Dog Acne? Here's How To Treat It

Every (average) human at some point or another during their lifetime has had a pimple or zit. Just like us, dogs can also get spots. Dogs can get pimples like their human counterparts- but is it the same kind of acne that human beings agonize over? Similar to acne in humans, there are several easily recognizable symptoms of dog acne. Common signs to watch out for include blackheads, red bumps, pimples, and swelling or redness around the muzzle area. 

Severe dog acne cases can result in infection, which can cause painful and oozing sores, particularly in dogs who always rub or scratch at the area to soothe their discomfort. It's easy to miss early signs of acne, so make sure to keep an eye out for frequent face rubbing or scratching. As a dog owner, it's vital to keep tabs on the condition of your dog's skin to prevent more severe cases of sores and infection.

Related: Can Dogs Take Human Vitamin Supplements?

What Is Dog Acne?

While the physical presentation can manifest in many different forms, dog acne is essentially due to a build-up, clog, or bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells inside a hair follicle. The build-up of extraneous matter causes the pore to clog up and forms a sore on the hair follicle's surface. The oil that clogs up pores is known as sebum. Your dog's skin naturally generates sebum as an extra layer of protection between your dog's skin and coat. Many factors can result in an overproduction of sebum, such as inflammation in the follicle, hormonal changes, and bacteria. When bacteria is stuck inside the follicle and cannot be expelled quickly, your dog's body's natural defense response is to send white blood cells to protect the infected area. The overflow of white blood cells is what causes the nasty-looking pus that can come out of pimples. 

How Veterinarians Diagnose Canine Acne In Your Dog

Most of the time, your veterinarian can diagnose acne on the clinical appearance of your dog. The skin lesions, typically distributed around the muzzle and lip area, are relatively distinct to this condition. However, certain cases may require further diagnostics to confirm the diagnosis. Your veterinarian may recommend a skin biopsy to rule out other, more severe skin disorders and confirm acne diagnosis. Moreover, in the case of infection, your vet may also recommend bacterial culture and sensitivity, which can help pinpoint the bacteria responsible for infection so that the vet can determine the appropriate antibiotics for treatment.

Symptoms of Dog Acne

The most common symptoms of dog acne include:

  • Blackheads
  • Red bumps
  • Swelling
  • Pus in its lesion
  • Infection
  • The dog rubs its face against the carpet or furniture

If your dog has some or all of these symptoms, you should call your vet to rule out any serious infections or causes. Once your dog has been cleared of a more serious cause you can step up your daily hygiene regime with your dog.

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Related: Why Dogs Eat Grass

Causes Of Dog Acne

Now that we've established what it is and what you should look for, we will discuss why individual dogs get dog acne while others don't. Just like people, there are a variety of factors that can contribute to your dog getting acne. Scientists still don't understand certain underlying causes of dog acne, such as hormonal changes and genetics. We do know that there are external factors that can contribute to the condition. Here are some of the factors that may be contributing:


Puppies are much more likely to get canine acne than adult or senior dogs. This lets us know that hormones may play a significant role in developing canine acne. The majority of puppies who get canine acne tend to develop symptoms when they're 5-8 months old. Acne in younger dogs can be a quick phase or could last well beyond the 12-18 month mark in specific cases. In most adolescent dog acne cases, the conditions are mild and will go away on their own once they get older. 

Lack Of Proper Hygiene

The other prevalent cause of dog acne is hygiene. Maintaining the personal hygiene of your dog is crucial as a dog owner. Hygiene can be easily compromised for breeds with extra skin folds and wrinkles around their face. Breeds that have short bristly muzzle fur are also at higher risk. Some of the most common breeds to fall prey to acne are those who have both short bristly muzzle fur and extra skin folds, such as boxers, bulldogs, and rottweilers.

This is due to the fact that crevices and folds form a ripe breeding ground for dirt and bacteria to accumulate. Not only do these breeds collect bacteria in their skin easily, but their short, coarse fur can further irritate the skin in infected or dirty areas. Keep in mind that hygiene doesn't just apply to your dog's body. Beds, toys, food, and bowls can all be breeding grounds for bacteria that end up on your dog's face. While your dog may like his dirty, smelly toys, his pores certainly don't.

Breeds Most Susceptible to Dog Acne

Some dog breeds are more genetically susceptible to developing dog acne. These breeds are:

  • Boxers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Shorthaired Pointers
  • English Bulldogs
  • Great Danes
  • Weimaraners
  • Mastiffs

If you have one of these breeds, you’ll want to start good hygiene habits with your dog as soon as possible to minimize dog acne.

