Dermoid cyst

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An abscessed spinal dermoid sinus in a Rhodesian Ridgeback[1]
Dermoid cyst on the lateral canthus of the palpebral aperture[2]

Dermoid cysts are a benign congenital neural tube defect of skin in dogs.

These cysts are caused by a defect in epidermal closure, which leaves islands of multipotent ectoderm in abnormal locations such as within the central nervous system[3]. They are commonly found in Rhodesian Ridgebacks as an autosomal dominant condition[4], but can occasional be observed in other breeds.

In dogs, these cysts are usually found along the midline, but can be found intracranially[5], as well as on the cornea[6], ocular adnexa, nose[7] and tongue[8]. They may communicate with the skin surface via a sinus pore.

Many are asymptomatic unless they enlarge sufficiently to cause local compressive effects or rupture[9].

They are rarely associated with spinal cord neural deficits but intracranial dermoid cysts invariably result in neurological disease, such as atazia, hemiparesis, seizures and secondary hydrocephalus[10].

Diagnosis is usually based on presenting clinical signs.

A differential diagnosis would include abscess and spina bifida.

Surgical excision is usually curative for cutaneous dermoids, but visceral and intracranial masses may require specialist referral surgery.


  1. Ridgeback Rescue
  2. FMV
  3. Ginn PE et al (2007) Skin and appendages. In: Jubb, Kennedy and Palmer’s pathology of domestic animals, ed. Maxie MG, 5th ed., vol. 1. Elsevier Saunders, St. Louis, MO. pp:553–782
  4. Salmon Hillbertz NH et al (2007) Duplication of FGF3, FGF4, FGF19 and ORAOV1 causes hair ridge and predisposition to dermoid sinus in Ridgeback dogs. Nat Genet 39(11):1318-1320
  5. Steinberg T et al (2007) Imaging diagnosis - intracranial epidermoid cyst in a Doberman Pinscher. Vet Radiol Ultrasound 48(3):250-253
  6. Kalpravidh M et al (2009) Canine amniotic membrane transplantation for corneal reconstruction after the excision of dermoids in dogs. Vet Res Commun 33(8):1003-1012
  7. van der Peijl GJ et al (2011) Nasal dermoid cyst extending through the frontal bone with no sinus tract in a Dalmatian. J Small Anim Pract 52(2):117-120
  8. Liptak JM et al (2000) Dermoid cyst in the tongue of a dog. Aust Vet J 78(3):160-161
  9. Beard PM et al (2011) A quadrigeminal dermoid cyst with concurrent necrotizing granulomatous leukoencephalomyelitis in a Yorkshire Terrier dog. J Vet Diagn Invest 23(5):1075-1078
  10. Targett MP et al (1999) Magnetic resonance imaging of a medullary dermoid cyst with secondary hydrocephalus in a dog. Vet Radiol Ultrasound 40(1):23-26