We don't know what to do with our Basset Hound

Shelby is a 14-year old basset hound, possibly the best dog I’ve ever owned, and we are in a bind with her.

Throughout her life, Shelby has had an issue with sebacous (sp!) cysts. It hasn’t been that big of a deal - about once a year, one of them would burst, we’d clean it up, and that’s that.

However, the last few years… they’ve been changing. And multiplying:

  1. We spent $800 at the vet having 13 of them surgically removed in 2007.
  2. In 2008 she had 8 of them erupt and burst.
  3. This past year, she had one grow above her right eye - in a 3 day period the thing swelled from nothing to a size larger than a golf ball. She had another operation to remove that one about two months ago. That was another $700. (All told, we have spent well over $5,000 on these things).

Anyway, they are multiplying. In addition to the five cysts that have developed and burst in the past two weeks, if you run your hand over her body you can feel up to 20 more hard spots where more cysts are ready to erupt. And there’s no telling which one will go at what time: for example, Monday I came home from lunch, took the dogs (we also have a Scotty) out, and everything was fine. 4 hours later my wife comes home and starts freaking out because Shelby is bleeding from her back - another cyst developed, grew, and burst since lunch.

Right now, the dog has 4, 5 of these things on her. 3 of them are bleeding (ever try to keep a bandage on a dogs neck?), and the other two have already had their day in the sun and are drying out.

And yes, we’ve taken her to the vet. Both vets swear that these things are sebacous-related (for example, the one above her eye was not cancer, but another sebacous gland issue). The last vet said (this past Saturday) that the things weren’t bothering her, that other than these things Shelby is in fine health, and not to worry about it.

Except my wife worries about it. Because there are splats of blood and other fluids on the wall where the dog shakes (and she shakes a LOT). Because she doesn’t like coming home to find yellow fatty material, mixed with blood, rubbed against the wall or the kitchen floor. Because the poor dog can’t live the rest of her days like this.

Shelby doesn’t seem as if she’s suffering or in any great discomfort, and she doesn’t yelp or react in any way when these things are being touched/cleaned, so they’re not hurting her. (Which I don’t understand - I would think that if I had a walnut-sized tumor growing out of my neck, one which has been bleeding for a week - I would think that would be painful. But the dog doesn’t react as if it is).

To remove the current bumps will cost about $1,000, which we don’t have. Removing the current ones is a fruitless exercise anyway, because they always come back. Maybe not in the exact spot where the original cyst was, but elsewhere on her body.

So we don’t know what to do. Our options are:

  1. Remove the current cysts, causing our 14 year-old basset hound to undergo yet another operation with stitches all over her body. (Which is painful, judging by her reaction to the last surgery like this).
  2. Do nothing, except clean the apartment on a near daily-basis.
  3. Put her down. It seems crazy to put a dog to sleep because she has an extreme case of zits, but this situation is growing beyond our ability to help her.


Any suggestions? Ideas? Miracles? Words of comfort?

Btw, there’s no basset rescue operation here in San Antonio, btw. Not that we would abandon her, but in Knoxville we found the BR people to be good to talk to about these things.

My friends are having issues with their older dog suddenly deciding to pee in the house. Their solution is to crate her at night and keep her confined to certain rooms of their house via an electronic fence type thing that is built for interiors.

Maybe that might work for the old gal.


I wonder if there is any medication that might make her less prone to these? Perhaps a maintenance dose of antibiotics?

I wonder if a change in diet might have an effect.

Shelby eats Iams right now, and has for a long time. She has eaten other dog foods, but these cysts have been a constant with her - but right now she’s suffering a fierce outbreak of these cysts.

When she’s crated, she whines and howls, which was not so much an issue where we were, but more-so now that we’re in an apartment.

I’ve hypothesized that the past three years of outbreaks is caused either by her age or by the “new” dog (stress, allergic reactions to Mackie, etc). But this latest thing, where they’re huge and hard and so many of them… that’s not a good development.

