Sebaceous cysts are interesting structures.
All pores and hair follicles in the skin are surrounded by microscopic oil glands. These glands produce the oil that makes our pets’ hair (and our own hair) shiny, as well as producing a protective and moisturizing layer for the hair and skin. This oil is called sebum.
Sebaceous cysts occur when a normal pore or hair follicle becomes occluded. Occlusion can occur from dirt, infection, scar tissue or even normal sebum that becomes too thick to move out of the pore’s opening.
As long as the cysts are small, closed and intact they cause no problems.
Sebaceous cysts become problematic when they burst and become open to the outside world again. Frequently then they become infected and must be removed surgically. Surgical removal becomes necessary when the cyst will not heal with topical and systemic antibiotics.
Sebaceous cysts may also rupture under the skin and spill their oily contents into the surrounding tissues. The result is an intense inflammation causing a red, itchy area the pet is likely to lick, scratch and rub. These lesions may even be confused with a lick granuloma because both are highly inflamed and very itchy.
Early sebaceous cysts are usually white, raised and quiet-looking. As long as they stay in this phase they require no medical treatment.
It is when complications occur and they become inflamed that medical and/or surgical attention is needed for sebaceous cysts.
See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.