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Dog Has Pimples? What Causes Canine Acne & How To Treat It

Dogs are like people in many ways. They differ in many ways as well, of course; for one thing, most of them are covered with fur. With all that hair covering their body, it may be surprising to learn that the bane of many adolescent humans — pimples — is something that even dogs sometimes have to deal with. 

Maybe you have noticed these scattered on your dog’s chin, and you’ve thought curiously to yourself that, because of their fur, it’d be impossible for them to develop pimples. Not quite: it’s actually extremely possible that dogs can have pimples. 

At first, it’s totally understandable if you are concerned that the pimples are connected to something more serious. You will quickly learn that there’s usually a common, non-hazardous cause for canine pimples. Nevertheless, their presence can be somewhat bewildering for an unsuspecting pet owner. 

If you've ever wondered, "Why does my dog have pimples," read on to learn what the symptoms of canine acne are, what causes it, and what you should do to treat it.

Of course, if you are concerned that acne is connected to something else related to your dog’s health, you should seek out a veterinarian's assistance. It’s also a good idea to reach out to a vet and get their opinion on clearing it up if you’re unsure of how to tackle the problem.

What does canine acne look like?

In order to properly treat canine acne, you must first diagnose it. According to Dr. Catherine Barnette of the VCA Hospital, pimples on dogs take the form of red bumps or pustules around the mouth and lips. If the hair follicle breaks off, this can lead to a rupture of the follicle, which will subsequently cause inflammation.

Pimples can also be caused by an excess of bacteria, oil, or dead skin cells. If left untreated, this rupture can also become infected by bacteria and ultimately lead to infection or pus. In severe cases, this can lead to swelling, bleeding, scabbing, and sometimes even permanent scarring.

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This is one reason why, if you fear that your dog is experiencing acne, you will take them to get a vet’s opinion on the situation: to reduce the likelihood that it will permanently scar your pet’s face. 

The good news is that if the acne is mild, your dog will have little discomfort. However, more severe cases may be painful or itchy to your pup and will warrant a trip to your vet for treatment. Zits, blackheads, and pimples usually pop up when the whiskers or hairs near your dog's mouth get irritated.

If you notice that your dog is itching the area excessively or seems to be in pain, you should definitely reach out to your veterinarian sooner than later. 

How do you diagnose dog pimples or canine acne?

Medically speaking, canine acne is called “muzzle folliculitis” or “furunculosis.” You might be wondering what to expect when you speak with a veterinarian to gain some insight regarding your dog’s acne. Usually, it will be possible for your vet to diagnose the dog simply based on the pet’s clinical appearance. There will typically be skin lesions that are characteristic of acne. 

These usually appear around a dog’s muzzle and lips. Because of the fact that these are relatively specific for the condition, these could help confirm that it really is acne what your dog is experiencing. 

In some cases, you should expect that your dog will need further diagnostic tests. This can help confirm for sure that your pet really is experiencing acne. Sometimes, a vet will recommend a skin biopsy. This will effectively confirm that your pet has acne and not a different skin condition that will require further attention, like demodicosis (a type of mange).

In addition to this, you can sometimes expect a vet to recommend a bacterial culture and sensitivity. This is usually in the case of infection and could prove useful. This will help you identify the bacteria that has caused the infection. And once you know what bacteria is responsible, you will more accurately be able to treat it with antibiotics. 

What causes dogs to get pimples?

If you are looking for a definitive answer on what causes your dog to experience pimples, the reality is that you might not be able to find one.

Hormonal changes

For a variety of reasons, what causes canine acne isn’t clear. Initially, canine acne was thought to be caused by hormonal changes (just like with people). However, it’s important to note that though more recent studies seem to be in conflict over this information.

Dog allergies

“Canine acne is a deep skin infection usually caused by an underlying allergy from a contact, food, or environmental allergen,” Dr. Deirdre Frey, founder of Vet at Your Door, a house call veterinary practice, explains. 

Contact allergy or irritation can include plastic or porcelain food bowls that can harbor bacteria or from digging in the dirt outside. Food allergens are usually due to a type of protein, such as chicken or beef. Environmental allergens really could be anything.”

