can’t become a sebaceous adenocarcinoma.
Are Sebaceous Adenomas In Dogs Painful?
These cysts don’t hurt but if scratched, there can be bleeding from a sebaceous adenoma or they can become tender, sore and infected. You’ll see swelling around the cyst or there could be foul-smelling pus seeping from the cyst.
What Causes Sebaceous Adenoma In Dogs?
A hormonal or chemical change to your dog’s skin can result in infection, inflammation, clogged pores and infected hair follicles. Clogged follicles can be caused by oil trapped in the glands, injuries, dirt and infections.
As dogs age, their skin changes so it may become drier or oilier. These hormonal changes can result in a cancerous growth, but more often they result in a common dog wart or sebaceous adenoma.
A sebaceous adenoma can happen when the pH balance of your dog’s skin causes too much sebum to be produced to manage dry skin … and that results in a blocked hair follicle.
Causes Of pH Imbalance In Dogs
A dog’s normal pH balance for his skin is 7.5 on the pH balance scale of 0–14. Numbers below 7 are acidic, while above 7 are alkaline or non-acidic.
There are several things that lead to a pH imbalance in dogs such as:
- Excess sebum production due to skin dryness
- Genetics and age
- Detergents and cleansers
- Frequent bathing
- Use of antibacterial products that destroy the skin’s microbiome
- Certain skin conditions and allergies
- A diet of poor quality ingredients such as salt, protein, dairy, carbohydrates, sugar
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There are more serious conditions that can lead to a change in pH including:
- Metabolic diseases such as diabetes or renal failure
- Use of corticosteroids and NSAIDs
- Urinary blockages
- Sustained vomiting that depletes stomach acid
- Excessive doses of diuretics
Signs Of Sebaceous Adenoma In Dogs
A sebaceous adenoma is usually quite small, a quarter inch to 1 inch, as it forms at the base of a tiny hair follicle. It’s rare to see them much larger. Here’s what to look for.
- White to pink in color
- Raised lump or bump
- Feels soft or firm and can be moved on top of your dog’s skin or inside the skin layers
- Hair loss around lump
- Swelling, redness and fluid with crustiness
- Appears on trunk, legs, anus, feet, hips, elbow, head or face
- Might secrete a greasy white substance
- Can have multiple raised, hairless, lobes or masses that resemble cauliflower
- Looks like a pimple or wart
Diagnosis Of Sebaceous Adenoma In Dogs
You can have your vet assess the size, appearance and location of any cyst. Your vet may suggest a fine needle aspirate or tissue biopsy to take a sample of the raised bump. However, this can be a risky procedure and usually not necessary for a sebaceous cyst.
While fine needle aspirates can help confirm cancer, if your vet suspects it, they can also disrupt the cancer cells and cause the cancer to spread.
Your conventional vet may suggest surgically removing the sebaceous adenoma or treating it with medication. If there’s an infection of the hair follicle, she’ll want to treat it with antibiotics. Antibiotics will not only affect the bacteria causing the infection, it will also destroy beneficial bacteria that helps prevent disease and infection. Neither surgery nor antibiotics will remove the cause of a sebaceous adenoma.
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Sebaceous Adenoma Treatment
There’s no need to remove a benign sebaceous adenoma in your dog. First of all, you can prevent an existing cyst from becoming infected. You want to avoid:
- Squeezing or popping it
- Poking it
- Cutting into it
Instead, here are things you can do to reduce the size of the cyst. These remedies might not eliminate it but they will help prevent it from getting larger and bothering your dog.
Home Remedies For Sebaceous Adenoma In Dogs
These natural remedies can help with sebaceous adenoma in dogs. Here are some to consider.
A warm compress can help drain or shrink cysts as heat reduces the thickness of liquid in the cyst. That can help it drain quicker into the lymphatic system. Dampen a clean cloth in warm water and apply for 20 minutes. Repeat several times a day.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial qualities so it can help with some cysts. Mix equal parts of water and apple cider vinegar. You can combine this with the hot compress method.
Note: Never apply undiluted apple cider vinegar directly to skin as it can sting or burn.
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that may help reduce cysts caused by bacteria. Use a pure aloe vera gel and apply directly to an irritated or painful cyst as often as needed.
Witch hazel is a common topical wash for acne because of its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce cysts in the same way. Dab some on the cyst with a cotton ball several times a day. Use organic witch hazel if you can get it.
Manuka honey is very healing for skin problems, and it has antimicrobial properties so it’s helpful if your dog has an infected cyst. There’s even research showing that Manuka honey can clear up antibiotic-resistant infections.
How To Prevent Sebaceous Cysts In Dogs
You should always focus on your dog’s general health whether or not he has a sebaceous adenoma or another type of benign tumor. Here’s what you can do:
1. Feed A Whole Food, Raw Meat Diet
A healthy whole food diet balances your dog’s pH, addresses inflammation and helps support his immune system. Avoid starches, sugars, salt, poor quality protein or dairy that can lead to cysts from poor metabolism and unbalanced pH in your dog.
2. Feed Alkaline Foods To Balance pH
Alkaline foods will help maintain your dog’s pH balance. You can also add them to processed food to improve your dog’s meals. Removing any starches will go further to improving your dog’s overall health. Include these foods:
- Green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale and parsley
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower
- Nuts like almonds and pistachios
- Fresh chopped garlic in appropriate amounts
3. Brush Your Dog
When you brush your dog frequently, you stimulate the sebaceous glands to release sebum. This reduces the chances of these glands becoming clogged.
4. Avoid Frequent Bathing
Frequent bathing strips your dog’s skin of natural oils that support skin health and beneficial bacteria that support the microbiome of your dog’s skin. You only need to bathe your dog a few times a year so when you do, use an organic all-natural shampoo with no harsh ingredients.
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5. Feed Omega Fatty Acids
If your dog is experiencing dry skin he may not be getting enough essential fatty acids. You can supplement these in the diet by feeding him wild caught fish or an omega-3 supplement.
Keeping your dog healthy keeps his skin healthy and that helps reduce the likelihood of sebaceous adenoma in dogs.
Jenkins R, Burton N, Cooper R. Manuka honey inhibits cell division in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2011 Nov;66(11):2536-42.
Priyantha R, Gaunt MC, Rubin JE. Antimicrobial susceptibility of Staphylococcus pseudintermedius colonizing healthy dogs in Saskatoon, Canada. Can Vet J. 2016 Jan;57(1):65-9.