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Pug with a big pimple

The essentials

  • Dog acne isn’t treated the same as human acne — Human skin products can be harmful to our furry friends and only make things worse.
  • Short-haired breeds are more prone to acne — Boxers, English bulldogs, and Weimaraners are among the breeds of dogs most susceptible to breakouts.
  • Pimples don’t just appear on the muzzle — While the snout, lips, and chin are the most commonly affected areas, bacterial infections can also lead to stomach acne.

Whether you’re concerned about the pimples showing up on your dog or just curious if it’s even possible, you can rest assured that canine acne is not only real but fairly common. Whether it’s from hormones, skin trauma, or other factors, dogs can get tiny red bumps on their skin, just like humans.

But that doesn’t mean it should be treated the same way as our blemishes. Read on for the safest and most effective ways to treat dog acne.

What is dog acne?

Dog acne is just what it sounds like – pimples on pups. But medically speaking, the condition is known as muzzle folliculitis or furunculosis. It occurs when short hair follicles below the skin are inflamed from oil and dead skin cells, resulting in a breakout in the dog’s nose, lips, and chin. Those follicles can then rupture and become infected, causing even more irritation for your best friend.

But dog acne isn’t just limited to the muzzle area. Pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin that can affect other parts of a dog’s body, including the belly.

Causes of dog acne

The best way to determine what is causing your dog’s acne is to bring them to your veterinarian for a check-up. Not only will they help you better understand the underlying cause of the pimples, but advise you on the best way to treat it.

Here are the most common reasons why dogs develop acne.

  • Breed. Short-haired dogs are more susceptible to dog acne than others, especially breeds with folds around the mouth. Genetics can also play a role.
  • Skin trauma. Sometimes dogs can damage the skin around their chin and mouth with excessive scratching and rough play. This irritates the hair follicles, causing acne to form.
  • Hygiene. Dirt and bacteria buildup from poor hygiene can lead to clogged follicles. Keep up with grooming and bathing to maintain a clean and dry muzzle. Be sure to dry them off well afterward, as moisture buildup can lead to a bacterial infection.
  • Hormones. Just like humans going through puberty, some dog acne is the result of hormonal changes. This is most common in puppies around 5 to 8 months old.
  • Allergies. Environmental and food allergies can show up on the skin as acne. Contact dermatitis can also be a factor if your pup comes in contact with an irritant.
  • Parasites. Insect bites from parasites like fleas and ticks are often responsible for itchy red bumps and rashes on a dog’s skin. Mange mites in particular cause sarcoptic mange, causing intense itching and hair loss, typically on the stomach.
  • Hormonal disorders. Disorders like Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism can wreak havoc on a dog’s skin and lead to acne.
  • Yeast infections. An overabundance of fungus on the skin can give your dog a yeast infection. In addition to dry and crusty scabs, a  musty odor may form around the infected area.
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). While not especially common in dogs, the bacterial infection known as MRSA is sometimes caused by pet-human contact.

Breeds prone to dog acne

Dog breeds with shorter hair or skin folds are often at higher risk of developing acne from skin infections. While other dogs can also develop the condition, these are considered predisposed to pimples.

What does dog acne look like?

A dog’s acne can present itself as an individual pimple or cluster on the skin surface. Keep an eye out for swollen, red bumps on the chin, lips, and stomach. There may even be pus-filled whiteheads (called pustules) or blackheads. If the condition worsens over time, you may notice the bumps grow larger and start to ooze, which are indications of an infection.

Diagnosing dog acne

Keep an eye out for symptoms such as bumps, lesions, flaky skin, discharge, and inflammation around the hair follicles. If you suspect your dog may have acne, it’s always best to get a professional opinion from your veterinarian. They will be able to determine if further testing is needed to rule out other conditions and prescribe the necessary medication.

Your vet will look for the visible characteristics of acne like pimples or lesions, which can suggest the presence of bacteria.

Differentiating between folliculitis and pyoderma

Because folliculitis and pyoderma look similar, your vet will need to determine which one your furbaby is experiencing so they can create a treatment plan accordingly. There are several methods of diagnosis they may administer to get to the root of your dog’s acne.

  • Skin cytology — Your vet will apply clear tape to the infected area and then examine it under a microscope to check for bacteria or yeast.
  • Skin scrape — A scalpel may be used to scrape the skin to check for skin mites. To collect samples from difficult-to-reach areas such as under the nails, some veterinarians will use a microspatula.
  • Fungal culture — A culture may be taken to rule out a fungal infection like ringworm.
  • Bacterial culture — This is a more advanced and expensive test, but your vet might resort to it in more severe cases of resistant bacterial folliculitis or pyoderma.

