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Wiping dog face wrinkles

The essentials

  • Wrinkles can trap moisture and dirt — This creates the perfect environment for skin infections.
  • Look for any irritated skin on your dog’s face before cleaning — Irritation and scabbing may be a sign of infection that needs to be treated with topical therapy or oral medication.
  • Clean your dog’s face daily to prevent infection — Be gentle. The skin between the folds is often much more sensitive than the rest of the body. And don’t forget extra treats and praise afterward.

Many of us can’t resist those wrinkly faces and the squishiness of some pups. But owning a wrinkly breed dog requires a bit more care than those non-wrinkly pups. Their folds and rolls can easily trap dirt and bacteria, causing infections. Here’s what pet owners need to know about cleaning their dog’s wrinkles.

Wrinkly dog breeds

Wrinkly dogs don’t have wrinkles because they’re overweight or old. Genetic mutations in breeds like the Shar Pei produce excessive hyaluronic acid under their skin, producing wrinkles. While we may usually think of the typical wrinkly breeds like pugs and bulldogs, wrinkly pups come in all sizes. Not all wrinkly breeds just lounge around the house all day. Some are active and bred for guarding, herding, and hunting.

As a wrinkly breed owner, staying on top of cleaning their wrinkles can save you stress, time, and money. Attentive care now can prevent an extra trip to the vet.

👉 Some non-wrinkly dogs need skincare. Learn more about breeds like the Xoloitzcuintli.

How to clean your dog’s wrinkles

Maintaining your dog’s skin folds can prevent bacteria and yeast, which lead to infections if not properly cared for. Consistent cleaning can prevent these issues and keep your dog healthy and comfortable.

Whatever is used, make sure the folds are dry and that you avoid contact with eyes! Omega 3s and other derm supplements can sometimes benefit these wrinkly pups.

Dr. Erica Irish

Make sure they stay clean and dry

Deep facial folds found in brachycephalic breeds with flat faces need to be kept clean and dry. Using chlorhexidine wipes designed for pets, keep the folds clean. After wiping, dry between the folds thoroughly. This simple step significantly reduces the chance for bacteria to grow by removing excess moisture.

Regular cleaning removes hair, dead skin, dirt, and food residue. These creases stay warm and moist, which creates the perfect environment for bacterial and fungal overgrowth, which can lead to infection.

👉 Check out our list of the best antifungal shampoos. These medicated and veterinary-grade shampoos can help soothe your dog’s skin and help with infections.

Nourish their skin

Excessive dryness can cause cracks in your dog’s skin, allowing bacteria and fungi to enter. Using a nourishing oil to moisturize can help fortify the skin. In addition to topical treatments, your dog’s diet can significantly affect skin health. Speak with your vet about adding omega-3 fatty acids to their diet. These nutrients help enhance the skin and coat health from within and act as natural anti-inflammatories.


When bathing your wrinkly dog, you’ll have to take a little extra care compared to a non-wrinkly breed, like an Australian shepherd. This extra care can help make sure your dog’s skin remains healthy and irritation-free.

  • Choose the right shampoo. Opt for a mild, hypoallergenic dog shampoo like Douxo. These types of shampoos won’t irritate that skin or excessively dry it out. Abrasive materials and scented soaps can further irritate their skin.
  • Apply the shampoo with a sponge. A sponge can help distribute the shampoo more evenly and make it easier to clean wrinkles. Spread apart your pup’s skin folds and softly wipe. The skin between the folds is often much more sensitive than the rest of the body. Rubbing too hard will be uncomfortable for your dog and can cause injuries.
  • Rinse your pup thoroughly. Rinse them a few times to ensure you’ve removed all the shampoo, focusing on the folds. If any shampoo is left, it can lead to irritation and other skin issues.
  • Dry them well. Dry your dog off with a towel, getting in between the creases. A microfiber towel may work better to remove moisture from the skin folds. Just make sure to dry gently to prevent irritation.
  • Apply a balm. The trick is creating a water-repellent barrier to keep moisture and debris out and not trap anything in. Balms can help prevent infection, soothe redness and irritation, and heal hidden problem areas susceptible to rashes and crusty buildup.
  • Give them treats. Rewarding your dog with treats is a great way to keep the experience positive and can also help them start enjoying an otherwise not-so-fun experience.

