How to Treat a Boil on a Dog

By Karen S. Johnson

Medically known as an abscess, a boil on your dog may require veterinary attention. Advise your veterinarian when you discover any lump on your dog; he may be prone to various tumors or have developed warts. A boil will feel like a lump of fluid that is pressing against your dog’s skin. This fluid is pus and indicates a localized infection. Monitor your dog’s temperature and pain level to help your veterinarian make a treatment decision.

Cysts Versus Boils

What you think is a boil may actually be a sebaceous cyst. It looks like a pimple and, as in humans, occurs when oil glands get blocked. It’s tempting to pop it, but don’t -- this can create a skin infection. It may disappear without any intervention from you, but if it becomes infected it may abscess. You’ll then feel the lumpy pocket of pus that indicates a boil. You can treat a cyst to help prevent it from abscessing. Applying similar measures to a boil can keep your dog comfortable until your veterinarian can see him.

Warm Compresses

If possible, clip your dog’s hair around the boil. Soak a washcloth in 1 quart of water with 1 teaspoon of table salt or 1/4 cup of Epsom salts. Press the warm cloth against the boil for 15 minutes, at least three times daily -- more if the cyst or boil starts to drain -- to prevent skin irritation. Contact your veterinarian if:

  • a cyst or boil erupts so he can determine if antibiotics are necessary to prevent or treat an infection,
  • you detect a splinter or other foreign object,
  • the boil becomes hot and red,
  • or if your dog runs a fever. Your vet may lance the boil and prescribe antibiotics.

Essential Oils

Dr. Janet Roark with Hill Country Mobile Veterinary Service in Austin, Texas, recommends several essential oils to treat abscesses under a veterinarian’s care. Frankincense oil relieves inflammation, and can prevent insect bites from becoming cysts or abscesses if applied early. Helichrysum is particularly effective when bleeding is present. Lavender also assists inflammation and relieves anxiety. A blend of wild orange, eucalyptus, rosemary, clove and cinnamon oils is effective both as an insect repellant and for treating abscesses.

Dilute any oil in spring water or a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, and dab some on the boil with a cotton ball. Apply several times a day until the boil has resolved, or per your veterinarian’s instructions. Never use tea tree oil without veterinarian supervision; large quantities can be toxic to dogs and can make your dog sick if he licks it off the boil.

Preventing Cysts and Boils

Protect your dog from insect bites to reduce cyst and boil development. Brush and groom your dog regularly to prevent oil buildup that blocks glands and hair follicles. Talk to your veterinarian about adding a fatty acid to your dog’s diet to help healthy skin oil production.

Lumps Confused with Cysts and Boils

If your dog is older, you may be confusing benign and naturally occurring fatty tumor with boils. These tumors, along with warts, typically need no medical intervention unless they make your dog uncomfortable. Some breeds such as schnauzers, beagles, Labradors, and some terriers and boxers are prone to mass cell tumors that can be serious. Your vet can determine the seriousness of any lump you detect on your dog.