[From Tufts November 2010 Issue]
Q: My 8-year-old Norwegian elkhound has a sebaceous cyst problem. I have anywhere from 6 to 12 removed every year. I know the breed is known for this problem. Is there anything I can do or give her that will help prevent or reduce these cysts?
This sounds like a frustrating problem. I wonder if your dog has recurring keratoacanthomas, which appear similar to sebaceous cysts (differentiation requires biopsy) and are known to be a recurring problem in Norwegian elkhounds. I recommend twice yearly evaluation with surgical removal of new lesions when they are small.
There is some scant evidence that long-term vitamin A therapy can prevent new lesion formation, but the evidence for success is weak, and potentially serious side effects may occur with treatment.
There are reports of keratoacanthomas converting to invasive cancer, so removal should be performed before the lesions grow too large. They also can cause nasty reactions if they are ruptured. It seems most feasible to schedule twice yearly removals. For my own dog, I would recommend repeated surgical excisions rather than drug therapy.
Sorry I cannot offer any new solutions to you. Aside from repeated surgical procedures, however, these skin lesions are benign and of little risk to your dog’s long life.
Michael Stone DVM, ACVIM