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Sebaceous Cysts in Cats

By: Dr. Erika DePapp

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A sebaceous cyst is a small sac containing an accumulation of secretions produced by the sebaceous glands. Sebaceous cysts are also known as epidermoid cysts, epidermal inclusion cysts, epidermal cysts, and wens.

The sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum, which lubricates the skin. The ducts of the sebaceous glands empty into hair follicles. The development of sebaceous cysts is thought to arise from an obstruction of the follicles, leading to abnormal accumulations of sebum.

Sebaceous cysts are common in cats. There are no breed, age or sex predilections with respect to formation of the cysts. There is no significant impact on your pet, as these are benign, non-painful growths.

What to Watch For

  • Smooth, round firm to fluctuant growths, roughly 5mm to 5cm in diameter. They may have a slightly blue color to them.
  • Release of a grayish white or brown discharge with a cheesy consistency.
  • Development of cysts on the head, neck, body and upper legs.

    Diagnostic tests

  • Fine needle aspiration. A diagnosis can often be made by placing a small needle within the cyst and suctioning some cells out of it with a syringe. Microscopic evaluation of the cells will often be suggestive of a sebaceous cyst.

  • Biopsy. A definitive diagnosis may require a sample of tissue that has been surgically removed.

    Treatment

    In most cases no treatment is necessary. If the decision is made to biopsy the cyst, complete surgical removal is usually performed. This is curative.

    Home Care

    At home, monitor the cyst for changes in size or evidence of irritation. Although these are benign growths, fine needle aspiration does not always provide a conclusive diagnosis. For this reason, rapidly enlarging masses should be surgically removed and biopsied to ensure there is no evidence of malignancy (cancer).

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