Dealing with Dog Acne: Tips from a Vet

vet inspecting acne or pimples on a dog's chin

This article was updated on October 15th, 2023.

Dog acne is a common skin condition that can cause discomfort for our furry friends. In this article, we’ll explore what dog acne looks like, which dogs are more likely to get it, and how to deal with it effectively. So, let’s dive in and help our pups!

What Does Acne Look Like? [With Pictures]

Simply put, dog acne is inflammation in the outer layers of the skin, resulting in red or pink bumps around the lips, chin, and muzzle. These bumps, known as pimples, develop when oil glands and hair follicles become clogged with oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells.

pimples on a dog

These clogged pores are usually accompanied by sebaceous glands, which produce oil to keep the skin healthy. However, disruptions in oil production or skin trauma can lead to the formation of acne.

Your veterinarian may refer to this condition as either folliculitis or furunculosis. Folliculitis affects the superficial layers of the skin, while furunculosis is a deeper infection causing abscesses and more severe pimples.

Which Dogs Are More Likely to Get Acne?

Although we often associate acne with hormonal changes, this isn’t the case for dogs. While acne is more common in dogs under two years old, it is not typically caused by hormonal imbalances. Rather, genetics play a role, making certain breeds more prone to acne.

Short-haired dogs, such as pointers, are more likely to develop acne compared to their long-haired counterparts. Breeds with deep skin wrinkles and crevices, like English Bulldogs, also tend to experience acne around the lips and mouth due to retained moisture and bacteria.

closeup of mild acne on a dog

Trauma to the hair follicles, whether from scratching, rubbing, or allergies, can also contribute to acne. Dogs with chronic allergies are particularly vulnerable to skin infections due to constant scratching.

How can you tell that it’s dog acne?

Dog acne typically manifests as small red bumps around the lips, muzzle, and chin. Affected dogs may exhibit irritated skin, redness, hair loss, crusting, and swelling in these areas.

In milder cases, dogs may not be bothered by the bumps. However, more severe infections can cause discomfort, itchiness, tenderness, crusting, and discharge. Take a look at this picture showing mild acne on a dog’s chin:

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Pictures Of Dog Acne and Pimples: A Vet Explains What to Do

3 tips from our vet to help your dog at home with acne

1. Do not pick or squeeze at the swellings: This can worsen the pain, irritation, and healing time. Popping the pimples can also lead to infections and scarring, similar to human acne.

2. Keep the area clean and dry: If your vet hasn’t seen your dog yet, start by cleaning the affected area with mild antibacterial soap and cool water. Avoid applying any topical medications without professional guidance.

You may also use PetMD Topical Wipes if approved by your vet. These wipes contain chlorhexidine, which helps dry and disinfect the skin. However, certain dogs may find it irritating. Remember, only use skincare products specifically formulated for dogs.

3. Change out toys and bowls: Some dogs’ acne worsens due to exposure to plastics. Consider switching to stainless steel or ceramic bowls and replacing plastic toys. You can also disinfect toys using a diluted vinegar solution or mild dish soap.

When to call your veterinarian?

Dog acne is rarely an emergency, but it’s crucial to address it if your dog appears uncomfortable or if the skin condition worsens. Mild cases can often resolve with time and proper cleaning. However, if you observe facial swelling, bleeding, pus, or increased discomfort, it may indicate a more severe underlying issue.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate treatment based on the appearance of your dog’s skin. Mild cases may only require medicated wipes or topical ointments containing benzoyl peroxide or chlorhexidine.

In more complicated cases, oral antibiotics or antifungals may be prescribed. These medications are typically administered for 3-5 weeks and periodically assessed. It’s crucial to complete the prescribed course of medication, even if the skin condition improves significantly.

If the acne worsens, causes pain, or leads to ruptured pustules, further tests may be necessary. These tests include culture and sensitivity tests, hair plucks, and fungal cultures to identify specific pathogens or underlying conditions.

Cost and Recovery

Treatment costs may vary depending on your dog’s condition, location, and prescribed treatments. For mild cases, basic hygiene management and lifestyle changes, such as dietary adjustments and switching to metal or ceramic bowls, can often resolve the acne inexpensively.

Recovery time depends on the severity and underlying cause of the acne. Occasional flare-ups may need to be managed throughout your dog’s life. In cases of food allergies, a diet change can help, but it’s essential to consult with your vet before making any dietary adjustments. Dogs with chronic itchy skin due to environmental allergies may require allergy medications.

Grooming and hygiene changes can also be beneficial. If your dog has facial wrinkles, regular gentle cleansing can prevent the buildup of bacteria. Similarly, wiping your dog’s muzzle after eating can help if they are messy eaters.

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Is it dog acne or something else?

While veterinarians can often diagnose acne visually, similar conditions may present similarly in the early stages. These include fungal infections like ringworm, yeast skin infections caused by Malassezia, and demodectic mange. These conditions may not resemble acne as they progress but may initially present as small pustules, redness, or hair loss.

How to prevent dog acne in the future

While dog acne may be a chronic condition with occasional flare-ups, understanding the underlying causes can help prevent or manage it effectively. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your dog’s overall skin health and reduce the risk of acne:

Healthy diet: Find a diet that suits your dog’s needs and promotes healthy skin. Look for commercially prepared diets that include ingredients like fatty acids and vitamins, specifically formulated for skin health.

Manage allergies: Allergies weaken the skin’s natural defense system, making it more susceptible to infection. Treating and controlling allergies goes a long way in maintaining healthy skin.

Hygiene: If your dog has deep wrinkles or short bristle-like hair on their face, proactive grooming and skincare are necessary. Keep a gentle wipe or cleaner on hand to clean those crevices effectively.

Frequently asked questions

Can dogs get pimples?

Yes, dogs can get pimples too! They often appear as small red or white swellings on the chin, lips, and muzzle. Interestingly, dog acne is typically not caused by hormones; genetics play a more significant role in its development.

Will dog acne go away on its own?

Mild cases of dog acne may resolve on their own. However, practicing good hygiene and making simple changes, such as using metal or ceramic bowls, can speed up the healing process. Dogs with skin wrinkles or folds may require extra care to keep those areas clean.

Are certain breeds more prone to dog acne?

Short-haired breeds and those with wrinkled and creviced skin around the muzzle are more prone to developing chin acne. Some examples include boxers, pugs, Rottweilers, English Bulldogs, Dobermans, and German short-haired pointers.

Can food allergies cause dog acne?

Food allergies can lead to intense itching and scratching, compromising the skin’s natural defense system. Dogs with food allergies may develop acne around their chin or muzzle, especially if they constantly rub or itch those areas. Proper management of the allergy is crucial for maintaining healthy skin and preventing acne.

Is dog acne contagious?

Typically, dog acne is not contagious, even with bacterial infections. However, it’s essential to differentiate between acne and highly contagious conditions like ringworm.

Is dog acne the same as acne in humans?

Yes and no. Dog acne is similar to human acne in that it involves swelling, sebum, dead skin cells, bacteria, and sometimes pus. However, it is not usually caused by hormonal changes in dogs.

How do hair follicles get clogged up?

When hair follicles become clogged, acne can form. Clogged pores are often the result of pus and inflammation. The image below demonstrates the layers of the skin, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands, as well as a clogged pore.

Pictures Of Dog Acne and Pimples: A Vet Explains What to Do

Dog acne can be a bothersome condition, but with the right knowledge and proactive care, you can help your furry companion find relief. Remember, when in doubt, always consult with your trusted veterinarian.

Learn more about dog acne and caring for your pet at Katten TrimSalon.