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canine acne

dog pimples, 📷 by u/GatewayDefault

The essentials

  • Resist the urge to pop pimples. Popping the pus-filled pimples on your dog’s skin may be well-intentioned, but this is painful and can make things worse.
  • Avoid using human products on your dog’s acne. Unless your veterinarian has specifically guided you to do so, human acne products are not made with dogs in mind and can be harmful.
  • Dog acne and human acne look similar, but they’re not the same.  The research isn’t conclusive, but it suggests that dog acne is a completely different type of skin condition.

What is dog acne?

Dog acne is exactly what it sounds like: pimples on pups. Technically, it’s called muzzle folliculitis and furunculosis. Dog acne occurs when the hair follicles become inflamed, tender, and irritated resulting in a breakout on the lips, chin, and muzzle. Those follicles can then rupture and become infected, causing even more irritation and mange-like symptoms.

Common causes of dog acne

Breed. Genetics play a factor here with a predisposition for skin diseases. Short-haired breeds are more susceptible to dog acne than others. American bulldogs, boxers, great Danes, Rottweilers, and Doberman pinschers are some of the breeds that are more likely to have issues.

Skin trauma. When the skin around a dog’s chin and mouth are damaged by rubbing or scratching, the hair follicles can get irritated, causing acne to form.

Hygiene. A buildup of dead skin cells, naturally occurring oils, and bacteria due to poor hygiene can lead to clogged follicles. Especially in breeds with skin folds around the mouth, it’s important to keep a clean and dry muzzle.

Hormones. Just like pubescent humans, some dog acne is a result of fluctuating hormones. Although, this is most common in puppies at around 5 to 8 months old.

Allergies. An allergic reaction to your dog’s food or environment can show up on the skin as acne.

What does dog acne look like?

If your dog has an acne breakout, you’ll be able to see it. A swollen, red, and bumpy chin and lips are the most common sign. There may even be pus-filled whiteheads (called pustules) or blackheads.

Acne is crazy irritating. So your dog may be pawing or itching at their face more than normal. They might rub their face against objects or the floor to scratch that itchy feeling away. The lesions may also be tender to the touch.

If you aren’t sure, it’s always best to get a professional opinion. Your veterinarian will most likely be able to diagnose your pup just by looking at the irritated skin. They’ll be able to determine if further testing is needed to rule out other conditions and prescribe any necessary medication.

Types of canine acne treatment

Canine acne is pretty common and very treatable, starting with good doggie hygiene. Here are the different treatment options that are sure to help you bring some relief to your pup’s skin. It’s also good to note that preventing dog acne in those breeds who are more likely to have problems plays a role in keeping it under control.

Good hygiene — dog health basics

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. Ensuring regular baths will keep bacteria, dust, and other irritants at bay. If you aren’t bathing your pup regularly, here’s a quick refresher of the basics. Don’t forget about dog moisturizing balms either. There are plenty of balms for dog paws, snouts, and skin in general that can help your dog deal with a variety of skin discomforts.

Another habit to consider is dental hygiene. The bacteria that reside in your dog’s mouth can make its way onto their chin as they go about their day. Ensuring good dental habits for your pup can help lower the chance of irritation to their muzzle and prevent acne and infection. Another one of our articles can help you brush up on dental basics.

Keeping pet toys, bedding, and accessories clean is another way to control the number of bacteria your dog comes into contact with. Time to whip out the Lysol.

Topical options

Benzoyl peroxide is a common active ingredient you can buy over-the-counter or from your veterinarian. It’s added to different products like gels, wipes, and shampoos. It works to clean bacteria off the skin and flush out clogged hair follicles.

If you visit your veterinarian, they may prescribe topical steroids to help reduce inflammation. Or they may suggest an antibiotic to attack any bacterial contamination.

Avoid skin trauma

As we mentioned earlier, trauma to the skin around the mouth can be a big contributor to dog acne. Make sure plastic toys and bowls don’t have any sharp edges that could scrape the skin. Take a look around your pup’s environment and reduce their exposure to things that could irritate their curious little muzzles.

Professional treatment

If your dog’s acne is becoming redder, getting larger, or forming a crust, then you should seek professional help. Your pup might have a more severe case of canine acne. Getting the breakout under control will bring comfort to your pup and ensure they stay free of bacterial infection.

As with most skin conditions, your vet might want to take a skin biopsy before deciding on your treatment options (likely medicated chlorhexidine wipes or oral antibiotics.)