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Does Dog Acne Go Away?

Yes, if treated, the acne should clear with proper hygiene and medicated soaps. If your breed is more susceptible to dog acne, they could experience reoccurring acne despite vigilant prevention. If the acne persists for several weeks, you may want to take your dog to the vet to rule out other causes.

How Long Does Dog Acne Last?

The severity of the acne and the cause will determine how long it will last. Most mild to moderate cases should clear within 10 to 14 days when treated. However, some dogs may have reoccurring infections that can last several weeks or months.

Is Canine Acne Contagious to Humans?

No, you cannot get acne from a dog, but you can get bacterial infections, parvovirus, or heartworms. So while you might not get a pimple, you should take precautions when you have contact with a dog’s waste, dander, or saliva. 
You’ll want to wash with soap and hot water to eliminate any bacteria or disease that could transfer from contact.

Dog Acne Cures

There are several medicated products and home remedies to reduce your dog’s acne. While you should talk to your vet first, here are some of the more popular treatment options for dog acne.

Medicated Shampoos

Take a trip to your local pet store and purchase a medicated or antibacterial shampoo formulated specifically for dogs. Dog shampoos with echinacea or aloe vera can be especially great for treating skin problems. Dogs need to be bathed with products engineered specifically for dogs because human shampoos, ointments, and creams are too harsh. Make sure to watch out if the shampoo you're using helps with acne or makes it worse because some dogs may have adverse reactions.

What’s a Good Dog Acne Shampoo?

If you need more than just warm water to clean your dog’s dirty hair follicles around its face and muzzle, you may need to use a dog acne shampoo. Talk to your vet first before flushing the follicles with a medicated shampoo. You’ll want to purchase a dog acne shampoo that contains benzyl peroxide to properly clean the hair follicles.

Better Hygiene

Unless your dog is still a young puppy, poor hygiene and bacteria is probably the cause of their acne problems. Regular bathing at least a couple of times every month will help your dog remain clean. Poor dental hygiene can cause acne around the mouth area, so giving your dog an edible dental treat or brushing their teeth a few times a week can help. 

Don't Pick At It

While it may be tempting to pick spots, it's a bad idea and could exacerbate the issue. Picking the bumps can cause a more severe infection or cause the acne to spread. The most you can do is place a warm cloth on the area to reduce swelling and irritation, but anything else means a trip to the vet. 

Visit Your Vet

If the acne seems to be getting progressively worse, or if there seems to be an infection, you should take your dog to the vet. More severe cases of acne can be treated by oral medication, prescription ointments, or medicated soaps. Your veterinarian will offer treatment options and professional advice.

Related: Vitamin C for Dogs

How Do You Treat Dog Acne At Home?

After visiting with the vet to rule out more complicated causes, there are several things you can do at home to minimize and treat dog acne:

  • Wash Your Dog’s Face Daily: You’ll want to use warm water and a washcloth to keep your dog’s face clean and free of irritation. You’ll want to avoid soaps and shampoos that can dry out and aggravate your dog’s skin.
  • Keep Your Dog’s Face Dry: Bacteria like to grow in moist environments. If your dog is a messy drinker, drools often, or constantly licks their face, you’ll want to dry its face with a clean towel.
  • Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Daily: Another place bacteria can grow is in your dog’s mouth. If you brush their teeth regularly, you can minimize the bacteria spreading to their muzzle or snout.
  • Clean Your Dog’s Toys and Bowls Often: Bacteria can linger and grow on dirty toys and bowls. You’ll also want to buy toys and bowls that don’t crack or scratch where bacteria can hide.

If you try these methods and nothing is reducing your dog’s acne, then you should talk to your vet about a medicated option.

Rogue Pet Science makes supplements and treats high in Omega-3s and other essential vitamins for a healthy coat and immune system.

Related Link: Why Gut Health is Important for Dogs

Can I Pop a Pimple on My Dog?

Dog acne is not like human acne, so please do not try to pop your dog’s pimples. Popping your dog’s pimples can harm and traumatize your dog’s skin. You’re better off trying one of the home remedies above to reduce acne.

Keep Your Dog Healthy and Clean to Minimize Acne

Acne is often a normal part of life for dogs, especially if they’re still puppies. Mild cases are common in adolescent dogs, but further measures may need to be taken if the situation seems particularly painful or abnormal. The best thing you can do for your dog is to keep them healthy and clean. 

Rogue Pet Science is a top pet products company offering all-natural, premium dog products. Keep your dog healthy with Rogue Pet Science today!

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