If you are really insistent on finding a cause of your dog’s acne, you might want to consider reaching out to a vet. They could have more suggestions about how to figure out what is making your pet experience this. That being said, if you have found that there’s no plausible cause, you might want to shift your focus to treating it instead of figuring out the cause. 

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Breed

However, whatever the cause of canine acne, one thing is clear: certain breeds have a higher genetic predisposition to pimples than others. Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Boxers, English Bulldogs, German Shorthaired Pointers, Mastiffs, and Rottweilers are more likely to be afflicted with canine acne. In general, dogs with a short snout are at risk. Additionally, dogs with wrinkles are more prone to issues developing around their iconic skin folds. 

Therefore, if you are the owner of one of these breeds, you should consider the fact that it’s possible that your pet will develop acne during their lifetime. Of course, acne is not exclusive to these breeds, and other dogs can develop it, too. 

Age

Age can also be a factor. Acne in dogs is typically a temporary condition, and often, you will find that it comes on when your dog is in their “puberty” phase. For canines, this usually is somewhere around five to eight months old. Usually, you will find that your dog’s acne has dissipated by the time they reach 1 year old. 

How can I treat canine acne?

Instead of attempting to diagnose and treat your dog’s acne by yourself, get the help of a veterinarian. Not only will they be able to give your dog a formal diagnosis, but they will also help you figure out what your next steps are to eradicate your dog’s acne.

Talk to a vet 

Your veterinarian can usually make a diagnosis after making a visual inspection of your dog. Your vet, however, may also decide to take a skin scraping, fungal, or bacterial cultures, and/or do lab tests in order to rule out underlying causes of your dog’s pimples, such as parasites, mange, or a fungal infection.

While this might seem like an overreaction for a seemingly minor problem, it is better to conduct a thorough investigation regarding what is causing your dog’s acne. This is because you will have greater peace of mind. In addition, getting to the actual root of the problem will help assist you on your quest to understand why the canine acne is occurring. 

Topical and oral medications

Once diagnosed, your veterinarian will likely prescribe a series of topical and oral medications to help clear up your pup’s skin.

“Treatment for this deep skin infection often includes topical and oral antibiotics to treat the infection, anti-inflammatories to help healing and comfort, and immune system modulators to minimize the initial allergic response,” Dr. Frey explains.

Sometimes, a topical benzoyl peroxide ointment is also recommended for ongoing care, and if your dog has a serious case, your vet may also decide to prescribe oral steroids like prednisone.

Give regular baths

Regular baths are part of maintaining good hygiene. If your dog struggles with acne, your vet may recommend topical shampoos as well.

Don't pop any pimples 

You can also try to mitigate the factors causing your dog’s acne at home by refraining from popping any pimples they may have (this makes them more prone to infection). If the acne is caused by a specific allergy, take steps to lessen your pet’s exposure to that source.

Use stainless steel food bowls 

“A good start is to use clean stainless steel food and water bowls,” Dr. Frey recommends. (Dogs may be allergic to their plastic bowl.) “Your veterinarian can also guide you through a food elimination trial, as well as test for environmental allergen sensitivities.”

Once you have successfully completed your steps, you will likely see that there is a difference in your dog’s acne. You might also notice that there is a difference once your dog reaches a year of age, as acne usually clears up by then. 

If you have found that nothing is working to treat your dog’s acne, you might want to consider continuing your investigation until you successfully figure out what is causing this problem. 

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Get to the root of your dog’s pimples

When something is wrong with your pet, it is easy to become concerned that your pet is suffering and you don’t know how to help them. That is where a veterinarian’s help comes into the picture. 

Getting to the root of your pup’s pimples is essential because you will gain a greater understanding of how to treat them. Since dogs are unable to vocalize their discomfort with humans, it’s impossible to know if the acne is hurting or bothering your pup. That’s why it is important to treat your dog’s acne promptly. 

The team at Pawp is always available to answer any questions you might have about helping your dog heal from their acne. Sign up today and see how telehealth visits for your dog can change their life.

DOG PIMPLES SOURCES: 

Dog Acne Treatments - Acne Disorders in Dogs | Pet MD

Acne in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital 

Overview - Acne | NHS

How Often Should You Bathe a Dog? | Central SPCA

Dogs React To Allergies With Skin Problems | Mississippi State University 

Canine Acne and Treatment for Dogs | Pet Health Network

Prednisone Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing | Web MD

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