This may be a long shot, but is there a veterinary school near you?

Sometimes, a university vet school will have openings for animals to be treated by veterinary students, overseen by professors and specialists. They often welcome challenges like this, and will run tests, try different treatments, etc., for a very low fee.

Rather than put down an otherwise healthy dog, I think I’d give this a shot, providing it’s not too far away from you. It wouldn’t hurt to give them a call.

(Insert multiple disclaimers about my lack of expertise…) I used to work for a dog groomer, and I seem to remember her likening the problem to giant pimples. I think, although it has been many years, that there was a special shampoo–obtainable from the vet–that we used. I don’t remember what it was called, and it wasn’t a cure, but it would help somewhat in controlling the oiliness. (I remember some longer-haired dogs would have such oily coats they would look like that kid in school who never shampooed their hair. Presumably this would not be so noticeable on a basset hound.) I also remember one dog that was particularly greasy as well as lethargic and overweight. The groomer suggested that the owner have the vet check the dog’s thyroid, and the dog ended up improving dramatically after being placed on thyroid medicine. Unfortunately I don’t remember if this dog specifically had the problem with cysts or if he just had greasy skin, so this may or may not apply in your dog’s case.

Anyway, this all may be totally useless information, but hopefully it would give you some suggestions.

My first mastiff Tucker had a couple of those sebaceous cysts when he was young, and one of them had to be removed because it was huge, and right on his butt.
They came and they went over the years. Yeah, they are gross. We always treated them like giant pimples (emphasis on giant.)
I think they can sometimes get infected.
I have heard of Raspex being a good natural treatment, but have not needed to use it so have no first-hand knowledge.
At the end of his life (he died at 10 and a half) Tucker had several of them–probably 4, with more developing. Shelby is on the older side. It would be hard for me to euthanize an otherwise healthy dog, but I can understand that it might be getting to be too much for your wife.

sweetie pea, was it Malaseb?
The dog I adopted from the pound last year had all kinds of skin problems, and the worst was some sort of seborrea (probably not spelling it right). I had to shampoo him with Malaseb every other day for the first 2 weeks, then gradually reduce the frequency. The stuff was pretty miraculous as far as stripping all greasy residue from his skin, and clearing up the bumps.

He’s really healthy now, with occasional allergic outbreaks. A couple of shampoos with Malaseb and he’s back to normal. I get it from his vet, so it may require a prescription.

My old dog Norwegian Elkhound Gizmo (who I just had to put to sleep this week at 15 and a half) used to get these when he was a young dog. It’s a common problem with the breed. I experimented with switching his food around (no corn, no wheat) and eventually they went away completely. I’d say for the last 8 years of his life, he didn’t have even one, and I used to have one or two removed each year before that.

That name doesn’t ring a bell, but it’s quite possible there’s more than one brand.

How would she react not to being kept crated, but at least kept in one room (ie, kitchen)? That might help at least with a bit of the mess.

How would she take to having the cysts covered with a light bandage to reduce the mess, while you’re trying other solutions?

Iams is not a great food, by any stretch of the imagination. You could always try switching to a higher quality food without corn or grains. Lamb and rice may help, but better brands have different formulations (duck and pea, or venison and potato, for instance).

Tea tree oil is one good solution, but be very careful with it, some dogs are sensitive to it. Sebolux shampoo can help, as can salicylic acid treatments or retinoic acid treatments.

I see no reason to put a perfectly healthy dog to sleep.

Can’t you just put a t-shirt on her?

And I second trying a shampoo such as Sebolux, some kind of oil-reducing or pore unclogging skin treatment. Soap or shampoo with 2-5% Benzoyl Peroxide might help - it has to be for animals, though or would be too harsh for her.

But if it were me, I’d just put t-shirts on her. I’d end up with a wardrobe of them, probably, so I could change her daily and not have to do laundry every day, but t-shirts!