How to treat dog acne

Thankfully, dog acne is considered easily treatable when caught early on, so your vet will be able to set you up with what you need to clear up your dog’s skin and get them back to normal in no time. There are several different treatment options they may prescribe depending on the cause and severity of the condition.

If your pup’s acne is getting worse after treatment — such as becoming redder, getting larger, or forming a crust — then they might have a more severe case of canine acne. In this case, revisit your vet for a more aggressive treatment plan.

Topical options

Benzoyl peroxide is a common active ingredient in products like gels, wipes, and shampoos (particularly ones that contain aloe vera) that works to clean bacteria off the skin and flush out clogged hair follicles. You can buy these over-the-counter or from your veterinarian.


Your pooch may also be prescribed topical steroids or medicated soaps to help reduce inflammation. Antibiotics can also be given to your dog to attack any bacterial contamination.

Allergy management

If your vet suspects that allergies are playing a role in their acne development, they might suggest allergy medications and supplements to clear up the pimples. You may also be asked to reduce exposure to irritants like pollen or certain foods known to trigger your canine pal’s allergies.

👉 Don’t pop dog pimples! While doing this may be well-intentioned, it is painful and can lead to further infection.

How to prevent dog acne

Of course, you’ll want to try your best to prevent dog acne in the first place. Follow these steps to keep your pup’s skin healthy, especially if they’re a breed prone to breakouts.

Good hygiene

Just like you exfoliate to keep pores clean and free of excess dirt and oil, dogs can benefit from the same level of care for their skin and coat. Regular baths will keep bacteria, dust, and other irritants at bay. If your dog has flappy skin, be sure to scrub out any dirt that gets trapped under the folds. Dog paw balms can also go a long way in reducing skin discomfort.

You’ll also want to practice good doggie dental care. The bacteria that reside in your dog’s mouth can make its way onto their chin as they go about their day, setting them up for acne. Brush their teeth regularly to lower the chance of irritation to their muzzle and prevent infection.

Keep them dry

Moisture that builds up when your dog’s muzzle gets wet can lead to a bacterial infection. If your best friend drools a lot or is a sloppy drinker, keep a rag handy for wiping their muzzle. You’ll also want to thoroughly dry them after a bath, swim, or walk through the rain.

Avoid skin trauma

As mentioned, trauma to the skin can contribute to dog acne. Make sure toys don’t have rough edges that could scrape the skin. Investing in glass, ceramic, or steel bowls can also reduce the risk of the adverse reactions some dogs get from plastic bowls, including acne.

If your dog is playing with another dog, be ready to intervene if it gets out of hand and they start biting. Also, look around your pup’s environment and reduce their exposure to things that could irritate their curious little muzzles.

Stay clean

If your dog’s bed or favorite blanket gets dirty, they can develop all kinds of skin issues, including acne. Regularly wash the fabrics they come into contact with daily, like bedding, dog sweaters, and collars. You’ll also want to wipe off their toys since they’re going into your pup’s mouth.

In conclusion, finding a zit, or cluster of zits, on your dog can be jarring, but luckily there is a wide range of treatment methods to get your fur-ever friend the help they need for this skin condition. As long as you take preventative measures and consult your veterinarian when symptoms begin to present, you can ensure your dog is getting the help they need.

Frequently asked questions

How do you get rid of dog acne?

Consult your veterinarian for the best treatment for your dog’s case of acne. In most cases, treatment methods will include topical ointments, oral medications, and/or allergy management plans.

Will dog acne go away on its own?

Mild cases of acne that develop in puppies tend to go away as they get older, but you should always visit your veterinarian if you suspect your puppy or adult dog’s acne is getting worse. They will be able to determine the root cause of the breakout and prescribe the right medication if needed.

What home remedy is good for dog acne?

Good hygiene is the best home remedy for dog acne. This means regular bathing, teeth brushing and keeping their bedding and toys clean.

Is it normal for dogs to have pimples on their body?

Though it may be concerning, dog acne is very common and usually not cause for huge concern. Short-haired breeds like bulldogs, boxers, and Great Danes are especially prone to breakouts.

Do I need to take my dog to the vet for acne?

It is always best to visit your veterinarian if your dog develops acne so they can address it before it becomes worse. If left untreated, dog acne can become infected and more uncomfortable for your pup.