Understanding Bumps and Cysts on Pet’s Skin

As pets age, lumps and bumps may arise on the skin

As pets start to age, various lumps, bumps and cysts can arise. Many times these can appear suddenly and can have various appearances from raised hairless overgrowths of tissue, to bumps felt under the skin. The most common benign bumps in pets include overgrowths of fatty tissue known as lipomas, and warts. Other common benign bumps include various types of cysts that can sometimes discharge pasty fluid on the skin surface.

Other lumps can have various appearances and can occasionally bleed. While the softer, fatty and freely movable over-growths can be diagnosed as lipomas by a veterinarian, the best way to make sure that these bumps and cysts are benign is to have a veterinary exam. During such an exam, the veterinarian may perform a needle aspirate, where the vet or veterinary pathologist at an outside laboratory examines cells under the microscope for diagnosis. A needle aspirate can be done without any sedation in the veterinary office.

Other times, a surgical excisional biopsy is necessary in which surgery is performed while the pet is under anesthesia. Rather than watching and waiting, if a bump or cyst is growing quickly, it is always best to have a veterinary exam to perform one of these diagnostic tests so your pet receives the best treatment. LearnMoreButton-lipomas


Have pet health questions? For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form.

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  1. I have a 10 yr old Shih Tzu who has developed 2 red bunps adjacent to each other between her shoulder blades. These bumps were raised and looked almost like huge pimples with a lighter color head. I attempted to clean the lumps with alcohol and they oozed some blood onto the cotton balls used to clean. How should I proceed…should she see vet immediately?

  2. These comments are very helpful. Do you think a heating pad will ease the pain of my dog’s arthritis?

  3. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 22, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Heating pads can sometimes help on occasion.

  4. I have an 8 yo Chinese crested. I adopted her 3 years ago. She came with some skin problems like black heads and dry skin on the insides of her legs. She had a biopsy done on the lumps on her belly which were all benign. Over the last couple of months she’s been getting what look like cysts or giant pimples on her back. I bathe her at least once s week because of her skin problems and I have a medicated shampoo the vet prescribed. These pimples start out small, but grow pretty quickly. I will start to notice a head forming and within a couple days there a multiple heads and the pimple is the size of a silver dollar. I’ve been holding warm cloths on them to soften them as it causes her some discomfort. I’ve never squeezed them bc I’m too afraid of what they could be. The last one she had just burst on its own and there was some clear/red pus. I’m assuming it was bloody pus. Should I be more concerned about these? I’m having a difficult time finding a trustworthy vet in my area. The two in my town are completely in it for the money and they don’t try to hide it. Any help would be appreciated!

  5. HI Amanda. IT still sounds like she will need local veterinary exam as she may need oral antibiotics for 3 to 4 weeks, if the cysts/pimples have pus and/or are infected. You should ask vet about addressing potential underlying causes such as inhalent/contact allergies(known as atopy) or hormonal issues like low thyroid, etc or problems will tend to recur. You also may want to try some holistic suggestions. See the book Dr PItcairn’s guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard PItcairn, DVM, phd which has great holistic and diet suggestions for natural health. You could also work with a holistic vet on more long term safe solutions, although not a quick fix. Learn more at my website http://www.doctordym.com MAny holistic vets do offer phone consultations

  6. Ok so i have a a dog that’s 6 months she has red eyes n always scratching but no fleas…could it b allergies if so way should I feed her bc beneiful she scratches like crazy n kibbles n bites she wnt touch… picky dog I guess….is giving her benadryl every day ok?

  7. And also my cat has gained someweight n I thought It was from him eating her food but we’ve noticed lumps on his belly n fur missing n skin red n dry…wat should I do?

  8. HI Alicia. Giving benadryl every day is ok. You can dose her up to 1 mg per pound twice daily. You can also put her on a good quality omega 3 fatty acid like nordic naturals pet omega 3 from 1800petmeds. You may want to see a vet for allergy workup as most likely inhalent/contact allergies to molds, dander, house dust, etc Vets also can prescribe stronger drugs like the new apoquel which is highly effective

  9. Best to take cat to vet for evaluation for workup as many possibilities.

  10. I just found a small looking scab on the back of my 6 year old shih tzus head. It was about the size of a pea and yellow wax like material started to come out after the tiny scab was off. It popped like a pimple would, is this something a vet should look at?

