Can dogs get zits? Yup — you bet they can!
Just like with human acne, canine acne is an inflammatory skin condition. In dogs, it’s most common on the chin, lips, and muzzle. While mild cases are pretty common — especially in adolescent pups — severe cases can occur. And here’s the thing: While mild acne outbreaks in dogs aren’t usually painful, more serious cases can lead to generalized swelling of the lips and muzzle, bleeding wounds, and scabs.
In this article, we’re chatting all about canine acne — the symptoms, common causes, diagnosis, and treatment!
- Little red bumps on the chin, lips, and muzzle
- Pus-filled lesions
- Itching: pawing at the face or rubbing face against the carpet/furniture
What Are The Most Common Causes of Canine Acne?
Veterinarians say dog acne can be caused by a number of things. Some common causes include:
Just like with teenagers, breakouts are a pretty normal part of adolescence for dogs. Between 5-8 months old, dogs may start to produce too much sebum (an oily fluid). As the sebum flows out through your dog’s hair follicles, he will also shed dead skin cells (AKA dander). That combination of excess oil and dirt/dander eventually clogs up the hair follicles. Can you guess what happens next? Yup — that leads to blackheads, red bumps, and pimples. This typically clears up by the time a dog turns 1 year old.
Poor Hygiene & Bacteria
Think about your own skin: If you don’t wash your face daily and keep your skin clean, chances are you’ll start to break out. Well, the same thing happens with dogs. That’s why regular bathing is essential. Also, if you have a dog with deep facial skin folds, make sure to wipe them daily to clean out any trapped dirt or bacteria.
Plus, experts say some acne around a dog’s mouth can be triggered by poor dental hygiene. So, daily teeth brushing and regular chewing may help.
Canine acne can also be brought on by trauma to the hairs (due to constant rubbing or something else). According to VCAHospitals:
“Trauma can cause hairs to break off near the skin’s surface, leading to inflammation within the hair follicle and eventual rupture of the hair follicle. When the hair follicle ruptures, its contents are released into the surrounding skin. This creates further inflammation within the skin, as the contents of the hair follicles are recognized as foreign by the surrounding tissues. Although the inflammation associated with canine acne is often sterile (non-infected) in the early stages, bacteria can easily colonize this damaged skin and lead to infection.”
Breakouts can be a sign of food, chemical, or environmental allergies.
According to veterinarians, certain breeds have a genetic predisposition to skin conditions that may make them more susceptible to acne.
What Breeds Are Most Commonly Affected?
While all breeds can develop canine acne, short-haired dogs — such as Boxers, Bulldogs, Great Danes, Rottweilers, and Doberman Pinschers — are more susceptible.
Can My Vet Diagnose Canine Acne?
Dog acne is usually easy for vets to diagnose by sight alone. In some cases, however, your vet may want to biopsy the skin or take hair samples to rule out any other possible issues. Some diseases that look similar to acne include:
- Demodicosis — A kind of mange
- Ringworm — Early on, the fungus can look like acne.
- Puppy Strangles — A skin disorder that affects puppies (it usually occurs between the ages of 3 weeks and 4 months)
If your dog is experiencing a mild case of acne, chances are it will run its course and clear up by itself. However, some treatment options include:
Generally, topical benzoyl peroxide (doggy versions are available over-the-counter or through your vet) is enough to treat canine acne. Your vet may recommend a shampoo that contains benzoyl peroxide, medicated wipes, or a benzoyl peroxide gel.
In more severe cases, steroids may be applied to decrease swelling and inflammation. Your vet may also recommend antibiotics.
No matter the treatment, there is one very important thing you should not do: Don’t pop your pup’s pimples! Squeezing the lesions on your dog’s face will likely cause the hair follicles to rupture and worsen the problem.