👉 When cleaning their skin folds, it’s also a great time to wipe out their ears. Watch for redness, head shaking, brown or yellow residue, and abnormal odors.

What happens if wrinkly dogs develop irritation or an infection?

Even with regular cleaning, all dogs can develop itchy skin. Food or seasonal allergies, fleas, a yeast or staph infection, irritants, dry skin, genetics, or mange can trigger itching.

Frequent bathing can also cause itching. Some shampoos strip your dog’s coat of essential natural oils they need for healthy skin. Sulfate-based shampoos can further exacerbate dry skin and dehydrate their coat.

If left unchecked, excessive itching may lead to infections. Often, these infections are secondary and caused when your dog breaks the skin due to constant scratching. In areas damaged by scratching or within moist, warm skin folds, bacteria and yeast can develop alongside other skin issues. Symptoms of skin infections include:

  • Scratching or licking. Scratching and licking are some of the first signs of itchiness and irritation. If it’s continual, it can indicate or lead to a skin infection.
  • Sores. Open sores are a clear indication of a skin infection. They can result from excessive scratching, which breaks the skin and creates a pathway for infection.
  • Redness. Skin color changes, such as inflamed, red skin, are a common symptom of a skin infection. You’ll usually see it around the inflamed or irritated area.
  • Bumps. Raised bumps may indicate a bacterial or fungal infection, especially if they are small and crusty.
  • Crust or scabs. If crusts or scabs appear without a healing wound, they may indicate an underlying skin infection.
  • Hair loss. Patches of hair loss commonly occur due to constant scratching or an infection. It can also result from mange and fungal infections.
  • Oozing. Discharge, pus, and oozing is a serious symptom. It may be clear, colored, or smell. Oozing indicates that an infection is likely present.

While you can usually treat mild itching at home, you should take your dog to the vet if they develop hot spots or inflamed areas that have broken the skin and may ooze pus. A flea infestation also warrants a vet visit to get the problem under control so your vet can prescribe flea prevention.

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, your vet will likely do a skin scrape and cytology to determine the root cause of the issue. They may also suggest eliminating foods from their diet or using prescription food, changing hygiene habits, adding flea control and prevention, and reducing environmental allergens. Depending on the type of infection, prescribe or recommend oral antibiotics, topical creams, lotions, and antibacterial shampoos.

Types of skin irritation or infection

Cause Treatment
Staph infection (staphylococcus) Antibiotics, anti-bacterial shampoo, sprays, or spot treatments
Fold dermatitis (intertrigo) Regular cleaning of folds, anti-microbial shampoo, prescription anti-inflammatories, antibiotics
Pyoderma (impetigo) Antibiotics, medicated shampoos, sprays, and potentially antihistamines or steroids

Proactive care of your dog’s wrinkles can prevent skin infections and help their overall health. Regular cleaning, drying, and using gentle products can help protect their wrinkles from bacteria and yeast overgrowth. Wrinkly dogs need extra care to keep them healthy. Make sure to regularly visit your vet for any signs of irritation or infection to get them treated before they become more serious.

Frequently asked questions

How do I get rid of my dog’s infected wrinkles?

If you can’t get to a vet right away, you can clean their wrinkles with wipes or a diluted betadine rinse and a towel. Keeping them clean and dry is the most important thing to help slow the infection.

Can I use baby wipes on a dog’s wrinkles?

You probably shouldn’t. Scented or fragrance-containing wipes may add to the wrinkles’ moisture, leading to more bacteria and the potential for infection. Use chlorhexidine wipes instead. Dry between the folds thoroughly to reduce the chance of bacteria growing.

What do you use to clean dog face wrinkles?

You can clean their wrinkles using damp cotton balls, dog wipes, or a wet washcloth. Whatever you use should be moist so it can pick up dirt easily without irritating the skin. Be sure to dry between their wrinkles to prevent infection.

Can you use hydrogen peroxide to clean a dog’s wrinkles?

If your dog’s wrinkles are infected or irritated, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or other harsh cleaners can be painful and result in a longer healing time. While some people may use this, it’s cytotoxic, meaning it will kill your dog’s healthy cells, too, causing more issues. Instead, use a mild, unscented shampoo and chlorhexidine wipes, and keep them dry.

What is the best itch relief for dogs?

The best itch relief for dogs is typically prescription medications like Apoquel or Cytopoint injections. Speak with your veterinarian before adding new treatments or medications to your dog’s routine.