  11. We have a 9 year old golden retriever. She has an AWFUL odor! She also has a large bubble like bump flesh color with purple “cyst like” place in her shoulder blade that is getting bigger. Another large one on her bottom that is black. Her hair is falling out like crazy!! Beyond normal even for a her! And her undercoat isn’t falling out like normal. Her breath has that horrible rotten smell also.
    Any info?

  12. I found a puppy looks about 4 weeks old he has a bad open spot on his leg with white puss in it i have been putting medicine on it don’t really have the money for a vet I’m feeding him with a bottle but he don’t look like he is gaining any weight

  13. HI Sandra. This is not one that I can make home recommendations for. Puppy needs vet exam and likely antibiotic for infection present

  14. Hi! I have a 1 year old Shih Tzu. He has these scabs that appear on his body sometimes. Usually they are brown with pus. They will show up and then randomly disappear a couple weeks after. He itches hem a lot, but does not seem sick at all. I have tried going to the vet, and they can never figure out what it is. When I last went to the groomer they gave him a hotspot bath and told me to switch up his dog food. The bath seemed to work for a few days , and I could not tell a difference with the dog food. Do you have any idea what could be wrong with him? Thank you!

  15. Most of time these are due to secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections which need prescription antibiotic therapies for several weeks, as well as addressing likely underlying allergies here, known as canine atopy, or what I call Doggie hayfever. Unless underlying causes are addressed, then condition will recur. Get second opinion from vet in your area if you are not making progress

  16. My Siberian husky puppy has this weird little black bump on the back of her arm near her paw and when I tried to move her fur a bit to look at it she immediately woke up and moved her paw away does it hurt? What is it? What can I do?

  17. Best to take her to vet for proper exam and evaluation. Vet may be able to perform impression smear and/or cytology on the lump to see if it is anything of concern and/or the possibility of antibiotics, etc. Histiocytoma are benign lumps in young puppies which often go away on their own. See your vet who can sort these out

  18. Can I catch what my pug has

  19. bumps and lumps on the skin are NOT contagious from dogs to people

  20. What is the brand/name of the shampoo you are using?

  21. My soon to be 9 year old Shih Tzu is a great dog. He is not over weight and very calm and good with the vet. I have been noticing the past few months little bumps on him. 1 on his hind “thigh”, 1 on his shoulder and now 1 on his other shoulder. They are not getting bigger and look sorta like a white head but wouldn’t pop and I don’t want to hurt him. I don’t know that they would. They don’t bother him and the research I have done and people I have talked to that have had Shih Tzu’s for years said that they are prone to cysts and nothing to worry about. Just wondering if this is the case or it should be a vet call. Last time he was to the vet there was just 1 on his shoulder and was told it was nothing… just checking for my sake and make sure he is ok. NO change in his behavior or anything. Thanks for any info.

  22. Most likely Jennifer these innocent bumps, warts, skin tags, fatty tumors and/or cysts dont need further attention unless they itch the pet, ulcerate/bleed, etc. However ANY new bump or cyst should always be checked by a vet to make sure vet thinks it is nothing to worry about, as some harder, even tiny cysts, may be imposters for other, potentially more serious lumps like Mast Cell tumors. A vet exam and visual inspection and/or needle aspiration can usually sort this possibility out.

  23. I have a 3 year old miniature cockapoo and have just found two small bumps under her right ear (almost where the cheek would be in a human but a bit further back). One was clearly bleeding a tiny bit and both are a tad discoloured. Any ideas what it might be?

  24. Thanks for your question! For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form.
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  25. My shitzu Georgia has just started having those bumps like everyone else is describing. She comes over and just wants me to scratch her where she can’t nip at, she seems so uncomfortable, I feel so bad for her. So I itch her really good and I noticed the bumps get bigger and bigger over the days until they pop and bleed from me scratching. So then I go get the hydrogen peroxide and clean out the pimple like bump that’s bleeding and pussing , and use a paper towel to leak it out and clean her. I’ve started to give her antfiungal shampoo baths a couple times a week now. I also hide children’s Benadryl in a treat and I even give her some of her mother’s pain meds from before she died. It breaks my heart to know she’s so uncomfortable and bothered by these things. The first couple times she didn’t understand the peroxide and was trying to jump off the bed away from me. I just blew on it like I would with my daughters knee scrapes years ago… over the last week she’s kind of gotten used to the peroxide and I also apply some cortisone cream after I clean the popped bumps out and it seems to help her feel not as bad. But then after a couple hours she needs a bath to get the cortisone out of her fur and then it’s back to square one with the itching and puss/bleeding and hydrogen peroxide….

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